Over/under control
Over/under control
2012-05-21 00:00:00

Will your favorite Texas college team win more or fewer games in 2012? DCTF's Jake Shaw looks into his crystal ball.

 By Jake Shaw
 TexasFootball.com
  

When I finished doing the math for this story, it really struck me what a solid all-around year it was for Texas FBS programs.

Sure, Texas looked nothing like the previous Mack Brown-led teams, and yes, Texas A&M fell far short of preseason Top 10 rankings. But when I sat down to predict if every program will win more or fewer games in 2012 than it did in 2011, the results really stunned me.

With Texas State and UT-San Antonio joining the FBS ranks, there are now 12 Texas programs at the highest level of college football — eat your heart out, Ohio (8), California and Florida (7 apiece). And of those 12 Texas FBS programs, I'm only predicting two of them will win more games in 2012 than they did last fall. That means the other 10 will either match or come short of their 2011 win totals.

Of course, this is just my opinion, so spare Travis Stewart and Greg Tepper the hate mail and send directly to me. But below, I've tried to defend my reasoning with some facts.

Baylor
2011 win total: 10
2012 over/under: Under
Reasoning: As magical as the season was for Baylor, it marked just the second time in program history the Bears won 10 games (they did come 1-2 wins short another 14 times, for the record). While history says Baylor will come short of 10 again, the loss of a Heisman-trophy winner, an All-Big 12 receiver and three more offensive players selected in the NFL draft speaks volumes. Yet it's not the offense that concerns me. Rather, it's a defense that showed marginal improvement last year and has a lot left to prove. The defense needs a gigantic leap forward to make up for the offensive losses. Baylor is still a bowl-caliber team, but 10 wins seems far-fetched.

Houston
2011 win total: 13
2012 over/under: Under
Reasoning: This one is even easier to explain than Baylor's situation. Losing Case Keenum, the all-time leading passer in the NCAA, stings, as does the graduation of his top three receivers, plus a four-year starter at MLB (Marcus McGraw). And though UH hired from within, promoting Tony Levine to replace Kevin Sumlin, there will still be an adjustment period between the coaching staff and the players. Because of a friendly schedule, I think Houston is capable of winning as many as 10 games. But running the table to get to 14 wins? Not going to happen.

North Texas
2011 win total: 5
2012 over/under: Over
Reasoning: Outside of assuming its annual role as a sacrificial lamb against major BCS programs (UNT plays at LSU and Kansas State in the first three weeks of the season), the Mean Green has the type of schedule that makes bowl eligibility possible. They host two of the Sun Belt's top three 2011 teams at their new stadium, while they have a chance to steal road wins at Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic, the two teams that finished last fall in the Sub Belt basement. UNT's biggest obstacle will be replacing RB Lance Dunbar, the program's all-time leading rusher. Find an able substitute, and UNT should make a move upward in the standings.

Rice
2011 win total: 4
2012 over/under: Even
Reasoning: I tried hard to find a way for Rice to win five games. But I really only see two for-sure wins (at Memphis; UTSA) amid a schedule with a few winnable games and several more where Rice will be an underdog. What scares me is the offensive uncertainty — Rice runs a spread offense but averaged less than 200 yards per game passing, while opponents came 22 yards shy of averaging 300 agains the Owls' defense. And a somewhat dependable ground game graduated its top rusher, Tyler Smith. I see four wins, but unfortunately for Rice, I can't envision any more.

SMU
2011 win total: 8
2012 over/under: Under
Reasoning: With a non-conference slate of Baylor, Texas A&M and TCU, I think the Mustangs are staring at three non-conference losses (the fourth, against SFA, is a lock for a win). But working in SMU's favor is its home CUSA schedule; Tulsa, SMU and Southern Miss — the top three teams of 2011 — all come to Dallas. The 2012 season on the hilltop will be all about establishing stability. Can June Jones prove he's happy to be at SMU? Can transfer QB Garrett Gilbert look more like the 5-star product out of Lake Travis than the scapegoat for UT's 2010 season? There's too much uncertainty at the top for me to predict more than a 7-win season.

