College daze
College daze
2013-09-04 07:30:00

Jake Shaw's college football column predicts over/under on DCTF's predictions.

 By Jake Shaw

A couple years ago, a proposed law in Romania aimed to levy fines against -- and possibly even send to jail -- fortune tellers whose predictions failed to come true.

Fortunately the U.S. government hasn't considered similar measures for sportswriters.

We have it pretty good. We're paid to watch sports and then offer our opinions on what we saw. When we're right, we often let you know. And when we're wrong, attentive readers usually let us know. (We thank you for that.)

But that's where it ends. No imprisonment, no fines for being wrong. Maybe a loss in credibility, but that's never damaged employment opportunities for guys like Skip Bayless.

It's a given that some predictions are easier than others. I was pretty confident that Baylor would beat Wofford, and so I predicted that would happen. I also felt like SMU had more continuity than Texas Tech, so I predicted an SMU win.

Had I seen both SMU and Texas Tech play before last weekend, I know I wouldn't have made the same decision. But that's the risk of predicting results when data is lacking. It doesn't stop us from trying -- DCTF predicts the record of every FBS team in Texas before the season. The magazine been doing so for years, just like all the other preseason publications and web sites.

We really begin to learn about teams, though, once they actually hit the field. So now that all but UTEP has played a game this season, I actually have some data to work with. I'm going to use said data today to try to make some even more informed predictions about how every Texas FBS team will finish.

Taking DCTF's final regular-season record predictions for all 12 Texas programs, I'm going to predict if each program will go over, under, or remain the same as what the brains at DCTF predicted back in the summer. I do so knowing I might be wrong in the end, but at least it won't result in time served.



Baylor (DCTF prediction: 7-5)
Sure, it was an FCS team, but Baylor sparkled in every facet in the 69-3 win over Wofford. This was an FCS team that held every opponent it played in 2012 -- that includes the SEC's South Carolina -- to fewer than 30 points in a game. Baylor had that midway through the second quarter. And while it's too soon to accurately judge Baylor's defense, it did give up less than 300 yards after allowing nearly 500 per game to its three non-conference opponents in 2012.

North Texas (DCTF prediction: 5-7)
This looked like a bowl-caliber team on paper. On the field, I'm even more convinced. It starts with QB Derek Thompson, whose 349 yards passing and 12.9 yards per attempt were enormous improvements over his 2012 season, when he averaged 219 yards per game and 7.1 yards per pass. The running game was never a question, not with a solid duo in Brandin Byrd and Antoinne Jimmerson back. So if this is closer to the Thompson we'll see all year, I really believe UNT will get that elusive sixth win.

Rice (DCTF prediction: 8-4)
With all the talk about Johnny Manziel missing the first half, the media as a whole basically dismissed Rice as an opponent. That includes me. I liked this Rice team before it gave Texas A&M a scare for a bit, but I didn't think it could hang with Texas A&M, much less take its opening drive 96 yards for a touchdown. Rice trailed by just 7 at the half; by 10 in the fourth quarter; and put up more than 500 yards on an SEC defense, including 306 on the ground. People tuning into to see Manziel quickly learned Rice has a lot going for it this season. And now that future opponents Tulsa and La Tech don't seem to be nearly as good as their 2012 versions, call me crazy, but I think Rice gets to nine wins.

Texas Tech (DCTF prediction: 6-6)
Like Baylor's performance against Wofford, I don't want to get overly influenced by Tech beating what looked like a languid SMU team. And I thought Tech relied on a few safe passing routes that most teams will defend far better than SMU did. But to break in a walk-on freshman quarterback on the road and win with ease tells me a lot about Kliff Kingsbury's potential as a head coach. I'm going over on Tech right now, but only slightly. Seven wins looks very possible now.

UTSA (DCTF prediction: 3-9)
Beating New Mexico on Saturday already has the Roadrunners +1 on DCTF's prediction. So if UTSA does indeed win the other three games DCTF projected (at Marshall; UAB, Tulane), UTSA will exceed the predicted three wins. I can handle that. I'll say four wins is now the target, but I can't go with any more than that -- mostly because the schedule just won't allow it.



Houston (DCTF prediction: 6-6)
Dealt a late-offseason blow of losing RB Charles Sims to a transfer, Houston perhaps wanted to show that it would be just fine, rushing it 50 times to 38 passes. The Coogs racked up 372 yards while doing so. Dominating Southern was expected, but the fact that Houston nearly split its QB snaps -- and that those QBs only averaged 6.7 yards per attempt -- makes me wonder if the UH passing game can be held accountable if the running game does struggle. This still looks like a bowl team it's picked to be, but not much more for now.

Texas (DCTF prediction: 10-2)
I certainly couldn't drop the Longhorns after their dominant second half of the 56-7 win over New Mexico State, but the sluggish first half also won't allow me to move them up, either. The roster has the talent for DCTF's predicted 10 wins, and the schedule is more favorable this fall, but I need to see more consistency before I have unshakable confidence in that projection.

