Jake Shaw dives in to analyze this weekend's college action across Texas.
Three weeks into the season, things are starting to get sorted out.
Texas' offense isn't as bad as some thought. But maybe the defense isn't as goo, either. Texas Tech appears to have made the right decision at defensive coordinator. Johnny (Football) Manziel looks like the real deal. Nobody at Houston does (yet). Life after RGIII is still OK, but not as quite as great as it looked Labor Day weekend. And so on and so forth.
Below, I recap every team's performance from the past weekend. As always, the recaps -- and the brief look-aheads -- are based on the order of this week's power poll rankings.
1) Texas (3-0)
What happened: The Longhorns outscored Ole Miss by at least a touchdown in every quarter en route to a 66-31 rout in Oxford, Miss. While the offense put up a ton of points and yardage (more on that below), the defense set the tone from the start when LB Steve Edmond picked off Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace and returned it for a touchdown. It was just the start of UT's harassment of Wallace, who threw two more interceptions and was sacked five times. Much of the pre game talk was about whether Wallace would make the Longhorns rue not recruiting him out of the JUCO ranks. That wasn't answered Saturday by Wallace, who faced too much pressure to perform well, but UT had to be content with the play of QB David Ash, my star of the game.
The mob said: Texas by 10.5
So said I: Texas 27, Ole Miss 17
Star of the game: Mark this down as the best game in the short career of David Ash, who had just four incompletions in his 23 attempts, finishing with 326 yards and 4 TDs with no interceptions. Ash looked much more like a playmaker than a game-manager in the win.
Key number: 3, the number of times Texas has exceeded both 300 yards passing and rushing in the same game, which UT did against Ole Miss with 350 rushing yards to go with Ash's 326 passing yards.
What's next: Texas, on the fringe of the national Top 10, will have a week off before entering its toughest three-game stretch on the schedule: at OSU, at home against West Virginia, then on to Dallas for the annual Texas/OU game. As great as the Texas defense has looked, it needs to work on giving up the big play. Ole Miss had six plays go for at least 20 yards, though one of them was against UT's special teams, a 100-yard kickoff returned for a TD.
2) TCU (2-0)
What happened: I kept waiting for TCU to do what most great teams do: Put away a bad team that just keeps hanging around. TCU never did, but the narrow 20-6 win at Kansas doesn't change my opinion of the Horned Frogs. This is still a potentially great team -- thanks to its defense alone -- but I also believe this offered the first lesson to the Frogs that winning week-in, week-out in the Big 12 is a tough feat. TCU fumbled away its first two possessions, fell behind 3-0 about five minutes into the game, and didn't take its first lead until a four-play scoring drive, set up by an interception, gave TCU a 7-3 advantage 10 minutes into the game. TCU never trailed again. Most impressive was the fourth quarter, where despite not scoring, TCU held possession for more than 11 minutes, preventing KU from having even a slight chance of coming back. You'll see I gave a defender the star of the game, but my biggest takeaway from TCU's win: WR Brandon Carter (8-141, 2 TDs) is close to having his name mentioned with other elite receivers, and not just in the Big 12. The sophomore QB-turned-WR is looking like a natural already.
The mob said: TCU by 21
So said I: TCU 45, Kansas 17
Star of the game: Through two games, the TCU defense has allowed just six points. Defense still rules in Fort Worth, and the best of the bunch for TCU on Saturday -- both in my opinion and the Big 12's -- was LB Joel Hasley, a walk-on who has 12 tackles and two sacks in his second career start. Gary Patterson really knows how to plug 'em in on defense.
Key number: 4, the number of times TCU fumbled the ball against Kansas. All four of the fumbles were lost deep in KU territory, taking away surefire scoring opportunities from the Frogs.
What's next: The Frogs go back to non-conference play with a home game against Virginia, a program that two weeks ago caught the national attention (ever so briefly) after it escaped with a 17-16 win over Penn State, which missed four field goals in the loss. After that win, Virginia was brought back to earth with a 56-20 loss to Georgia Tech. Virginia gave up over 400 rushing yards to GT, not a good thing considering the TCU running attack it must defend.
