The Reveille sports editor Kennedi Landry caught up with The Daily Texan sports editor Marcus Krum ahead of LSU football's prime-time match up against Texas at 6:30 p.m. CT.
Landry: Both Vegas and ESPN's match up predictor have LSU just barely winning this game. How close of a match up do you think this'll end up being?
Krum: I was actually talking about this today, but a lot of the advanced stats don't like Texas. It makes sense though. Texas is a young team. Last year, they got to double-digit wins, but a lot of those wins were against smaller Big 12 teams or one-possession games. So when you're looking at that stuff like the ESPN match up predictor, that's kind of what they're basing it off of — they're S&P+ and other advanced statistics.
I do think that Texas has outperformed expectations. Even when you see that this is a top-10 match up, No. 9 vs. No. 6, I think Texas at this point in Tom Herman's tenure, they're outperforming expectations. I still see a close match up. I think the highest I've seen was LSU -5.5 when the running back injury to Jordan Whittington came out, that kind of bumped it up a little bit. I do think this is a one score game just because coming into Austin, it's becoming a more difficult place to play. It's no Death Valley, but with Texas sort of making a comeback as a football program, its becoming a difficult place to play and I think early on in the season, there's going to be kinks to work out on both sides. It'll be two blue bloods going at it and I think it'll be a one possession game.
Landry: What about the depth at running back with the recent loss of Jordan Whittington and how that affects the Longhorns on offense?
Krum: I don't know if I've seen any college football team this thin at running back in my time following college football. Right now the second running back is also the third-string quarterback Roschon Johnson and freshman linebacker David Gbenda is the third. I looked him up, his senior year of high school, he had 13 carries. It's incredibly thin and that poses a lot of problems because all it takes is one injury and you have your third-string true freshman quarterback as your starting running back against LSU, which is never an ideal situation.
What will be interesting to see is with Herman, we've never really seen a feature back, like a D'Onta Foreman type of back. He was the last feature back at Texas and it's kind of been by committee even with some great running backs. I think we're, for the first time in a while, going to see one running back take the show and that's going to be Keaontay Ingram. He put on 20 pounds this off season, he looked very strong in Week 1 against Louisiana Tech. He could end up getting 20+ carries. I think we'll probably see him sitting in the mid-20's as far as carries go because I can't imagine Texas, even though Johnson looked relatively comfortable as the second running back last week, but he's still only been playing running back for 10 days.
It's going to be the Ingram and Ehlinger show. Ingram is going to get a bunch of touches and Ehlinger could end up throwing the ball 50 times. I mean, he threw it almost 40 in three quarters against Louisiana Tech, so it's going to be about getting the ball out of Ehlinger's hands quickly and getting the ball to the play makers and utilizing Ingram throughout the game.
Landry: How does Caden Sterns — a former LSU commit — as well as the rest of the secondary, affect what LSU wants to do on offense?
Krum: I think Caden is a guy who, I mean whose freshman year last year started and he's somebody who's shown a clear ability to manipulate the offense and to produce takeaways, which is something Texas has struggled with in the past. Caden's ability to just be a ball hog, be the roaming safety with Brandon Jones back there. These guys have a lot of experience together and they're two players that are at the highest caliber in the Big 12. At the safety position, Texas has really been loaded.
The corner position was really a question heading into this off season about who was going to start this season with two corners leaving. This last week, [the coaches] liked a lot of what they saw from Chris Brown. He's a guy who's big and physical. He played well against Louisiana Tech last week. And then Jalen Green is another guy who made the start last week as a sophomore — another big, physical corner. As far as the secondary goes, they like a lot of what they saw last week and last year. Those guys are starting to mesh better together as they've gotten more playing time together.
Landry: DBU debate and shirts?
Krum: It was explained to us today by Caden Sterns and Brandon Jones that it was just to pay tribute to the guys that had come in the past. Texas is not generally in that debate, but there's been some great defensive backs in Earl Thomas and Michael Huff — it was actually Michael Huff, he was one of the original guys to come up with this idea for the shirts. They clarified at the press conference today that it wasn't out of any disrespect for any other schools, or even have anything to do with other schools. It was just to pay respects to the great defensive backs that have come through Austin in the past.
Landry: That being said, with LSU's elite defensive backs going up against Texas' elite quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who comes out on top?
Krum: I think what has allowed Sam to really progress as passer is that he's so much more comfortable. You saw him his freshman year, his first start against USC in Los Angeles and he just looked like a deer in the headlights. For a true freshman, playing quarterback at Texas, that was a great experience to have, but he just didn't look comfortable in that position. I think what we saw against Louisiana Tech and at the end of the last season is that he's really getting a full command and he mastering that offense. It's allowing him to pre-snap and be able to do a lot more with reading what the defense is giving him.
That being said, LSU obviously has a great defense along with a great defensive backfield and that is clearly one of the key match ups in this game. I like what both have to offer. I don't know if anybody has a clear upper hand going into it — we'll obviously see how that plays out on Saturday — but I like what LSU has and the extremely talented safeties and backfield. But then Sam at quarterback along with receivers with a lot of experience.
Landry: Score prediction?
Krum: My first instinct after Louisiana Tech was that I like Texas, but in the last couple of days, especially after the Whittington injury, I've renounced that. I like LSU in this one. I think it'll be high-scoring, especially with the new spread offense that LSU is rolling out this year. Let's make it 38-35 LSU. I think that's pretty reasonable given the offenses and what we've seen so far this season.
Landry: Is Texas back?
Krum: That's the question right there. You know, it's funny because we looked at the end of the Mac Brown era and he was still consistently getting 10 wins a season. I think Texas is absolutely on the best track possible. Is Texas back? I think we're going to see this weekend. This is honestly a season-defining game right here and a program-defining game. And that's not to say that if Texas loses, it's out of the window that Texas is back, but if the Longhorns go out there and get rolled by three touchdowns then we'll see. All that to say my brain says, "we'll see" but my heart says "absolutely, Texas is back for sure".