Texas State (DCTF prediction: 5-7)
Nice work by the gents that put together Texas State's preview in the summer DCTF. They had the Bobcats winning at Southern Miss to start the season, something I didn't see coming. But while I'm higher overall on Texas State now compared to this time last week, I'm not convinced enough to predict a bowl season. Texas State is improving under Dennis Franchione, but five wins is my ceiling for the program this season.

UTEP (DCTF prediction: 3-9)
Keep reading this column (down in the "Odds and Ends" section) and you'll notice I'm predicting a UTEP loss this weekend to New Mexico. DCTF agrees with me on that game, having picked a UTEP loss as well. If that happens, three wins appears to be the max. It all comes down to the first half of the season, since five of UTEP's final six games are on the road.



SMU (DCTF prediction: 7-5)
He'll get every start this year so long as he's healthy, but I've officially given up on seeing Garrett Gilbert live up to his 5-star recruiting status (most others gave up years ago). In my opinion, he's at best an efficient quarterback, and at worst a guy that could cost you a game or two. There is enough talent elsewhere on the roster to get bowl eligibility, but I don't feel comfortable picking anything beyond six wins.

TCU (DCTF prediction: 9-3)
Though few people picked the Frogs in this one, the way TCU lost this game makes a 9-win season a little more dubious. Casey Pachall looked somewhat rusty. Playing an LSU defense will do that to a lot of quarterbacks, so that wasn't totally unexpected. But TCU gave up 448 yards to an LSU offense that only reached that number twice last season and was held under 400 in seven games. That caught me off guard. This is still a very good team with a shot at nine wins, but I have to take the under after what I saw of TCU in its opener.

Texas A&M (DCTF prediction: 11-1)
I don't care how many times Kevin Sumlin will have to bench Johnny Manziel; the Aggie quarterback is so good that the coach will stubbornly live with his antics, and Manziel will keep piling up wins. It's the defense that concerns me. The Aggies gave up 506 yards to Rice, 116 more than opponents averaged against A&M a year ago. Lost in all the Manziel storylines was A&M's need to replace six defensive starters. This unit might get better as the year goes on, but it's not good enough to be an 11-win team in the SEC right now.


> Week 1 Game Balls: Both guys would've had excuses for failing in their Texas Tech debuts, but freshman walk-on Baker Mayfield ran the offense efficiently, and head coach Kliff Kinsgbury put his green quarterback in positions to succeed. SMU wanted -- at least I thought they did -- to beat Tech pretty badly. SMU needed a marquee win. And the Mustangs hung around for a half, but Kingsbury had the better second-half gameplan.

Ironically, Mayfield (413 yards, 4 TDs) earned the Big 12's Offensive Player of the Week award, the first Red Raider freshman since, yep, Kliff Kingsbury in 1999.

> Irrational fan(s) of the week: Few words do I hate more than the dreaded "Q" word. That would be "quit." It's a bold accusation to accuse a team of quitting. Especially when the team is down just two scores to the No. 12 team in the country late in the fourth quarter.

But such is the accusation from a reader going by the name "TEUFELI" on the TCU fan site

"We flat out quit. Not going for it was absolutely quitting.  The team played ok. It's sad that the vibe and memory of this game will be that TCU bowed down to the SEC and accepted quitting."

The reason he believes TCU quit? Gary Patterson, trailing by 10, elected to punt on 4th and 2 in his own territory rather than going for it. Methinks "TEUFELI" doesn't understand the difference between a calculated risk and quitting.

While TCU's loss was understandable, much of the SMU faithful thought it had a great shot at beating Texas Tech. As did I. But one Pony fan, writing on, went a little too far sugar-coating his team's loss.

"KSU lost to ND State. WVU losing at half to William and Mary," a reader with "EastStang" as his screen name wrote in a thread titled "We may have played the Best Team in the Big XII".

Let's not get carried away. Tech did look much better than anticipated (I think I noted that in the main part of this column), but right now, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas and TCU all appear to have the upper hand on the Red Raiders.

> Top Tweets: Johnny Football broke the redshirt freshman Heisman barrier. Will Jameis Winston send him a thank you note? After the RS freshman torched Pitt on Monday Night Football (the college edition), Winston surged into the stiff-arm trophy's conversation.

Then rumors surfaced that Winston, while a recruit, had contacted Texas about playing for the Longhorns, but UT didn't even so much give him a call-back.


So either UT did follow up, as the source says, or this UT source is saving face. I leaned toward going with the former. ranked Winston the No. 1 QB in his class. I doubted Mack Brown would be so busy that he didn't take a few minutes for a phone call to the top quarterback in the nation.

Then I read Feldman's piece -- where Winston's coach elaborated on UT bypassing the recruitment of Winston -- and I've got to say, it does look like UT all but ignored him.

