Jake Shaw reviews the weekend's college action across Texas.
The regular season ended for eight of the teams in Texas this weekend, but the show will go on for seven of the state's programs after SMU, Rice and Baylor (which still has one game left) clinched bowl eligibility on Thanksgiving weekend. Below, I recap every Texas FBS program's game, based as always on the order of this week's Power Poll rankings.
1) Texas A&M (10-2, 5-2 in SEC)
The mob said: Texas A&M by 16.5
So said I: Texas A&M 45, Missouri 20
What actually happened: Usually, when your team is up 42-7 at halftime, as Texas A&M was in the 59-29 win over Missouri, you don't play your starters much in the second half. And you also rest them in the fourth quarter, when you're up 52-16. But why rest when your next game is about a month away, and why rest when you're trying to capture the Heisman Trophy for your quarterback, who could become the first freshman to win the prestigious award? The end of this season couldn't have shaped up any better for Johnny Manziel's chances. After leading A&M to the upset at Alabama, Manziel closed the schedule with two softies -- and Mizzou is a softy right now -- and put up the numbers commensurate with the schedule. After averaging more than 10 yards per play against Sam Houston two weeks ago, Manziel -- playing into the fourth quarter -- put up 439 yards of offense. He accounted for 56 plays, his second highest total of the season, and had a combined five touchdowns. It wasn't a statement game per se, but the rout and the stats offered what voters wanted and needed to see. Now the waiting game and speculation begin.
Star of the game: I'll have to go back to research this, but Johnny Manziel might've swept this "star of the game" award for Texas A&M this season. That's what happens when you take over a 7-6 team and turn it into a 10-2 team just 12 months later.
Key number: 2, Johnny Manziel's national rank when it comes to yards gained per game with 383.3, ranking him behind only Baylor QB Nick Florence, who averages 389.5 yards per game.
What's next: Texas A&M will watch as bowl sponsors fight over the rights to invite the Aggies and Johnny Manziel, who could play in a bowl game as the first freshman to ever win the Heisman. That trophy's winner will be announced a week from this Saturday.
t-2) TCU (7-4, 4-4 in Big 12)
The mob said: Texas by 8.5
So said I: Texas 30, TCU 24
What actually happened: There are encouraging signs everywhere you look when considering whether TCU can compete for titles in the Big 12 -- winning on Thanksgiving night at Texas, 20-13, is an example -- but when it comes to the Frogs, you always have to start with defense. TCU entered a league known for its incredibly potent offenses. Four of the top total offenses in the country call the Big 12 home. Yet after holding UT (which ranks 33rd nationally and was coming off a 609-yard game) to exactly 300 yards now has TCU ranked 17th nationally in total defense. Amazingly, that's higher than last year's team that ranked 32nd playing against a much easier schedule in the Mountain West. That TCU can produce a Top 20 defense in this conference and with so many injuries is a discouraging omen for the rest of the Big 12. The Frogs, on the strength of that defense and a great showing by the running game (217 yards), had double-digit leads as soon as early in the second quarter and as late as four minutes left in the game. Having chased David Ash (2 INTs, 1 fumble) out of the game, Case McCoy came in and temporarily gave UT life, leading Texas to a scoring drive to cut the deficit to 2013. But on Texas's final possession, TCU forced yet another Texas turnover. Say what you want about McCoy's forced pass, but it was a bad throw because of the pressure from TCU's defensive front, one that produced three sacks and held Texas to 86 rushing yards. TCU hasn't lost this many games since 2007, but this is not a down season by any means. Beating Texas made sure of that.
Star of the game: It was a committee approach offensively for TCU, which only gained 299 yards, so while the entire defense deserves a game ball, I'll single out CB Jason Verrett, who had seven tackles and an interception, giving him six on the season, tied for fourth in the nation. Honorable mention goes to LB Kenny Cain with his 14 tackles and one sack.
Key number: 2.61, Texas's average yards gained per carry on Saturday, the sixth TCU opponent to finish a game under the 3-yard mark. The previous season low for Texas was 3.22 in the loss to Oklahoma.
What's next: The Frogs have one final shot at a big upset, hosting Oklahoma on Saturday. Afterward, they'll find out their bowl destination, and even though it won't be a BCS bowl, it will be much better than the bowl option the Mountain West used to offer.
t-2) Texas (8-3, 5-3 in Big 12)
The mob said: Texas by 8.5
So said I: Texas 30, TCU 24
What actually happened: After yet another abysmal performance by its quarterbacks, the 20-13 home loss to TCU puts Texas in a position where it still has a lot of questions to answer. Starter David Ash was pulled for the third time this season, and frankly, he had a longer leash against TCU. By the time he left the game, Ash had accounted for three turnovers and completed less than half of his 21 attempts for a measly 104 yards. Case McCoy was somewhat better -- at least he led UT to its only touchdown of the game -- but he reminded fans of his lower ceiling with a very ill-advised throw into traffic on a second-down play near midfield on the final UT drive. Out of timeouts, the Longhorns had to watch as TCU took a knee twice to run down the clock. Talk about completely different emotions from this time last year, when Texas was upsetting Texas A&M on the road on Thanksgiving night. That was Texas digging deep against an old and soon-to-be former rival. Thursday night was giving it away to a new rival. The loss cost Texas an outside shot at a Big 12 title and BCS bid and shows that the rebuilding from the 5-7 year in 2010 is far from over. It's pretty ironic, too, that the defense is suddenly playing pretty well, but the offense -- what carried UT earlier this season -- can't remain consistent now.
Star of the game: Coming alive in the second half of the season, sophomore DT Cedric Reed has become the top defensive lineman in recent weeks with injuries to UT's defensive ends. He had seven tackles against, including 2.5 TFLs. Of his 29 tackles this season, 19 have come in the last four games.
