Jake Shaw surveys this weekend's college action across Texas.
Texas has the highest ranking, TCU has the longest current winning streak dating back to the 2011 season, and Texas Tech is on the rebound, but it's another program in Texas with the most wins in 2012.
A lot of people would scratch their heads trying to figure out the answer. And I can't blame anyone for coming up empty. This time two years ago, the football program at UTSA was just an idea. The Roadrunners, however, have made a splash this season -- their first as an official FBS member after a trial run in 2011-- by racing to a Texas-best 5-0 start to the season.
Below, I recap how UTSA got there -- as well as what unfolded for every other program in the state this past weekend. And as always, the recaps (and the brief look-aheads) are based on the order of this week's power poll rankings.
1) Texas (4-0, 1-0 in Big 12)
The mob said: Texas by 3
So said I: Texas 27, OSU 22
What actually happened: They can talk in Austin all they want about defense, but the Longhorns were reminded in Saturday's 41-36 win at OSU that offense still reigns supreme in the Big 12. Without a competent* offense, Texas doesn't put together its last-minute, game-winning touchdown drive to steal the win. The Texas defense was gashed for 576 yards and only created one takeaway against a quarterback making his first career start. That put pressure on UT's offense, and QB David Ash responded with his best game of his career. Ash made up for a pedestrian game from UT's stable of running backs, who averaged just 3.2 yards per carry -- though, admittedly, Johnathan Gray showed incredible potential on his 12 attempts. This was a huge win for UT, one that legitimizes all the media attention it has received this season. (*With a competent officiating crew, Texas probably doesn't leave with the win. OSU fans will talk about Texas's winning touchdown for years to come. Video replay showed RB Joe Bergeron fumbled before crossing the goal line. But because of one official's ruling that Texas had scored, the replay booth could not over-turn the call. So not only did Bergeron fumble it, he did so before crossing the goal line.)
Star of the game: Though he threw his first INT of the year, David Ash was stellar the rest of the night. His numbers (30-37, 304 yards, 3 TDs) weren't built on sinks and dunks, either. He threw down field with precision and made some incredibly clutch throws. If Ash builds on this, Mack Brown will have more than just a game manager under center.
Key number: 199, the yards allowed by the Texas defense to OSU's Joseph Randle on 25 carries. His huge night helped the Cowboys average 6.9 yards per rush against what has been billed as an SEC-caliber defense.
What's next: In years past, UT had this weekend off to build up for the Red River Rivalry game against Oklahoma. But there's no looking ahead with West Virginia coming to town. It's very early in the conference season, but this game could decide a conference champ, though several other teams will still have a say in the matter.
2) Texas A&M (3-1, 1-1 in SEC)
The mob said: Texas A&M by 13.5
So said I: Texas A&M 37, Arkansas 21
What actually happened: In years past, Texas A&M had a tendency to play down to the level of its competition. Not so far this year, and the latest evidence comes from the 58-10 pounding of SEC rival Arkansas. Trailing 10-7 after Arkansas had scored on a long TD run and put together a 15-play, 79-yard drive that ended with a field goal, the Aggies replied with a 20-point blitz in the second quarter and didn't let off the gas, scoring 17 in the third and 14 in the fourth to make Arkansas' fourth-straight loss perhaps its most humbling yet. Though Texas A&M gave up a decent amount of yardage to Arkansas, it ended two potential scoring drives with interceptions while also returning a fumble 27 yards for a touchdown. The three Aggie takeaways were one more than the defense had created in the three previous games. The offense, well, it was excellent again, as I mention with the star of the game below. The storyline Aggie fans should be equally interested in, though, is how Christine Michael works his way back into the offense. A week after missing the game because of suspension, Michael had just five carries -- one more than freshman Trey Williams but a combined 12 fewer than Ben Malena and Johnny Manziel. Looks like the coaching staff is making A&M's star running back prove himself all over again.
Star of the game: Pretty soon, sportswriters covering A&M will run out of adjectives to describe QB Johnny Manziel, who continues to put on dazzling displays in his debut season. Saturday's show included 453 yards and 3 TDs passing, plus 14 rushes for 104 yards and a score. Manziel is also yet to turn the ball over.
Key number: 1, the number of sacks by the Aggie defense against Arkansas. That's the only criticism of the performance, as Texas A&M entered the game averaging a national-best 5+ sacks per game, but the averaged dropped to 4.25/game, fourth best in the NCAA.
