IT's Louisiana-Lafayette Game Picks

IT's Bill Frisbie, Michael Pearle and Clendon Ross give you their picks, and the reasoning behind those picks, in Saturday's game between Texas and Louisiana-Lafayette.

Frisbie -- Texas coach Mack Brown laments the fact that there are no preseason games in college football as there are in the NFL. That's part of the reason why big-time programs schedule the Louisiana-Lafayettes of the world.

On paper, this shapes up as the ugliest mismatch on Texas' 2005 schedule and, as such, is the closest thing Brown has to a preseason game. While Horn fans have been talking about Ohio State for more than a year, there were 1,000 tickets remaining Wednesday night for the 2005 home-opener. (These were primarily returns from Lafayette as well as unclaimed tickers from the UT student draw.)

Defensively, Co-DC Gene Chizik wants to use Saturday night's game to solidify his rotation. OC Greg Davis is looking for signs of life among his WRs, and he's looking to get backup Matt Nordgren some quality snaps. (Coaches have backed away from taking the 'shirt from true freshman Colt McCoy. In fact, Davis said McCoy would not play Saturday.) Obviously, all UT coaches want this game over by half time and to start sprinkling in young talent after intermission.

The team will be wearing vintage "throw-back" uniforms patterned after the attire worn by Longhorn teams in the 1960s and early 1970s. Members of the 1963 team will be recognized Saturday, as fans cautiously anticipate a similar result: an undefeated slate and a national championship. I say 'cautiously' because, as we all know, Brown's 2002 club also began the season ranked No. 2 but lost two league games (Oklahoma, Texas Tech) that year. Obviously, there won't be a loss this weekend in Austin. While fans dream about "Rose Bowl II" being staged in Columbus next weekend, Texas will manufacture a methodical rout of the Ragin' Cajuns.

Texas has posted shutouts in two of the past three home-openers and has given up just 17 offensive points in home openers these past five years. The visitors might actually score Saturday if they block a punt or two. UL-Lafayette has blocked 16 kicks during the past three seasons. They also lost, 52-10, the last time they came calling.

That sounds about right. Texas 52, Louisiana-Lafayette 10.

Pearle -- With scenes of Katrina's destruction running 24/7 on CNN, with chaos breaking out in flooded New Orleans, with refugees streaming into Texas, including hundreds who have landed at the Burger Center right here in Austin with little more than the clothes on their backs, I'm finding it difficult to get focused on football.

Thursday night, you had Steve Spurrier's return to the college game on ESPN as South Carolina hosted Central Florida. On CBS, the Texans took on Tampa Bay. But over on ABC, images of people dead in the streets of New Orleans filled the screen, victims of starvation, drowning, heart attacks.... Those still alive were taking on the wreckage of a destroyed city, just trying to make it to the next day. It was completely surreal.

But as it was after 9/11, football, and in particular Longhorn football for those reading this, will provide a much-needed break. Like Texas' game with Houston that followed shortly after the fall of the Twin Towers, the game Saturday will give us a chance to take our minds off the tragedy, to get a little normalcy back. And how ironic that the team coming to kick off 2005 and help with the healing is a team from the state that suffered the brunt of the storm -- Louisiana Lafayette.

Taking a quick glance at the Lafayette roster, you see that it is dotted with players from New Orleans and surrounding cities like Metairie and Mandeville. It'll be a miracle if those kids are able to keep their minds on playing football for six minutes Saturday, much less 60.

But no doubt the distraction will be good for them, as it will be for us. My advice to you Ragin' Cajuns -- go out, let it loose, have a great time, and forget about what's going on back home, at least for a few hours. And don't worry too much about the score of the game; just play for the joy of it. Texas 41, Louisiana-Lafayette 7.

Ross -- I didn't go back and check, but I bet I wrote something very similar before last year's opener to what I'm about to write: I can't wait to see the Horns' new defense in action. It's not that I expect that we'll see wholesale changes in terms of scheme. The differences, coaches and players say, are subtle. But one difference in particular leads to much of my anticipation: the new, ears-pinned-back pass rush philosophy along the front four, instituted by new co-DC Gene Chizik and new DE coach and former Longhorn sack-ster Oscar Giles. From a group that includes DTs Rod Wright, Frank Okam and Larry Dibbles and DEs Tim Crowder, Brian Robison and Brian Orakpo, we're talking a goal of 50 sacks; to be the best front four in the nation; and, ultimately, to be the best defense in the nation. I'd say that if the first two goals are reached -- constant pressure up front is going to lead to strong play at both linebacker and in the secondary -- the third is certainly doable. And if the Horns indeed field the best defense in the country, I very much like the chances of another Burnt Orange New Year (well, Jan. 4 to be exact) in Pasadena.

I don't think Saturday's contest with ULaLa will tell us if the D's goals are reachable -- that test will come a week from Saturday in Columbus -- but I'm excited none-the-less to see Chizik's guys in action vs. guys in different colored jerseys. (An aside: I'm particularly pumped to see Rashad Bobino, who we featured on the cover of our Recruiting Yearbook two years ago and who is poised, according to those close to the program, to earn that cover distinction and a whole lot more over the course of his Longhorn career.)

Don't get me wrong, there'll be plenty more to see tomorrow, including a year-older-and-wiser Vince Young, a healthy Selvin Young, a potentially best-in-years offensive line, an All-American-caliber tight end (whether he gets his due nationally is another story), and an exciting multi-threat speedster in Ramonce Taylor. And there'll be the thrill of seeing true freshmen show flashes of brilliance for the first time under the DKR lights and, perhaps, seeing one of a multitude of wideouts step up in game situation (cross your fingers).

But for me, a traditionalist, Saturday is about the defense, and I think we're all gonna like what we see. Texas 60, Louisiana-Lafayette 3.

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