Jake Shaw's NCAA column discusses many intra-state games this weekend.
What a shame SMU and Texas A&M couldn't play this week. Same for Houston and North Texas. Why couldn't the Mean Green have traveled to Houston this weekend, rather than nearly two months ago?
Had those two games been scheduled for Thanksgiving weekend, it would've guaranteed every Texas team was playing in state for the first time all season. And all playing against each other. Instead, we'll have to settle for four games involving eight Texas schools.
Still, it's still pretty remarkable that this weekend, eight of the state's 12 FBS teams will be involved in games against in-state opponents. A short holiday week won't allow me the time to research this -- and I have no insiders with the Elias Sports Bureau -- so I'll have to leave it to conjecture that this is the first time in a long time -- maybe ever -- that one weekend will feature four games involving eight Texas programs that play at the highest level of college football.
Heck, this time last year there were only 10 FBS teams in Texas, so the chances were very slim that there would be four Texas-only games on one weekend. Since then, UTSA and Texas State have moved up in the world, joining the FBS this season. Speaking of, we might as well start there and chat about that game.
Sure, very little is on the line -- relatively speaking -- when Texas State travels to San Antonio on Saturday -- but you wouldn't know it by the online exchange of words between the programs. These programs have never faced, but there's no love lost between them.
"This is it...the game you should have been waiting for all year. This is THE only important thing on Saturday November 24th, 2012," a UTSA fan wrote on a message board. Since this is a kid-friendly web site, I won't provide a link to the site that comment appeared. Too many censorable words. This next comment, from a Texas State fan, is about as "adult" as I'll get: "i'll probably die of alcohol poisoning if we manage to lose." And you thought losing the UT/A&M game meant no more bitter rivalries.
Another "speaking of" moment: With Texas and Texas A&M still not on speaking terms after their ugly divorce, the Longhorns will instead face TCU on Thanksgiving night. While it doesn't have the same amount of history, this came couldn't be more compelling. TCU still wants to prove it belongs, and a 6-4 season hasn't quite done that (though an asterisk could be added to the record because of the ridiculous number of injuries and other player departures).
TCU is experiencing the closest thing to a free fall as its seen in years. Having lost four of its last six games, winning at Texas, on Thanksgiving night, against a ranked opponent -- that would make this season pretty sweet. Texas, on the other hand, suddenly has an outside shot at a Big 12 title, thanks to Baylor.
I mention Baylor for a reason. The Bears also have a much better shot at the postseason thanks to a historic 52-24 thrashing of what was the No. 1 team in the nation. All that's needed is one more win, and who better to earn it against than rival Texas Tech? Those two programs once again will face off in Dallas, playing Saturday at Cowboys Stadium (just two days after RGIII and the 'Skins play the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day).
And one of the final games of this weekend will be arguably the most important -- or at least the most urgent. Rice has one game left. It needs one win to make a bowl for the first time since 2008. It all comes down to Saturday night in El Paso against UTEP. The Miners seemingly have nothing to play for. They were eliminated from the postseason several weeks ago.
Then you recall that this will be the final game for not only a group of seniors, but also for head coach Mike Price, who announced his retirement earlier this week. Don't you think he wants to win his final game as a coach? And don't you think his players want to give it to them?
This won't be an unmotivated 3-8 UTEP team Rice plays on Saturday. The Miners have a lot on the line as well, bowl game or not.
Even a person truly down on their luck could, if they dug deep enough, find something to be thankful for right now. Especially if that person lives in Texas. Four games featuring eight Texas programs. It's almost as if this weekend is an extension of the Texas high school football playoffs. Almost.
ODDS AND ENDS
> Irrational fan of the week: Things aren't so rosy on the Hilltop right now. SMU is 5-6 and hosting Tulsa at home on Saturday. Unless the Mustangs score the upset, they'll be left at home for the bowl season.
This comes after the crazy offseason where June Jones was seemingly gone, then back again, acting almost as if he never left for ASU. And recently, there's the announcement of Rutgers going to the Big 10. That affects SMU, since SMU is headed to Rutgers' old conference, the Big East, next year.
