College Football Handicapping: Can Texas Bounce Back from Humiliating Loss?
by Trevor Whenham - 9/10/2013
I’m a diehard Michigan fan. The news that Texas head coach Mack Brown had made the decision to replace defensive coordinator Manny Diaz with Greg Robinson, then, was pretty much the funniest thing I have ever heard.
Sure, Texas has horrible defensive woes — they allowed 550 rushing yards against a BYU team that isn’t exactly an elite rushing force. Most recently, though, Robinson was defensive coordinator for the Wolverines. His talent wasn’t ideal, but he was so wildly incompetent it was stunning. His schemes were odd, his game planning was poor, and he reacted to adversity during games with the delicacy of a bull elephant. His last year with the team — 2010 — featured the statistically worst season in Wolverines history. I was positive he would never have a meaningful job in football again. Now he’s the savior — the guy who holds Mack Brown’s dignity in his hands.
If Robinson can right the defensive ship then Brown can probably step down on his own schedule — though at this point the fact he has to go sooner rather than later is beyond debate. If Robinson is Robinson, though, then Brown might not make December.
Even if Brown had hired someone with even an ounce of competence, it still would be a horrible decision — and a startling clue for handicappers. Heading into the game there were no outward signs at all that Diaz was vulnerable — despite some defensive issues dating back to the start of his time with the team. The BYU game was beyond awful — there is no denying that. After the game, though, defensive players spoke out in support of Diaz despite the struggles. The next day he was gone, and Robinson was in. It was a panic move — a clear sign that Brown has lost total control and is doing anything possible to try to regain it. That almost never goes well — especially not when a decent opponent like Ole Miss is on the docket next time out.
The fact of the matter is that Diaz never should have been allowed to return this year — not when the team was as bad as they were last year on defense. What was miraculously going to change? Did Brown expect a miracle? A coach who expects miracles is a coach I’m thrilled to bet against.
So, are things as bad as they seem in Texas? Will they be a hard team to bet on all season? Or will Brown get things back on track? Let’s take a look at four factors:
In order for a team to play anything near their potential, they have to have faith and trust in their coaching staff. Why in the world would a player buy into what Brown is selling right now? He has struggled for too long now, and his time is clearly coming to an end.
The administration is likely to go through a big shift as well because they have invested so heavily in Brown and have stubbornly held onto him. Brown made it clear that he doesn’t really value loyalty by canning Diaz in a panic, so why would the players feel loyal to him — or to the comical Robinson? If you thought the team effort was lacking against BYU...
If there is a bright spot, it is that there is a fair bit of talent to work with on both sides of the ball. Of course, it’s the same talent that made up one of the worst defenses Texas has seen last year and exactly the talent that couldn’t stop BYU at all on Saturday. The upside is there. It’s realizing that upside that is the challenge.
The situation reminds of what happened last year with USC — they were well-regarded coming in, struggled early, lost faith, and never really got on track. The only difference there, of course, is that Lane Kiffin somehow managed to keep his job — so he could finish off the implosion this year.
The team doesn’t get a lot of respite this year to take a breath and find their footing again. They play Ole Miss next week and Kansas State the week after. They get a brief break against Iowa State, though they face them on the road. Then it is the annual game against Oklahoma and a trip to TCU before another easy one against Kansas. A trip to West Virginia and a home game against Oklahoma State lead into games against Texas Tech and Baylor that could be comical tests for Robinson and his defense, barring a miracle.
It’s not the toughest schedule in the country, but it is more than tough enough for this team to really descend into trouble if they stay on their current course.
There aren’t a lot of bright spots around this team, but this could be one of them. There is a very good chance that this team will struggle the rest of the way. It’s quite possible, though, that they won’t be as bad as the betting public expects them to be right now.
The public loves to panic when things get truly ridiculous — and Texas sure is there right now. When the public overestimates a situation, there can be value — even if the team isn’t any good.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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