3) Texas Tech (3-0)
What happened: The teams combined for 829 yards of offense … but 702 of them came from the Red Raiders in their 49-14 beatdown of New Mexico. Unlike last week in Austin, when Texas only took a 17-0 lead over the Lobos to halftime, this game was over by the mid-game break. Tech led 49-14 at that point, and half of UNM's 14 points came via a kickoff return for a touchdown. Texas Tech scored on six of its seven first-half drives. The only one that didn't end in pay dirt was halted by a fumble, but even that drive ended on the red zone. Tech likely would've added seven more points had it held onto the ball and could've scored in the 60s had the starters played longer.
The mob said: Texas Tech by 33.5
So said I: Texas Tech 48, New Mexico 7
Star of the game: Since the Red Raiders spread the wealth so evenly (13 players caught passes; six different players had at least one rush attempt), I have to go with the straw stirring the drink: QB Seth Doege (27-35, 340 yards, 6 TDs, 0 INTs) was close to flawless for the second straight week.
Key number: 75.3, the rushing yards Texas Tech's opponents are averaging per game this year. Last season, teams rushed for an average of 258.8 yards per game against the Red Raider defense.
What's next: So far, Texas Tech has played three cupcakes, winning by an average score of 50-10. Things couldn't be going much better into Tech's only off week this season. But the Red Raiders will find out if the 3-0 record -- and its national No. 2 defensive ranking -- is a mirage or the start of bigger things. Because after the bye, Tech travels to Iowa State before facing five straight ranked teams.
4) Texas A&M (1-1)
What happened: A&M did had identity reversal, starting slow in the first half before pounding SMU in the latter half of the second quarter and all of the third and fourth quarters. Once the A&M offense got going, SMU was defenseless in the the Aggies' 48-3 win. Johnny Manziel was spectacular, creating plays both when improvising and -- something he couldn't do against Florida -- from inside the pocket. And once again, the A&M defense was a nightmare for the opposing offense. The Aggies sacked SMU QB Garrett Gilbert four times, two of them by Damontre Moore, whose five sacks in two games leads the nation. The Aggies only allowed 309 yards of offense and didn't let SMU have a drive of longer than 52 yards. Even if Manziel struggles in his freshman season, it looks like Texas A&M has a defense that will keep it competitive in most games.
The mob said: Texas A&M by 13.5
So said I: Texas A&M 38, SMU 21
Star of the game: Texas A&M scored seven touchdowns Saturday, the first six all involving Johnny Manziel. The redshirt freshman QB sparked the offense midway through the second quarter with a 29-yard TD pass to Ryan Swope, then added five more scores (three passing, two rushing), finishing with 418 yards of offense on his own.
Key number: 5, the number of times A&M had the ball before finally scoring on the sixth possession. After that, the Aggies scored six of the next eight times they had the ball, though one of those possessions consisted of one play: A&M kneeling to run out the first-half clock.
What's next: Fresh off a 56-0 loss at Arizona, South Carolina State will again exchange its pride for a paycheck when it travels to Kyle Field on Saturday. Texas A&M should win by a similar amount. After that, the Aggies have September 29th circled on the calendar. Payback will be on their minds with a wounded Arkansas coming to town.
5) Baylor (2-0)
What happened: The Bears were left pondering about their identity. In beating Sam Houston State 48-23, the Bears looked terrible for 30 minutes and downright dominant for another half-hour. That's enough of a mood swing that even Art Briles said postgame that he's not sure what kind of team he has. Baylor played effortless (not in a good way) football in the first half, and the result was a 20-10 halftime deficit. But Baylor came out angry to start the second half, getting a fumble recovery off a sack and needing one play to convert it into a touchdown. Baylor regained the lead two possessions later, then tacked on 24-fourth-quarter points to make this game look like the blowout it was supposed to be. Just about 100 of SHSU's 411 yards came after halftime. Nice effort by Baylor in the second half, but the Bears won't be so fortunate later this season with similar first-half efforts.
