Charlie Strong buys himself some time as Texas upsets Baylor: Four things to know
Charlie Strong can breathe for another week, but the Big 12's playoff hopes are on the line
The Longhorns' 35-34 win over Baylor wasn't a thing of beauty or succinct in any way, but how Texas wins matters little for Strong's future. The important thing for Strong as he finishes out his third season in Austin is that his team wins -- period.
But Texas' win had greater ramifications than just Strong's future. Here's what we learned in Week 9 about Texas and Baylor.
1. Running back D'Onta Foreman should go to the NFL immediately and never look back. Texas' season has been a series of pleasant surprises followed by inexplicable shortcomings followed by more pleasant surprises followed by inexplicable shortcomings. But dangit if Foreman isn't the best thing Texas has going for it right now. The junior had 250 yards on the ground, giving him his ninth straight 100-yard game. Earl Campbell holds the school record with 11 straight 100-yard games.
If the Longhorns were a six-or-seven-win team, Foreman would be in the Heisman discussion. Unfortunately for him, that's the way those things work. Still, Foreman is making himself a ton of money with the season he's having. This is his call to make regarding his future, but he'll be a coveted back at the next level for his combination of size and speed. And plenty of teams will pay him for his services.
2. Strong chipped away at his "eight-win total." Ask 10 different people what Strong needs to do to keep his job and you'll probably get 10 different answers. To me, eight wins has always felt like the minimum he needed to reach in order to comfortably, unequivocally get a fourth year. To achieve that, Strong needed to win his final five games. He took one step toward that against Baylor.
What continues to stun, however, is the in-game decision-making by Strong and his staff. Foreman, as mentioned before, had 250 yards rushing. He's the best player on the team. With the game on the line, the ball should have been in his hands, not Tyrone Swoopes' in the 18-wheeler package for a marginal yardage loss. It didn't hurt Texas, who kicked the game-winning field goal on the next play, but it easily could have. Then the people chanting "Char-lie!" after the game might have been chanting something else.
3. What was Baylor's plan late? We're entering November and only now starting to understand what Baylor is and isn't. There's obviously talent on this team, but what happens when it's forced into close late-game situations? Does it have the depth to handle it? Are the coaching staff and the personnel on the same page? That wasn't the case on Saturday. On the final drive of the game, quarterback Seth Russell failed to get out of bounds on three straight plays, taking away precious time. Baylor had success all day on the ground, but it wasn't ready to execute a one-minute drive when it needed to.
4. The Big 12's playoff hopes are dwindling. If the Goonies never say die, then it's probably too early to eliminate the Big 12 from playoff contention. Still, losses by Baylor and West Virginia (to Oklahoma State) have put the conference's final four hopes on the edge of extinction. There's no way the committee will vote in a one-loss Baylor team if it doesn't have to. Two-loss Oklahoma could benefit from a conference championship game if it was implemented this year -- but it wasn't. That pretty much leaves West Virginia as the Big 12's best playoff hopeful, and it just lost by 17 today.
The point being: The Big 12 race should be fun as long as the playoff chatter is taken out of the equation.
Big 12 underdogs 3-1 today. Gonna be a fun final month for the conference title at least.— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) October 29, 2016
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