Mid-season madness
Mid-season madness
2012-10-17 08:00:00

Jake Shaw hands out his college football awards at midseason.

 By Jake Shaw

We've reached the midway point of the season. Or is next weekend? Maybe it was the previous weekend.

Anyway, let's not concern ourselves too much with the exact timing of the midpoint of the 2012 college football season. Instead, let's just take this opportunity to rehash what has happened up until this point, as well as make a few predictions about what will take place down the stretch.

Let's do this ...

> My power poll ballot: Each week I (along with five other brilliant minds) submit a ballot for the top team in Texas, but nobody's personal ballot is ever revealed. It's time we have a little transparency on this site, so here's how I voted in the most recent Power Poll, along with the comments I had for each:

1. Texas Tech — All Heisman candidates not named Geno Smith are sending thank you cards to Lubbock.
2. Texas A&M — Run, Johnny, run.
3. TCU — What a turnaround for a team that had taken so many off-field hits.
4. Baylor — Baylor simply can't afford an off day by the offense.
5. Texas — The wheels haven't fallen off, but they're really rattling.
6. Houston — Credit the Coogs for climbing out of that 0-3 hole.
7. Rice — Hopefully Rice saved some defense for its game at Tulsa.
8. North Texas — Big conference game for the Mean Green tonight.
9. UTEP — Despite what SMU showed, hosting Tulane is UTEP's most winnable game left on the schedule.
10. UTSA — The schedule only gets more difficult for the Roadrunners.
11. Texas State — That's the best the Texas State defense has looked since the opener.
12. SMU — Saturday's loss is simply inexcusable.

> Top surprise (in good way) team: Texas Tech
A quick word: The Red Raiders are 5-1, one win away from matching DCTF's preseason prediction, but I expect anywhere from three to five more wins for this suddenly complete team.

> Surprise (in bad way) team: UTEP
A quick word: The strong showings in losses to auto-BCS teams were either a mirage or they exhausted the team's energy, but at 1-6, the Miners are a loss away from missing the postseason.

> Coach of the (mid)Year: Tommy Tubberville, Texas Tech
A quick word: Hard to overlook TCU's Gary Patterson, but his team was expected to be good, while Tech was supposed to be mediocre, yet has been anything but in this 5-1 start to the season.

> Mr. Texas (the state's MVP): Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
A quick word: You can make the case for Texas Tech QB Seth Doege, but watching Manziel (second in the nation in total offense with 2,356 yards), it's plainly evident just how important he is to the Aggies, who likely would have a losing record if not for his heroics.

> Best running back: Charles Sims, Houston
A quick word: Sims (7 total TDs) leads the state's running backs with 643 rushing yards, boosted by catching fire at the right time, having rushed for 100 yards or more in the past three games.

> Best quarterback: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
A quick word: He plays football like Kyle Field is his own private backyard -- part of what makes him so exciting -- but he also wins, leading Texas A&M to five wins already, one shy of last year's entire regular season total.

> Best receiver: Terrance Williams, Baylor
A quick word: Williams (37-830, 8 TDs), the national leader with 166 receiving yards per game, has only gotten better despite the offense losing RGIII and despite teams keying on him now that Kendall Wright is not around drawing all the attention.

> Best offensive lineman: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
A quick word: I can make a batch of pancakes in the amount of time Johnny Manziel usually has to pass, and much of the protection comes from Joeckel, the best left tackle in Texas and a junior who'll have a tough decision to make about going pro after the season.

> Best defensive lineman: Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
A quick word: Only one player in the nation has more than Moore's 8.5 sacks, but he's no one-hit wonder, either, as his 52 tackles are also a team high, quite an achievement from the defensive end position.

> Best linebacker: Phillip Steward, Houston
A quick word: Don't blame Steward for Houston's otherwise below average defense -- this guy is all over the field, all the time, leading all in-state linebackers in both tackles (72) and tackles for a loss (12.5) while adding 6.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 2 QB hurries and an INT.

> Best defensive back: Cody Davis, Texas Tech
A quick word: The best defense in Texas resides (for now) in Lubbock, and Davis is the Red Raiders' most consistent player, leading the team in tackles (45) and interceptions (2, including one pick-six) while chipping in with two broken up passes and 1.5 TFLs.

> Best offensive freshman: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
A quick word: If this were 2004, and these were the Oscars and not the mid-season awards, Manziel would be Peter Jackson.

> Best defensive freshman: Devonte Fields, TCU
A quick word: Fields is next in line of Gary Patterson's tradition for churning out great defensive ends, having totaled 6.5 sacks to go along with 28 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 2 QB hurries.

> Most improved offensive player: Nick Florence, Baylor
A quick word: Despite the recent rough outing against TCU, Florence is surpassing expectations while filling in for a legend, ranking third in the nation with 374.8 yards per game while tossing 18 touchdowns, the fifth-best mark in the country.

>Most improved defensive player: Jason Varrett, TCU
A quick word: Burned too many times as a first-year starter last fall, Verrett has gotten the hang of the TCU defensive schemes, picking off four passes -- the most in the state -- to go with his 8 passes broken up and 16 tackles.