The mob said: No line
So said I: Baylor 51, Sam Houston 24
Star of the game: In a night rife with inconsistency, receiver Terrance Williams was his usual steady self, catching six passes for 131 yards and 2 TDs, all three game highs. Defensive coordinator Phil Bennett could've gotten star of the game for his halftime adjustments, but then I'd have to overlook how his defense performed in the first half.
Key number: 50:29, the amount of time in the 60-minute game that SHSU either led or trailed by just one possession, showing this game was tight up until the very end.
What's next: Baylor will try to write a bad ending to one of the early season's feel-good stories, traveling to Louisiana-Monroe to take on a Warhawk team that beat Arkansas two weeks ago, then nearly pulled off back-to-back road SEC wins before dropping an OT decision at Auburn. The ULM offense, led by ex-Mabank QB Kolton Browning, will present another challenge to a still suspect Baylor defense.
6) North Texas (1-2)
What happened: Many a season UNT would play games against programs like LSU and Kansas State, and the games would serve a single purpose: getting some cash. Things are changing under Dan McCarney, however. He's not winning these games, but the 35-21 loss to Kansas State proves that UNT is improving, able to compete with top-tier FBS programs. This was just a one-score game until Kansas State scored one minute into the fourth quarter, upping its lead to 28-13. The numbers don't indicate that one team was that much better: KSU only had 20 more total yards of offense; UNT won the turnover battle, 2-1; the Mean Green only had three penalties. UNT opened the third quarter with an 88-yard scoring drive, making the score 14-13, but Kansas State answered with a touchdown of its own. Then came the key play of the game, in my opinion. Facing fourth-and-3 at the KSU 40, UNT opted to punt the ball, rather than go for it. I understand that's the safer play, but safe doesn't usually result in an upset. After that UNT punt, Kansas State scored two more touchdowns on its next two drives. Had UNT gone for it and made it, well, there's no point in speculating too much. But the game could've been closer had that happened. And UNT might've had a chance to win.
The mob said: Kansas State by 28.5
So said I: Kansas State 42, North Texas 13
Star of the game: I was tempted to go with WR Brelan Chancellor, who accounted for two TDs, but I really liked how Derek Thompson (25-28, 208 yards, TD) responded from a bad game the week before. He was steady against a defense that usually rattles the opposing quarterback.
Key number: 0, the number of sacks by the Mean Green defense on Saturday. UNT came into the game averaging three per game.
What's next: UNT opens Sun Belt play against another program, Troy, that gave a BCS team all it could handle. Troy nearly upset Mississippi State last weekend, falling 30-24. As nice as it was to give KSU a tough game, this weekend means much more.
7) UTEP (1-2)
What happened: When you open your season with impressive losses against opponents from the Big 12 and SEC, games against a WAC program should go just like this. The Miners only won by 13, 41-28 over New Mexico State, but this game was not that close. UTEP raced out to a 20-0 first-quarter lead, then tacked on another score early in the second quarter before NM State finally got on the board. Everything clicked for the Miners offensively. QB Nick Lamaison had his first 300-yard game of the season, while UTEP spread the ball around to eight different runners for 177 yards on the ground -- and that was without Nathan Jeffery, still out with an injury. And the defense did its job, too. Of New Mexico State's 402 yards, 265 of them came after halftime when the game was well out of reach. UTEP likely wanted to close a little stronger, but that's nitpicking. This was a strong overall effort.
The mob said: UTEP by 12.5
So said I: UTEP 30, New Mexico State 17
Star of the game: As mentioned, Nick Lamaison had a huge night, throwing for 300 yards and 4 TDs. Somw fans had questioned whether he or Carson Meger should start, but Lamaison surely answered his critics on Saturday.