I think way too much is made of UT failing to recruit past QBs like Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel. Hosts of other programs also didn't recruit those players, and let me be frank: Even if Texas had offered them, it's not a foregone conclusion they would've gone to UT anyway.

But it appears this Winston fella did indeed have major UT interest. And according to Winston's side of things, UT didn't reciprocate.


I post this not to point out that the reigning champ is now listed as third, or to show that one good game (Winston) is all it takes to land on this list these days. No, I post this for one reason: If you're betting on the Heisman winner in September, I hope you have some responsible friends setting up an intervention. You're an addict if you're laying down cash money on Heisman winners three months before the announcement.

> Buy/Sell: The last four UTEP head coaches lost their debuts with the Miners. Since Bob Stull won his first-ever contest coaching UTEP -- 64-29 over Northern Michigan in 1986 -- each successive first-year UTEP coach started with a loss out of the gates.

David Lee lost 23-14 to Tulsa in 1989. Charlie Bailey, who took over mid-year from Lee in 1993, lost not just his first game (31-10 to Air Force), he lost his other four games he coached that year. The forgettable Gary Nord era (14-34 in four years) actually got off to a promising start, an 8-4 record in 2000. But the opener was started in defeat, 55-14 to Oklahoma. Mike Price also went 8-4 in his debut season, but he lost his first game as UTEP's head coach, 41-9 to Arizona State.

On Saturday, ex-Miner player Sean Kugler will make his head-coaching debut at his alma mater (and his overall career head-coaching debut as well). A victory would end this losing streak by UTEP head coaches in their debuts, but I'm going to sell on that happening.

New Mexico didn't exactly instill a lot of confidence in my decision with its loss to UTSA, but college football can be funny. Teams often follow up bad performances with good ones. It's the fickle nature of teams built with teenagers and 20-year olds. I think UNM rebounds this week, and I think the Lobos play well enough against a team that had more questions than answers following last year's 3-9 season.

Would love to see Kugler start off on the right foot (Vegas thinks so, favoring the Miners by a touchdown), but I don't see it happening.

> My Power Poll ballot
This is what I turned into the DCTF offices for the Week 1 edition of the Power Poll.

1. Texas A&M
2. Baylor
3. Texas
4. TCU
5. Texas Tech
6. Rice
7. Houston
9. Texas State
10. North Texas
11. SMU
12. UTEP

The rationale for my order: The Aggies played well enough to hold onto their top spot, though the defense needs to improve. Baylor was flat-out dominant from start to finish, enough to slide past a Texas team that needed time to get going offensively. I struggled with Texas Tech, but it came down to SMU being so unimpressive that I kept TCU ahead of Tech. Those two play in two weeks, so it will be sorted out then. Same with Rice and Houston -- Rice was impressive even in losing to the Aggies, so much so that I slotted them ahead of Houston. It's really a coin flip on UTSA, Texas State and North Texas right now, but I put UTSA at the top of that trio because it beat the best team of the three opponents. SMU is looking at a long season in my opinion. Tough to rank UTEP since the Miners were off this weekend.

> Leftovers … Has there ever been a weekend like this past one for the FCS ranks? Seven members of the second tier of college football (or perhaps third tier if you ask the non-auto BCS programs) scored wins over FBS teams on the opening weekend of college football. The kicker: Those seven programs got a combined $2.4 million paycheck to do so. …

Four Texas programs will host FCS schools this weekend: SHSU at Texas A&M; Southeastern Louisiana at TCU; SFA at Texas Tech; and Prairie View A&M at Texas State. I don't expect the FCS trend to continue, at least not in the Lone Star State. …

From a reader about last week's column: "A solid article, too much Manziel, but that's part of today's media, just on and on." Agree that the 24/7 Manziel news cycle gets tiring, but as I weighed all the issues before writing my season-opening column, I felt like no other subject was more worthy. …

I wish Manziel would've read that column. Call me naive, but I really thought he would show more maturity in his first game after the tumultuous offseason. Instead he talked nonstop with Rice's defenders, culminating with the personal foul that led Aggie coach Kevin Sumlin to bench him. Bravo to Sumlin. He handled it very well, both during and after the game. Hopefully Manziel starts giving in more to Sumlin's influence. …

I happily will watch the NFL on Sundays, but I don't like that "the league" has taken over this Thursday night with its double-header. The impact will be felt on the college schedule, where the best televised game this Thursday night is Florida Atlantic at East Carolina. Hey, Roger Goodell, you own Sundays and Monday night. Please give us CFB diehards our Thursday night back. …

With Baylor earning the No. 23 ranking in the new AP poll, 25 percent of the state's programs are in the top 25. Baylor joins TCU (24), Texas (15) and Texas A&M (7). …

The final word: The latest argument for gun control?

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


Jake Shaw is a special contributor to Contact him by email whether you loved, hated, were excited by or depressed by this column.


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