Gabey Lucas (8-4 Straight Up, 8-4 Against the Spread)
The first thing here is I can’t imagine Michael Penix and the receivers ~not~ cooking in this game. Buuut the Longhorns’ offense is also really creative and fun as hell and I don’t see them running too far behind either; the month-ish of rest for UW’s secondary probably helps them slightly considering their issues were exacerbated by being beat up, but even so the “Texas’ passing offense” vs “Washington passing defense” matchup fully goes advantage Texas.
I actually think that Texas’ offensive adaptability is pretty interesting against Washington’s defensive weaknesses — not so much as a Washington fan, but just as an appreciator of football’s in-game poker matches. I say this because my first reaction to “Dawgs will cook but Texas will probably cook too” would be to say that the tiebreaker goes to UW’s edge rush, who will decide the game. And this would be true for most opposing offenses (and still will be crucial), but the UT offense’s adaptability does somewhat throw a wrench in that statement. Against schemes/personnel requiring the ball to be out fast, they’re able to go to relatively short-yardage passing and scheme guys into spots where they can gain a lot of yards after the catch. If only they were playing a team this bowl whose critical weakness was tackling fundamentals... What’s that, Washington’s critical weakness ~was~ tackling fundamentals? RalphWiggumHaHaI’mInDanger.gif
Still, having to lean on that approach does require extreme discipline since a team just has to string together more successes in a row to reach the same amount of points — how often did we see Pete’s offenses post-2016 stall out in a drive simply because having to sustain, like, 15 plays in a row is really really hard? And then having to overly-rely on that for the course of 60 minutes makes it even tougher.
Because of that, I feel like both Washington and Texas fans will end up pulling our hair out when the Longhorns have the ball — Dawg fans because we’ll end up yelling “GET HIM DAMMIT” a bunch and Texas fans because they’ll need sustained drives and staying ahead of schedule to do that, hardly a stress-free position.
Which brings it all back to, just like I originally mentioned in passing, Bralen Trice, ZTF, and Jeremiah Martin. I just think it’s not suuuper likely Sark, Ewers, and Co have the discipline in play-calling or execution to commit to those kind of extended drives over a full game, and that’s less of a note on them specifically as it is I think barely any teams could pull that off. This shouldn’t ~really~ matter because of how sieve-ish Washington’s secondary has been for much of this year — which is why I think this game is disproportionately decided by their edge rush.
Washington’s offense can apply a bunch of pressure on Texas’s to keep up; it’s the Dawgs’ defensive line that really makes the difference in who wins. Both teams are gonna score a metric crapload of points, the Dawgs just need a wee bit of stops on the way.
Mostly though I think Washington has to win because of Quinn Ewers’ horrific mullet. I’m sorry Texas fans, even as far as mullets go it might be the worst. It’s not personal.
Let’s go... (Apologies if I jinx this like I did for UCLA and ASU)
Washington- 38, Texas- 34
Andrew Berg (8-4 SU, 7-5 ATS)
The betting line on this game has moved from Texas -6 to Texas -3.5. A multiple-point swing usually favors the team toward which the line moves, but in this case, there’s no secret information driving the trends. Since betting opened, Texas has announced that superstar RB Bijan Robinson would sit out the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft. Backup RB Roschon Johnson and LB Demarvion Overshown join Robinson in sitting this one out. Across the field, the Dawgs have seemingly only gained momentum and enthusiasm since their triumphant Apple Cup performance with good news in recruiting, transfers, and players announcing they will return to school.
Those returns might impact this game more than anything. If Michael Penix, Rome Odunze, or Jalen McMillan announced that they would leave the program, it might have come with a decision to sit out the bowl game. Penix and McMillan are officially in the fold for 2023 and Odunze is at least committed to playing this game. Without those three, it’s hard to imagine how UW would put up enough points to keep their subpar defense in the game. With them, the questions shift to the Longhorns and whether they can get UW’s vaunted pass attack off the field, especially without their do-it-all LB in Overshown.
Of course, one antidote to UW’s passing game is to keep them off the field. Texas has been an excellent running team all year and Robinson took home the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best rusher. Anyone who has watched Steve Sarkisian’s offenses over the years knows how adept he is at using the run game to set up the pass. Freshman Quinn Ewers has benefitted from that system and often looked poised beyond his years. Without Robinson has a skeleton key to the defense, the responsibility to create space shifts to Ewers. He can probably do it, but can he do it all game without turning the ball over?
With Robinson, the Texas game plan is clear- establish the run, keep Penix off the field, and wear out UW’s defense. Without him, the margin of error is smaller. Ewers has to play one of his best games because no defense has been able to squelch the Dawgs’ offensive attack this year. The local Texas crowd and a defense full of talented play-makers could shift the game, but the closer we get to kickoff, the more I like UW.
Washington- 38, Texas- 35
Max Vrooman (10-2 SU, 4-8 ATS)
Picking bowl games is always more of an art than a science. There’s no denying that human emotions play into how much someone truly cares/prepares for a game like this. Under normal circumstances it might be tempting to say that Washington is the disappointed team in this matchup. They’re playing an 8-win team and were one win by USC away from instead going to the Rose Bowl.
This Husky squad certainly isn’t acting like a team that doesn’t want to be there. No players have opted out and everyone but WR Rome Odunze has officially stated they’re coming back for next season. This has the look of a team on a mission and in order to go in to next year with the hype they deserve they’re going to want a beatdown of a national brand as the last thing the public saw.
If the Huskies want that to happen it’s going to require the pass defense to take a step forward against a very talented Texas group. QB Quinn Ewers may be the most physically gifted pass thrower the Huskies have played against this season. Perhaps the best comp for Washington fans is a freshman year Jacob Eason who can technically make every throw but can’t do it consistently. WR Xavier Worthy’s speed will give the Huskies fits on the outside and you can write it down in pen that he’s going to beat a UW corner for a deep touchdown at least once.
Meanwhile Washington should be able to move the ball through the air against this Texas defense whose strength is their interior line. The Husky running game may struggle but Ryan Grubb has shown he’s not afraid to pass first, second, and third and use that to open up the occasional rushing opportunity.
With Texas running backs Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson not playing there will still be talent in the Longhorns backfield. This is Texas. They have talent everywhere. But if there’s one back in the country who can outperform their O-line, it’s Robinson and not having him is a huge loss for Texas. This is going to be a psuedo-home game for Texas in San Antonio but I still think the Husky passing game is the best unit on the field and that will carry the day.
Washington- 40, Texas- 32