What's next: There were several games circled on the calendar as likely wins. One of them wasn't Arkansas, but the 'Hogs were much worse than expected. Conversely, Ole Miss -- where A&M plays on Saturday as the first of two straight road games -- is a bit better than anticipated, giving Alabama a mild scare before falling back in a 33-14 loss on the road. An expected win in Oxford is a shaky proposition now.
3) Texas Tech (4-0, 1-0 in Big 12)
The mob said: Texas Tech by 2.5
So said I: Iowa State 28, Texas Tech 27
What actually happened: How many times this century has Texas Tech been involved -- and came out victorious -- of a defensive slugfest? Not many, but this may be a different Tech team, judging by its 24-13 win at Iowa State. The Red Raiders only gave up one offensive touchdown -- Iowa State's first score came on an 87-yard pick six. Otherwise, the Tech defense lived up to the national No. 1 defense with which it entered the game. Iowa State passed for just 73 yards on a 50-percent completion rating. The ground game wasn't that much more effective; Iowa State netted 116 yards on 38 carries (just a 3.1 yards per carry average). Tech won this game defensively, because the offense didn't move with the ease it had against its first three opponents. Tech finished with nearly 200 fewer yards than it had been averaging before the game, and it turned it over twice. But the defense made the difference, especially in the fourth quarter. A Cornelius Douglas interception turned into a Seth Doege 19-yard TD pass to Eric Ward on the very next play, and Texas Tech then forced a fumble on ISU's next drive, then drove 27 yards to get a field goal. In a matter of minutes, Tech took a 24-13 lead thanks to an opportunistic defense and an offense that capitalized on the momentum. When Tommy Tubberville took over as head coach, this is what Tech fans likely envisioned, or at least hoped for. It took a couple of years, but Tech is slowly changing its identity, and it looks like it may be for the better.
Star of the game: A couple years ago he was a wide receiver, but now Cornelius Douglas is arguably Texas Tech's best player in the secondary. That's debatable, but for now he's at least the Big 12 Player of the Week after recording his first two career INTs, the first Red Raider defender to win that award since 2008.
Key number: 3.12, the yards per play Texas Tech's defense is allowing, tops in the country and partly why Texas Tech still leads the nation in total defense, just ahead of Alabama.
What's next: A year ago, Texas Tech stunned the nation with its win in Norman, Oklahoma, a place where OU rarely loses. Oklahoma should be bent on revenge, but with the way the two teams are currently playing, would it be considered a shock if Texas Tech loses?
4) TCU (4-0, 1-0 in Big 12)
The mob said: TCU by 16
So said I: TCU 41, SMU 17
What actually happened: It's hard to tell whether TCU's offensive woes in a 24-16 win at SMU were the fault of the (putting it lightly) inclement weather, or if SMU's defense, ranked last in the nation coming into the game, had a hand in slowing the Frogs down. For now, I'd blame the weather mostly, as neither team moved the ball efficiently. SMU actually out-gained TCU, 220 to 156, but the Frogs defense created two turnovers that gave its offense short fields. Make that extremely short fields. TCU converted one of Garrett Gilbert's five interceptions into a less-than-10-yard touchdown drive, while a Zach Line fumble also made it easy on the TCU offense. Throw in a great punt return by Skye Dawson, TCU scored its 24 points on drives totaling 58 yards of offense. So for that, you have to give credit to TCU QB Casey Pachall, as well as the TCU offense as a whole. While the Frogs didn't have much success offensively, it only turned it over twice, an achievement when the playing surface looked more like a marsh than a football field. TCU's ball-control prevented SMU from getting many good looks. And even when the Mustangs were in position to score -- such as the time they started a drive on TCU's one-yard line -- the TCU defense came through. SMU, trailing 24-9, recovered a botched punt by TCU and had four chances from the TCU 1, yet actually went backwards, turning it over on downs after a rush for no gain, a sack and two straight incompletions. An SMU touchdown there changes the game, but the TCU defense came up with the stop of the day.
Stars of the game: Unable to single out one star, the TCU secondary earned the spotlight by picking off four passes, one of them setting up a short TD drive. Safety Chris Hackett had one of those picks and also added a fumble recovery that set up another TCU touchdown.
Key number: 7, the number of personal foul penalties called against TCU, which had 13 penalties for 140 yards.
What's next: TCU puts its national-best 12-game winning streak on the line against Iowa Sate, which had trouble moving the ball against Texas Tech in a 28-10 loss on Saturday. Tech's defense has improved a great deal, but that effort at home likely spells trouble for the Cyclones on the road.
