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2018 Week 7

Mailbag: Is Kliff Kingsbury Off The Hotset?

Is Kliff Kingsbury off the hot seat? Is Texas back? What’s the biggest surprise of the season? It’s time for the mailbag!

Getty Images - John Weast

We’re seven weeks into the season, so why not bring back the mailbag, right? If you’ve like to participate in next week’s mailbag, send your questions to @the_LGG on Twitter, or join the best Big 12 football group on Facebook, Big 12 vs The World!

From the Big 12 vs The World Facebook Group

Jim Nussar asks, “What’s your biggest surprise so far?”

It’s funny, we study these teams so much before the season that we feel like we know exactly how the year will play out. Injuries can always change the course of the season, but we typically have a pretty good idea of about where each team is in the conference. The final standings might shake out a bit different than our preseason rankings, but we pretty much have the teams pegged for which tier they are in. Last season, Iowa State and K-State were the exceptions, but for very different reasons.

This season, we might as well set our preseason rankings on fire. TCU isn’t nearly as good as we thought. Texas Tech has a defense, and they look much better than I expected. For them right now, it’s about attrition. They can’t afford many more injuries. Even Kansas has shown flashes of the team Beaty teased us with in 2016.

But the biggest surprise is Texas. Especially, over the last four weeks. I wasn’t buying into the hype before the season. I looked at a team that went 7-6 a season ago, and I didn’t see a whole lot of reason to think they would be too much improved this season. And through the first two weeks, it looked like I was right to not buy in. However, now I’m buying all the Longhorn stock anyone will sell me.

Jesse Bennet asks, “Is Kingsbury off the hot seat after beating TCU?”

Coach Kliff Kingsbury is serving me up a huge portion of crow, and I’m here for it. Bring on the crow pie.

My concern for the Red Raiders was that if they couldn’t get it done with Patrick Mahomes, then what can they do when they don’t even have Nic Shimonek? Sure they return some defensive stars, most notably, Dakota Allen, but it’s still a defense that ranked 105th last season.  Now, that concern is still there. The Red Raiders currently rank 106th in total defense, and last in the Big 12. However, and this is a big however, the defense is stepping up when it matters. They held Oklahoma State to just 17 points and TCU to even less on Thursday night.

Most importantly though, they’re winning. Texas Tech is 4-2, with Kansas, K-State and Baylor still on the schedule. Those are likely wins, so their bowl eligibility chances are looking pretty good night now, along with Kingsbury’s chances that he’s still in Lubbock next season.

There is one catch here, though. The worst thing you can do is give a fan base hope and then take it away. They are dealing with some injury bugs and need to get Alan Bowman healthy, and they face Iowa State, Oklahoma and Texas in a three-game stretch. If things take a turn for the worse, and they can’t recover against Kansas State and Baylor to close the season, then well, Kingsbury’s seat will be hotter than ever.

Jesse Bennet also asks, “Is Texas officially…”back”?”

Yes. Yes, they are. This ties into Jim’s question a bit, but you can’t ignore that the Longhorns have won five-straight with three of those wins being over top-25 opponents. What more do they have to do.

It’s incredible really. After losing to Maryland and struggling against Tulsa, we, as a staff, had several discussions around Herman and how much time he would have if the Longhorns start out 2-4, and we thought that was the best-case scenario. But here we are, and the Longhorns are 5-1.

The defense is the strength of the team as we expected, but Texas is finding some offense to pair with that defense. That’s in large part to the development of Sam Ehlinger. Over night, he’s become a premier Big 12 quarterback. He’s completing over 65 percent of his passes for nearly 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns, while only throwing two picks. He’s also racked up 225 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. Ehlinger is also showing up on the big stage. He had his biggest game by far against the Sooners last Saturday. If his play keeps improving, Texas won’t lose many more games.

The Longhorns control their own destiny in the Big 12, and have established themselves as a favorite for the conference crown. I don’t know how it gets anymore “back” than that.

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