All of this was too much for at least one SMU fan, posting under the name "redpony" on PonyFans.com. In a thread titled "Just Got To Love This Silly Season", redpony wrote:
"two options : div 1aa or shut down fball.. IMO the latter is the best. I just don't care to be at the level or denton colege or sam houston state."
Slow down there, redpony. Are you seriously advocating shutting down a football program? It happened once against its will, and SMU wasn't too happy. This is Texas, not North Dakota. You don't play football here, you don't get taken seriously.
I hope "redpony" was being sarcastic, but something tells me this poor soul is really that depressed.
> Week's Top Tweet: His name may be Chris Huston, but he usually answers to the name "Heisman Pundit," which doubles as his screen name on Twitter. And Mr. Pundit had a great observation during Baylor's upset of Kansas State this past Saturday night.
Baylor is now intrinsically linked to the last two Heismans.— Chris Huston (@HeismanPundit) November 18, 2012
Indeed. Last year's late surge lifted Baylor QB Robert Griffin III to the Heisman trophy. This year's late surge -- at least for 60 minutes against what was the No. 1 team -- knocked Collin Klein, the frontrunner for the trophy, from the perch. It's now anybody's trophy to win (except, perhaps, for Klein).
Something the Heisman Pundit didn't mention: Last year, it was the third weekend in November when RGIII might've won the Heisman, leading the incredible upset of Oklahoma. The timing of Baylor's upset of KSU? Once again, the third weekend of November.
The 2013 Big 12 schedule has not been released yet, but I already feel sorry for the team that faces Baylor on Nov. 16th next year. There's already an uphill battle awaiting that unlucky team.
> My Power Poll ballot
This is what I turned into the DCTF offices for the latest edition of the Power Poll.
1. Texas A&M — Missouri, Texas A&M, the SEC; one of those doesn't belong.
2. Texas — Wondering if the 'Horns will be as up for TCU as they always were for the Aggies.
3. Baylor — The Bears are playing their best football of the year, just when they need it most.
4. TCU — The Frog offense needs to turn things around against a UT defense suddenly playing really well.
5. Texas Tech — 125-27, the combined score of the Red Raiders' last two losses to OSU.
6. Rice — I didn't give up on Rice at 2-6, and the Owls obviously didn't give up either.
7. SMU — Only an upset of Tulsa this weekend can prevent a step back for the program.
8. Houston — Will be strange not watching UH in a bowl game this winter.
9. Texas State — Nice to see the Bobcats give the Middies a real scare.
10. North Texas — An inconsistent offense kept UNT from reaching its potential.
11. UTEP — The Miners would love to close out the Mike Price era with a winning streak (albeit a small one).
12. UTSA — San Antonio should be rocking for the Texas State game this weekend. Seriously. No love lost between these FBS newbies.
> Leftovers …
It seems no time of year is safe from talk of conference realignment. Maryland (with Rutgers tagging along) to the Big 10 came out of nowhere. The Big East is in real trouble. Who knows what the conference will look like next year, when SMU and Houston join a regionally-named conference that has membership from coast to coast and nearly all points between. And the ACC might be in real trouble as well. There were rumors Florida State and Clemson were contemplating a move to the Big 12 this summer. I bet that discussion is back on the agenda now. I realize the Big 12 likes having just 10 members, but that doesn't make the conference stable in a college football age where bigger is better. …
Had Jacksonville upset the Houston Texans on Sunday, you think their fan base would've gone nuts? Made t-shirts about it? Boasted about it all day at work on Monday? Doubt it. The NFL has nothing like what we've seen with Baylor over KSU and A&M winning at Bama. There are upsets, but they just don't seem nearly as special as the do at the collegiate level. …
Play that nobody outside of Hattiesburg, Mississippi is talking about: Southern Miss going for two against UTEP late in the game, rather than kicking the game-tying PAT. I realize USM was desperate for a win, but you're at home and you had gained 532 yards of offense by that point. Your offense had been moving pretty freely. Tie the game and use home field advantage to win it in OT. Not the right decision to go for two, unless you're a UTEP fan. …
Adios, Mike Price. The latter years weren't what you nor UTEP fans wanted, but you did restore some respectability to that program. Price can truly say he left UTEP better than when he found it.
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Jake Shaw is a special contributor to TexasFootball.com