Texas
2011 win total: 8
2012 over/under: Over
Reasoning: Conversely to my Rice situation, I looked back and forth over Texas' 2012 schedule — and back and forth over Texas' QB depth chart (not pretty) — but still concluded that Texas, with a bowl game to tack on, will get to nine wins. I don't see more than that, but it's still the over from last year's total. The Longhorns, despite the inclusion of TCU in the Big 12, has the best defense, and the unit is only getting better. That alone is worth six wins in my opinion. And I think QB David Ash can improve enough that he can be a game-manager to allow UT's stable of running backs to churn out yards and touchdowns while grinding out the clock, similar to Alabama's approach (a stout defense carrying a dependable offense). Yes, I'm calling nine wins, albeit not with the greatest of confidence.

Texas A&M
2011 win total: 7
2012 over/under: Under
Reasoning: The Aggies struggled to get to six regular-season wins against a conference that, in their opinion, is inferior to their new home, the SEC. So by that rationale — and considering the backups to Ryan Tannehill, a first-round NFL pick, have hardly any meaningful experience — A&M will be hard-pressed to reach bowl eligibility. The Aggies should run their non-conference slate, but winning three SEC games with an entirely new coaching staff seems like a reach to me. I do think A&M will eventually find its footing in its new conference, but not in 2012.

TCU
2011 win total: 11
2012 over/under: Under
Reasoning: Horned Frog fans have probably been hearing this for years, but the strength of schedule will make a difference. Simply take a look at TCU's final five games on its 2012 schedule: at OSU; at West Virginia; Kansas State; at Texas; Oklahoma. Yeah, there's a week off between the KSU and UT games, but the worst of those five teams last year was actually UT with 8 wins. TCU never faced a stretch like that in the Mountain West. Going 4-1 would be incredible; 3-2 pretty good. Even 2-3 wouldn't shameful, and if that were to happen, TCU with a bowl win could finish with no more than 10 wins. I'm not going to say the days of 10-11 win seasons are over now that TCU has joined the Big 12, but they will certainly be much tougher to come by.

UTEP
2011 win total: 5
2012 over/under: Even
Reasoning: I understand the need to make money, but scheduling three non-conference games against Oklahoma, at Ole Miss and at Wisconsin might bring a payday, but it won't help the Miner's efforts to get back to a bowl game. As bad as Ole Miss was last year, I still see UTEP dropping that game. That's three losses in the first four weeks. With road games at Houston, Southern Miss and Tulsa, I think UTEP is staring at three more losses. Drop another game and boom, UTEP is back at a 5-7 season. This is a bowl-worthy team, but the schedule will make it too tough for UTEP to play a 13th game of 2012.

UTSA
2011 win total: 4
2012 over/under: Even
Reasoning: Unlike Texas State, its fellow WAC newcomer, UTSA didn't schedule so aggressively when it came to non-conference play. Of its five non-WAC games, four are against the sub-FBS level. I see UTSA winning at three of those games (South Alabama, which won in San Antonio last fall, is the exception). The fourth win will come via an upset — at Idaho, at NMSU and vs. Texas State being the top candidates. But I'll have to cap my expectations for UTSA's maiden voyage in the FBS ranks there.

Texas State
2011 win total: 6
2012 over/under: Under
Reasoning: Bowl eligibility in its first season at the FBS level would be parade-worth in San Marcos, but getting to six wins again just won't happen this fall. Not with a non-conference schedule where Texas State will be big underdogs in four of five games (the Bobcats will be favored against SFA). Don't be surprised when Texas State wins a couple of WAC games and doesn't finish in the cellar of its new conference, just don't expect any bowl preparations, either.

Texas Tech
2011 win total: 5
2012 over/under: Even
Reasoning: Momentum will come early. Texas Tech should run the non-conference table to start the season 3-0, putting last year's 5-game season-ending losing in the rearview mirror. But the telling game comes after an off week. The Red Raiders travel to Iowa State, a team that embarrassed all those in attendance in Raiderland last fall. Can Tech get revenge for last year's 41-7 loss — on the road? My gut says no, and unfortunately, it only gets tougher from there. Of the next eight opponents, Texas Tech gets only one break (Kansas). Six of the other teams won at least 10 games, and the other (Texas) won eight. The Big 12 — despite all the realignment uncertainty last summer — is strong top to bottom, which makes it a bad time for Tech to be down. I'm predicting Tech only wins two conference games, making it two straight years the Red Raiders miss out on the postseason.

 


Jake Shaw is a special contributor to Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.

 


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