5) Baylor (3-1, 0-1 in Big 12)
The mob said: West Virginia by 13
So said I: West Virginia 52, Baylor 38
What actually happened: It was the Alamo Bowl redux, though as incredible as Nick Florence was at impersonating RGIII, the West Virginia offense was just that much better in Baylor's 70-63 loss. Whatever is said about the Baylor defense -- and it deserves any criticism it receives -- must be said about West Virginia's, however. Stops were rare. Each team only punted twice on their combined 28 possessions, and Baylor had three other drives end with two missed field goals (which proved crucial down the stretch) and an interception, the only blemish on Florence's record-setting day, although the INT was because of a dropped ball by a Baylor receiver. When teams combine for 133 points, there are at least a dozen turning points that stand out, but what looks like just another reception in the box score sealed the win for WVU. Leading by the final score with about two minutes left, West Virginia receiver J.D. Woods made a spectacular one-handed catch on 2nd-and-10 deep in WVU territory. Had he not made the circus catch, WVU would've faced 3rd-and-10 and been left with a tough decision: Pass the ball and risk an incompletion and stopping the clock before punting, or running it to drain some clock before punting. That catch, however, allowed WVU to remain in possession and eventually run out the clock. In hindsight, it made Baylor's decision not to go for an onside kick look a lot worse. Baylor's defense had stopped WVU just a couple times all day -- it was asking too much of the defense to get another one that late in the game.
Stars of the game: He did all he could, setting a school record for passing yards, so Nick Florence (581 yards, 5 TDs passing) deserves some of the spotlight that WVU's Smith has been receiving. A second game ball goes to senior standout WR Terrance Williams, who had 314 receiving yards (a Big 12 record) on 17 receptions, two of them for scores.
Key number: 1,507, the combined yardage by both these teams, who each averaged at least 7.6 yards per play.
What's next: An off week might take away some momentum from the offense's performance at WVU, but the defense needs a break in a bad way. Baylor's best defender, DB Ahmad Dixon, left the game with concussion-like symptoms, and starting CB Demetri Goodson never returned from what was reported as a broken arm. Baylor needs these two weeks to figure out if it can improve defensively. After the break, Baylor will host TCU in a rematch of last year's thriller.
6) North Texas (2-3, 1-1 in Sun Belt)
The mob said: North Texas by 7
So said I: North Texas 30, Florida Atlantic 20
What actually happened: North Texas slowly forged a 17-0 lead, then held on for a 20-14 win at Florida Atlantic to end a two-game losing streak and pick up its first Sun Belt victory. North Texas's passing game bailed out what is usually a very dependable running game. Running backs Antoinne Jimmerson and Brandin Byrd both entered the game at or above the 300-yard mark on the season, but the duo combined for just 46 yards on 33 carries. That was the norm for the game, however. While UNT averaged 5.1 yards per play, FAU only gained 4.2. And while FAU turned it over three times, North Texas's only giveaway proved costly; FAU scored the very next play after intercepting Derek Thompson, cutting the North Texas lead to 17-14. The UNT defense, though, kept things in check, limiting FAU to just 12 yards on its final two possessions.
Star of the game: Though Derek Thompson had a nice day passing, Brelan Chancellor deserves the game ball. His 135 yards on six receptions accounted for more than half of Thompson's 251 yards, and it marked Chancellor's third game with at least 100 yard games; he has also scored at least one TD in four of five games.
Key number: 2, the number of wins for UNT in its first five games for the first time since 2005. The Miners had started 1-4 or worse in every season from 2006 through 2011.
What's next: North Texas goes back on the road, concluding its non-conference schedule with a game at Houston. Before the season the Mean Green would've been labeled big underdogs; but with UH just now earning its first win of the season this past weekend, Houston is only a 12-point favorite.
7) UTEP (1-4, 0-1 in CUSA)
The mob said: East Carolina by 4
So said I: UTEP 24, East Carolina 20
What actually happened: UTEP jumped out to a 10-7 in the second quarter -- and then the rains came. Afterward, it was just about all East Carolina in UTEP's 28-18 road loss. After the Miners took the lead, heavy rains delayed the game by nearly an hour-and-a-half, and the rain-soaked field resulted in a rusty Miner offense. Over the next 22-plus minutes of game time, UTEP picked up just two first downs. Meanhwile, in that same time span, the Pirates scored 21 straight points, getting nearly 300 of their 475 total yards while the UTEP offense was stuck in the mud. Though the running game had some legs behind Nathan Jeffery's 134 yards, the passing game can't be described as anything but bad. Nick Lamaison completed just 33 percent of his passes for 143 yards and was picked off three times. It's fair to speculate what UTEP might've done had the game not been delayed -- such unnatural pauses during games usually favor the home team -- but the end was still a defeat, one that leaves UTEP three losses from missing a bowl game in what could be Mike Price's final season as head coach. His contract runs out in 2012 and there's been no action on a renewal. More efforts like this and there probably won't be.