Key number: 12, the number of UTEP penalties, totaling 129 yards. That was the biggest, and perhaps only, negative from the win over NM State.
What's next: Back to the BCS tour go the Miners, who travel to Wisconsin on Saturday. Before Labor Day, this game looked like a lost cause. But UTEP now has some momentum going into the game against an unranked Badgers team that narrowly beaten Utah State and Northern Iowa aside from losing 10-7 to Oregon State. Wisconsin's offense is only averaging 276 yards per game. UTEP will have a chance in this one.
8) Rice (1-2)
What happened: For the second time in three games, Rice had to rally from a three-touchdown deficit in the first quarter. That's too much to ask, especially when on the road, and Rice fought back but couldn't overcome a 21-point hole in the 56-37 loss at Louisiana Tech. The game opened with two 70-yard-plus scoring drives by Louisiana Tech. Needing to answer, Rice instead fumbled on its next possession, and La Tech scored three plays later for a 21-0 lead. Credit Rice for not raising the white flag immediately; the Owls actually out-scored LT 37-35 the rest of the game. That deficit, however, was too huge, even for a Rice team that put up 477 yards of offense.
The mob said: Louisiana Tech by 20.5
So said I: Louisiana Tech 45, Rice 31
Star of the game: Nobody from the defense is deserving, not from a unit that has given up 600-plus yards of offense in two games, so give the game ball to Taylor McHargue (205 yards, 2 TDs passing; 93 yards, 3 TDs rushing), who has arguably been Rice's MVP in all three games this year.
Key number: 8.5, the average yards Louisiana Tech averaged per play against Rice. Last year, only one team (Kansas) gave up more than 7 yards per play defensively.
What's next: Another tough test for the Rice defense. Marshall, despite opening the season 1-2, comes into this matchup averaging 550 yards of offense per game, most of them coming through the air. Marshall averages 300 more yards through the air per game than on the ground, which might help Rice's defense, which has been OK against the pass but shredded by opponents' running games.
9) UTSA (3-0)
What happened: The Roadrunners dominated Georgia State for a 38-14 win, showing that last week's 27-16 win against Texas A&M-Commerce was nothing to be concerned about. UTSA scored on six of its first seven drives, effectively putting away Georgia State early in the third quarter. The 442 offensive yards set a season high mark, while UTSA held GSU to just 307 yards and only 13 first downs. Four of the UTSA takeaways turned into touchdowns; the other two times resulted in UTSA kneeling out the clock.
The mob said: No line
So said I: UTSA 34, Georgia State 16
Star of the game: Setting a school record, Evans Okotcha rushed for three TDs against Georgia State. And though his rushing numbers weren't eye-popping (20-49), he also added four receptions for 55 yards, both teams highs.
Key number: 10-2, UTSA's turnover ratio this season. The Roadrunner defense has recorded 10 takeaways, including four against Georgia State, while the UTSA offense has only turned it over twice in three games. The 10 takeaways are tied for the second-highest total in the nation.
What's next: The second Division II team in three weeks comes to San Antonio. While UTSA let Texas A&M-Commerce hang around in the second week of the season, don't expect Northwestern Oklahoma State to put up much of a fight. NWOSU is a bad team even at the DII level and will have no business playing an FBS program.
10) SMU (1-2)
What happened: The defense could only hold on so long, caving in early in the second quarter after stopping A&M on its first five possessions. And like that, it was over, as SMU rolled over in a 48-3 defeat. Yes, the Aggies racked up 605 yards and seven touchdowns, but the SMU defense is hardly to blame. It kept the Mustangs in the game well into the second quarter. A&M only led 7-0 after 20 minutes of game time. As the Aggies kicked the offense in gear, however, SMU continued to languish behind. Before SMU finally kicked a field goal eight minutes into the third quarter, its possessions had gone as such: Punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, punt, INT, FG miss, punt. No wonder SMU's defense eventually crumbled. This June Jones Run-n-shoot offense has been firing blanks for three straight weeks. Until it finds some ammo, SMU will need the '85 Chicago Bears defense to be competitive.