> Player with most interesting statistic: Seth Doege, Texas Tech
A quick word: Doege deserved getting highlighted, but with Manziel winning all of the QB awards, I had to get Doege in somehow, so check out this most interesting stat: Doege has just 1 rushing yard to go along with his 1,891 passing yards.

> Bowl predictions
Teams going bowling: Texas Tech (Alamo Bowl), Texas A&M (Gator Bowl), Texas (Texas Bowl), TCU (Holiday Bowl), Baylor (Pinstripe Bowl), Houston (Armed Forces Bowl)
Teams staying home: SMU, Rice, UTEP, North Texas, Texas State, UTSA.

> Conference champion predictions:
> Big 12: Kansas State
> SEC: Alabama
> Conference USA: Tulsa
> Sun Belt: Louisiana-Monroe
> WAC: Louisiana Tech

DCTF Winter Edition cover prediction: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M; Seth Doege, Texas Tech
A quick word: Like you didn't see either of those names coming.

> Irrational Fan of the Week: There was a bit of Schadenfreude within the Baylor fan base after it saw TCU struggle to a loss against Iowa State. There was even more over-confidence, as this first line of this thread (titled "The rest of TCU's season") written by a reader with the ordinary screen name of "ScottS" suggests:

"I'm going to guess they don't win another game all season", ScottS wrote.

Well, that didn't take long. Mere days after pronouncing the death of TCU's 2012 schedule, the Horned Frogs reinserted themselves into the Big 12 title race while basically knocking Baylor out of it.

(Schadenfreude. If that word weren't so hard to pronounce I'd say it more often.)

> Week's Top Tweet: I had to venture outside of the state's borders to find this week's most interesting tweet, but it's worth posting.


Until Alabama shows any signs of slowing down -- or unless they're found guilty of any kind of recruiting impropriety, which also seems doubtful right now -- that's the way it will be with Nick Saban around, as Tennessee coach Derek Dooley pointed out.

Texas once had that luxury of "drafting" recruits, but with programs like Texas Tech, Baylor, TCU and Texas A&M on the rise -- and with the recurrence of doubt surrounding Mack Brown's control of the program -- UT lost that grip years ago.

> Buy/Sell: Coaches hate the term as much as the media loves it: Must-win games.

UTEP is facing must-win games the rest of the year. With six losses, it must win every game left in order to make the postseason. But is there ever truly must-win situation where the result doesn't necessarily mean elimination? I'm going to buy the thought there is.

I felt like TCU, with its back against the wall, looked at the game against Baylor as a must-win. It needed to rally. Baylor, meanwhile, didn't treat the game with the same emphasis, and it cost the Bears.

I do believe the media throws out "must-win" a bit too often, but there are times when the game calls for it. See the next game involving Baylor -- this weekend at UT. If that's not a must-win for the Longhorns, I don't know what is.

> Leftovers …
Spending several hours in my car on Sunday I listened to the Dallas Cowboys game, and it dawned on me that it has been years since I listened to an entire game on the radio. It also reminded me how visual the sport has become -- since nearly every game these days is available on either TV or the internet -- and how important a good play-by-play guy is for bringing the game to life. …

The disdain between Texas and Oklahoma fans, as well as between Baylor and TCU fans, is palpable. But both sides should also be grateful for the enemy. If they didn't have these rivals, they'd lose out on having a game with such raised intensity. Losing hurts more in these games, but winning them also feels much better than the average victory. I would like to see a little more civility between these fan bases, but I'd also like to retire before 40. Neither are happening. …

Since I've talked about the coaching hot seats for a couple weeks, I decided I might as well make it a weekly staple, as evil as it feels to predict someone's loss of employment. As of now, here are my five coaches facing pressure, in order of the heat:

> UTEP's Mike Price, who's 1-6 in a contract that ends at the conclusion > of the season;
> SMU's June Jones, whose team has appeared ready to play in about two games this year — SMU's only two wins;
> Baylor DC Phil Bennett, who inherited a really bad defense but who -- the numbers don't lie -- has made it worse;
> Texas's Mack Brown, who will hear even more calls for his retirement if he falls to Bennett's Bears;
> Rice's David Bailiff, who got a week's reprieve by beating UTSA.

> Leavin' Texas (The top outside-of-Texas games impacting Texas teams)
The first Big 12 game this coming Saturday will be worth watching for all Big 12 fans. Iowa State (which hosts Baylor next weekend) travels to Oklahoma State (which then plays at TCU the following weekend) at 11 a.m. on FX, a station I've finally memorized the channel number for.

The bigger game, however, is the prim time 6 p.m. game on FOX, where West Virginia will try to rebound from the blowout loss to Texas Tech agains the lone unbeaten team in Big 12 play, Kansas State.

Aggie fans, meanwhile, will have their eyes on their next three opponents, all of which A&M will play on the road: Auburn (at Vanderbilt, 11:21 a.m. on the SEC Network), Alabama (at Tennessee, 6 p.m. on ESPN) and Mississippi State (a non-conference game against Middle Tennessee at 6 p.m. on ESPN2).

Contact Jake Shaw by email whether you loved, hated, were inspired by or depressed by this column.


Jake Shaw is a special contributor to TexasFootball.com


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