Star of the game: If RB Nathan Jeffery is back at full health, the UTEP offense will definitely be better for it. Jeffery rushed for 134 yards, his first 100-yard game since he rushed for 177 against Oklahoma in the season opener. A groin injury had slowed Jeffery ever since.
Key number: 2, the combined number of INTs by Shane Huhn And Wesley Miller, who were forced into action after starting senior safety Richard Spencer was knocked out for his final season with an injury against Wisconsin.
What's next: The Miners open their Conference USA home slate with SMU, a program equally desperate to get a win.
8) UTSA (5-0, 1-0 in WAC)
The mob said: New Mexico State by 1
So said I: New Mexico State 27, UTSA 23
What actually happened: It may not have been a statement heard 'round the nation, but UTSA's 35-14 win at NMSU was an impressive win nonetheless. The Roadrunners have now won their first five games as an FBS program and six straight overall. Only six FBS programs have longer active winning streaks. This was arguably UTSA's toughest game of the season -- a road trip against a conference opponent -- but you never would've guessed that. After NMSU grabbed a 7-0 lead 10 minutes into the game, the Roadrunners rallied with 28 straight points. It remains to be seen how competitive UTSA will be with the tougher teams on its schedule, but UTSA is winning games with a proven method: Winning the turnover battle (UTSA has 12 takeaways compared to just one offensive turnover, a +11 margin that's third-best in the country), running a balanced offense (690 passing yards; 537 rushing yards), and stopping the opponent from running (UTSA's opponents have a combined 286 rushing yards and average just 3.08 yards per carry). This winning streak will be tested down the road, but for now, UTSA is playing the kind of fundamental football that increases the chances of winning.
Star of the game: With his team trailing by a touchdown, QB Eric Soza accounted for the game's next four touchdowns, throwing three TD passes and adding a 34-yard scoring run. He passed for 269 yards and also led UTSA with 55 yards on the ground.
Key number: 0, the number of times UTSA has given up a sack. The Roadrunners join Air Force, a mostly running team, as the only FBS programs that have not given up a sack this season.
What's next: The momentum will have to slow down for a weekend. UTSA gets this weekend off before resuming play with a trip to Rice.
9) Houston (1-3, 1-0 in CUSA)
The mob said: Houston by 5
So said I: Houston 54, Rice 44
What actually happened: It took four weeks, but Houston finally got on the winning side of the ledger by beating Rice 25-14 to retain the Bayou Bucket. When Houston took a 7-0 lead less than six minutes into the game, it marked the first time Houston had led in a ballgame since the 35-14 win over Penn State in the TicketCity Bowl way back on January 2nd. Though the Cougars didn't have to face Rice QB Taylor McHargue, out with an injury, they took advantage of nearly every category under their control, making the most of their bye the previous weekend. Houston gained 608 yards of total offense, held Rice to just 343, and didn't allow a sack while sacking Rice five times. Houston still must take better care of the ball -- the Coogs turned it over three times -- but this was a must-win situation in Houston, and the Coogs responded with by far their best showing of the year. It's up to UH to build on this win.
Star of the game: Houston entered the game struggling to run the ball, but Charles Sims made it look easy on Saturday, getting a season-high 158 yards on 24 carries while scoring three TDs.
Key number: -2, Houston's turnover margin against Rice, running the season total to -6. Only eight programs have a worse turnover margin than the Coogs.
What's next: The Cougars will remain in Houston against another interstate opponent, but the venue changes from Reliant to Robertson Stadium, and the opponent goes from a current C-USA program (Rice) to a future C-USA team, North Texas. Houston has won the last three against UNT but trails 6-7 in the overall series.
10) SMU (1-3, 0-0 in CUSA)
The mob said: TCU by 16
So said I: TCU 41, SMU 17
What actually happened: The defense finally played to its potential -- in part because of the stormiest day in recent Dallas history -- but the offense remained bogged down in a 24-16 loss to TCU. SMU had its chances. Five of the Mustangs' drives started in TCU territory. Those drives, if you're wondering, ended with a lost fumble, a made field goal, the end of the first half, a turnover on downs (that particular drive started at TCU's 1), and finally with a one-play touchdown from 29 yards out. And when it didn't start in TCU territory, SMU was still shooting itself in the football. The Mustangs turned it over six times -- five on interceptions of QB Garrett Gilbert, who now has 9 INTs to just 4 TD passes -- and TCU scored twice off those from drives from less than 10 yards out. This was easily the most frustrating SMU loss of the non-conference schedule. The Mustangs were knocked out early by Baylor and Texas A&M, but SMU caught TCU on a day ripe for an upset but just couldn't get out of its own way. The defense's improvement provides reason for encouragement, but the offense for the fourth straight game was simply unaccountable.