The mob said: Texas A&M by 13.5
So said I: Texas A&M 38, SMU 21
Star of the game: While the passing game was simply dreadful, Zach Line (16-104) quietly had a nice game. I keep waiting for Junes Jones to use Line as more than a change of pace runner, but Line still continues to get largely ignored. To be fair, however, the running game is going to take a back seat when you trail by multiple touchdowns.
Key number: 2, the number of times in six tries SMU converted on 3rd-and-short against Texas A&M. Not coincidentally, SMU picked up both of those first downs on running plays, but failed to convert the four times SMU attempted a pass for the first down.
What's next: Some soul-searching on the Hilltop should be what's next. Is Garrett Gilbert the best man for the QB job? Should Zach Line get more carries? Will the defense get worn down this season if the offense remains this stagnant? Is June Jones' heart in this? SMU needs to figure things out with a bye this coming weekend and TCU on deck in two weeks.
11) Texas State (1-1)
What happened: With the day off on Saturday, the Bobcats licked their wounds from the humbling loss to Texas Tech two weekends ago. I'm also wondering how much time the TX State staff deliberated over their starting QB. Shaun Rutherford has opened both games this season, but his limited passing skills were under the spotlight in the loss to Tech. His backup, Tyler Arndt, is the superior passer but not close to the same runner as Rutherford. Decisions, decisions.
The mob said: N/A
So said I: N/A
Star of the game: The Texas State AD, who got the Bobcats a week off after the Texas Tech game. In hindsight, the bye couldn't have come at a better time.
Key number: 9, the number of points that separated Texas State and Stephen F. Austin in their game last year. That's important because ...
What's next: Stephen F. Austin comes to San Marcos on Saturday, and just because Texas State is now an FBS program (while SFA remains in the FCS, FYI), you can't expect this to be a one-sided game. Texas State only led by two points in the fourth quarter in last year's game before the Bobcats got a final TD to ice the game.
12) Houston (0-3)
What happened: Only two games during the 2011 season did Houston's offense attempt 60 or more passes, but the Coogs have already done that twice this year. In playing catchup every game so far, the Coogs have been forced to stick to the air, and it's just not working right now. David Piland attempted 60 passes in the 37-6 loss to UCLA on Saturday, completing only 28 of them. He threw five interceptions, and his first-quarter fumble was returned by UCLA for a touchdown. But it's not all his fault. Houston was without starting RB Charles Sims, while his backup, Ryan Jackson, left the game with an injury. That gave third-stringer Kenneth Farrow a chance to for extended action, and his response (13-74) provided one of the few bright spots. To be fair, the Houston defense actually responded well after getting torn apart by Louisiana Tech, creating five turnovers and getting 10 tackles for a loss. Houston's offensive no-show, however, made that effort immaterial to the outcome.
The mob said: UCLA by 17
So said I: UCLA 47, Houston 27
Star of the game: With the loss of its top four receivers from 2011, UH has needed a player to step up. So far, DeWayne Peace has done just that. He had 10 receptions for 103 yards against UCLA, giving him 23 receptions through three games. The senior had just 13 last year.
Key number: 118, Houston's team defensive ranking out of 120 FBS teams in the NCAA after three games. Only SMU and Louisiana Tech are rated below the Cougars.
What's next: Houston is one of three Texas teams (joining Texas and Texas Tech) that will get this weekend off. Unlike the other two, who must hope the off week doesn't stop their momentum, Houston will use the extra week to get healthy -- the injury bug has hit all areas of the team -- and prepare for its crosstown game against Rice, to be played at Reliant Stadium. Nothing would wake up the Coogs more than beating the Owls.
Grading My Predictions
Last week straight up: 10-0
Last week against the spread: 5-3
Season straight up: 24-4
Season against the spread: 13-8
Jake Shaw is a special contributor to TexasFootball.com