Two former Big 12 foes will face off under the lights at NRG Stadium in Houston as the Texas Longhorns (6-6) will face the Missouri Tigers (7-5) in the Academy Sports+ Outdoors Texas Bowl. The two enter Wednesday night’s game evenly matched on paper but are both dealing with significant losses.
Missouri lost its offensive coordinator, Josh Heupel, as the new head coach at UCF as well and offensive line coach Glen Elarbee. Meanwhile, Texas has lost significant players on both sides of the ball due to injury, suspension, or preparing for the NFL Draft.
For the Longhorns, this game will be a chance for either Sam Ehlinger or Shane Buechele to get the upper hand heading into the offseason. Head Coach Tom Herman confirmed both quarterbacks will play earlier this week.
Ehlinger, the true freshman from Austin Westlake, has thrown for 1803 yards in seven starts. His most impressive performance was a two touchdown, 298-yard affair against the eight-ranked USC in his second ever start. Though they lost, Ehlinger and the Longhorns pushed the Trojans to two overtimes.
Shane Buechele, the sophomore from Arlington Lamar, he was the starter last season, but went down with injury early giving Ehlinger the chance to make his case for the starting role. The quarterback room gets a little bigger this offseason, as four-stars Cameron Rising and Casey Thompson join the Longhorns next season.
Experience will favor Buechele or Ehlinger, but Tom Herman is known to experiment, and if Rising or Thompson shine, Texas could be in for an intriguing quarterback competition come 2018.
Outside of quarterback, the Longhorns are without a lot of star power. Offensive lineman Connor Williams and safety Deshon Elliot are sitting out the game to both avoid injury and prepare for the 2018 NFL Draft. Holton Hill, one of the Longhorns’ top cornerbacks is still serving a suspension from earlier in the season.
Defensive lineman Chris Nelson was injured in practice and will not participate, Chris Warren III announced he’s transferring and will also not participate. In addition, tight end Garrett Gray, running back Toniel Carter and wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey have been suspended for violation of team rules.
Texas entered this season with high hopes, but Tom Herman’s first year has been somewhat inconsistent. They’ve played some close games, taking ranked USC, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State down to the wire before eventually losing, they’ve also dropped some disappointing games to Texas Tech, TCU and Maryland. Herman’s first year didn’t go as expected on the field, but recruiting has been a hit. They’re currently the third-ranked team in the nation in recruiting, and a game in the football hub of Houston, especially a win, is a good look for future recruits in-state.
Missouri has been one of the hottest teams of the second half of the season currently riding a six game winning streak since losing to the Playoff-bound Georgia Bulldogs. Quarterback Drew Lock has quietly had one of the best seasons for a quarterback in recent memory finishing with 3695 yards and 43 touchdowns. His favorite receiver, former Fort Bend Elkins standout J’Mon Moore, from Elkins High School, has 1,017 yards and ten touchdowns on the season. This will be the last game for the redshirt senior, who gets one last chance to ball out in his home state.
Along with Moore, two other Texas high school football alums will get significant playtime as safety Demarkus Acy from Wilmer-Hutchins and tight end Jason Reese from Euless Trinity will finish out their sophomore season and senior season, respectively, in their home state.
Acy has 43 tackles on the year from his safety position, while Reese has become a reliable red zone target and blocker, he only has five catches, but three of them have gone for touchdowns, all from inside the 30-yard line.
Defensively, the Tigers haven’t been as stout, but they’re well-coached and know exactly what they’re getting into with Texas, their former Big 12 rival. Missouri has a dominating front seven headed by linebackers Cale Garrett, and Terez Hall, while Marcell Frazier and Terry Beckner Jr. lead the team in sacks with seven apiece. Behind them Demarkus Acy and Kaleb Prewitt have the job of covering Collin Johnson and Armanti Foreman.
This will be one of the toughest matchups this Missouri team has faced in the last six games, and with a win streak and bowl game on the line, the defense will have to step up and contain one of the best offensive minded coaches in Tom Herman.
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