Star of the game: SMU's defense applied much more pressure to the opposing offense than in the previous two games against FBS opponents, and LB Taylor Reed had the biggest day, leading all players with 14 tackles and adding one of SMU's seven tackles for a loss.
Key number: 58, the total number of combined yards on TCU's four scoring drives. SMU's defense did a great job stopping TCU most of the time, but the offense's woes made it much easier for the TCU offense to score.
What's next: The Mustangs travel to El Paso facing a team also smarting from squandering a game it could've won during inclement weather. Unlike the SMU game, UTEP's loss at East Carolina was temporarily postponed because of bad weather.
11) Texas State (2-2, 0-0 in WAC)
The mob said: Nevada by 19.5
So said I: Nevada 48, Texas State 27
What actually happened: After taking a huge lead a week ago, Texas State tried to put things on cruise control in the second half, allowing SFA to nearly pull off a comeback from a 24-point deficit. Now I have to wonder if that was actually cruise control or if the second half is consistently going to be trouble for Texas State, which blew a 21-20 halftime lead in a 34-21 loss to Nevada on Saturday. Texas State, nearly three-touchdown underdogs, had the visitors on the ropes in San Marcos. The Bobcats converted an early INT into a touchdown, and in the second quarter Texas State reeled off two scores on drives of 51 and 75 yards. But those drives accounted for more yardage than the 105 yards Texas State had in the entire second half. So what went wrong? Texas State's ground game couldn't carry the team, and the passing attack couldn't rescue it. Starting QB Shaun Rutherford was just 2-of-6 in the second half and was sacked two times. Looking for a spark, Texas State subbed in backup Tyler Arndt, who was even worse, completing only 3 of 12 attempts. While the offense was collapsing, the defense was caving in. Nevada's 261 yards in the second half were more than Texas State had all game, and Nevada scored on its first two possessions of the third quarter to effectively end the game.
Star of the game: The running game tallied just 68 yards, the passing game was absent in the second half, and the defense gave up nearly 600 yards, so WR Andy Erickson makes the most sense for the top star for his 8 receptions for 108 yards and a TD. He came into the game with five catches for 76 yards and no scores.
Key number: 5.6, the yards per carry Texas State's defense is giving up this season. That's a concern because …
What's next: Texas State will take on a New Mexico team that will pass only when necessary and run every other time. New Mexico, which nearly upset Boise State last weekend, has rushed for 1,269 yards this year compared to just 284 through the air.
12) Rice (1-4, 0-2 in CUSA)
The mob said: Houston by 5
So said I: Houston 54, Rice 44
What actually happened: Taylor McHargue has impressed me as much as any player this season. And now Rice can really quantify his presence. Minus McHargue in Rice's 35-14 loss to rival Houston, the Owls put up 140 less yards than usual and scored three fewer touchdowns than it had previously averaged. Backup Driphus Jackson, making his first career start with McHargue out with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder, passed for 272 yards and 2 TDs without an interception, but there was a noticeable difference to the chemistry and tempo of the Rice offense. It just lacked the crispness and confidence without McHargue, and by the time it finally got on the scoreboard -- nearly 40 minutes into the game -- Houston had built a 28-0 lead. The defense, unfortunately, played just the same as usual, and that's not a good thing. Rice, now ranked 123rd in the nation in total defense, gave up 605 yards and likely would've allowed a lot more than 35 points had it not generated three takeaways.
Star of the game: After his game on Saturday, Sam McGuffie might lobby for Driphus Jackson to remain the starter. McGuffie finished with 119 yards on 6 receptions and 2 TDs. All three stats are well above his per-game averages.
Key number: 31, the percentage of times Rice converted on third down (UH converted 66 percent, meanwhile). And 12 of Rice's 16 third-down attempts were from five yards or longer.
What's next: Looking for its first win since beating Kansas on the road (a victory that temporarily raised expectations), Rice has a chance to get back on track when traveling to Memphis on Saturday. Memphis is one of the worst FBS teams, and it has the numbers to prove it, ranking 112th in total defense and 114th in total offense.
Grading My Predictions
Last week straight up: 7-3
Last week against the spread: 4-6
Season straight up: 39-11
Season against the spread: 19-17
Jake Shaw is a special contributor to TexasFootball.com
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