Key number: 4, the number of Texas turnovers against TCU, a season high. Texas only had eight turnovers in the previous 10 games.
What's next: The Longhorns have been eliminated from winning a conference title, but beating Kansas State on the road would restore the spirits of Longhorn fans, who despite the 8-3 mark have witnessed a very up and down season.
4) Baylor (6-5, 3-5 in Big 12)
The mob said: Baylor by 2
So said I: Baylor 48, Texas Tech 45
What actually happened: The calendar flipped to November, and suddenly, Baylor is playing its best football of the season. Beating Texas Tech 52-45 in two overtimes Saturday is just the latest evidence. The Bears went 0-3 in the most crucial month in college football in 2010, but the Bears are now 7-1 in the 11th month thanks to the offensive explosion against Texas Tech and just enough big plays defensively. Baylor put up 674 yards of offense against a Red Raiders defense that had given up more than 500 just once all year. If it wasn't a running game getting 278 yards against Tech (136 for Lache Seastrunk and 98 for Glasco Martin), it was QB Nick Florence shredding Tech with 396 yards and 3 TDs (175 yards and one score going to Terrance Williams, the nation's top receiver in terms of yardage). The offense, however, didn't truly ignite until its last drive of the first half. After a huge Tech turnover in the red zone, Baylor went 92 yards in seven plays over 1:28 of game time, capped by a Levi Norwood 39-yard touchdown against busted Tech coverage. Baylor took its first lead early in the fourth quarter on a defensive touchdown and had a chance to win in regulation, but Aaron Jones missed his third field goal of the game, this one from 48 yards out as time expired. Baylor ran it four straight times to open OT with a touchdown, then got a batted pass on Tech's fourth-down play to clinch the win and a school-record third consecutive bowl trip.
Star of the game: There were offensive stars galore, from the running backs to the receivers to the quarterback, but LB Eddie Lackey saved the day for Baylor on multiple occasions. In fact, if the game were to be distilled down to one key play, it would be his fumble recovery in the red zone with less than two minutes to play in the first half. Baylor quickly turned that into a touchdown and a 21-14 halftime deficit. Had Lackey not pounced on the Seth Doege fumble, Baylor is look at a 24-7 or even a 28-7 halftime deficit. Lackey also returned an interception for a touchdown and picked off another fourth-quarter pass. Lackey added five tackles, and he's the second straight Bear to win the Big 12's defensive player of the week.
Key number: +4, Baylor's turnover margin for the season, thanks to Saturday's game, where Baylor created four takeaways and didn't turn it over offensively. Baylor is +9 over the last four games, all of them wins except for an eight-point loss at Oklahoma.
What's next: The pressure is now off Baylor. A 3-5 team four weeks ago, going 3-1 in November has sealed a bowl trip, but Baylor will try to improve its bowl standing when hosting OSU at 11 a.m. Saturday. If Baylor wins, it can finish tied for fifth in conference.
5) Texas Tech (7-5, 4-5 in Big 12)
The mob said: Baylor by 2
So said I: Baylor 48, Texas Tech 45
What actually happened: The Red Raiders had chances to put Baylor away early in the 52-45 overtime loss at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, but too many errors eventually did the Raiders in. None was more detrimental than a Seth Doege fumble at the Baylor 8 yard line inside of two minutes to play in the first half. Baylor had flushed Doege from the pocket, and scrambling for yardage Doege was hit from behind and lost the ball. Baylor jumped on it, then went 92 yards for a touchdown. If Doege just takes a sack, Tech is looking at a 24-7 lead, not the 21-14 advantage it took to halftime. The play woke Baylor up while setting the tone for more Tech miscues. Doege threw three interceptions, one that was returned for a touchdown. Tech also had some bad penalties, including a personal foul on a Baylor third down that extended a drive, as well as a holding call on Tech's first play in overtime. That penalty put Tech in a 1st and 20 situation needing to score a touchdown to send the game to a second overtime. Tech couldn't get it, sending the Red Raiders to their fourth loss in the last five games. While Baylor has gone 7-1 in November over the past two seasons, Tech has gone 1-7 in that same stretch.
Star of the game: Baylor usually has the best receivers on the field, but the Bears had no answer for Tech wideout Darrin Moore. His 13 receptions, 186 yards and 2 TDs were all game highs. It was Moore's third 100-yard game in the last four contests after the junior had none in the previous eight.
Key number: 501.8, the average yards per game allowed by the Texas Tech defense in November, up from 432.5 in October and 167.5 allowed in August/September.
What's next: Back to playing in a bowl game after a one-year absence. Before going 5-7 in 2011, Texas Tech had been the only Big 12 team to qualify for a bowl game in every season of the conference's existence. Last year's absence soured a lot of fans, and despite the plummet at the end of this season, Tech will still get to play for a postseason trophy. Exactly which trophy won't be determined until the rest of the teams have finished their schedules.
6) Rice (6-6, 4-4 in CUSA)
The mob said: UTEP by 1
So said I: Rice 27, UTEP 24
What actually happened: Rice's valiant comeback from the dead -- a four-game winning streak, including the 33-26 win at UTEP, to close out a season and earn a bowl trip -- is best represented by what turned out to be the game-winning drive. Trailing 21-20 late in the third quarter, a great UTEP punt backed Rice up at its own 5 yard line. What ensued was a drive for the ages. Rice gained more than 9 yards just once on this drive, instead getting three yards here, four yards there, slowly working its way down the field. When the drive ended with a nine-yard Charles Ross touchdown run, Rice had covered 95 yards in 20 plays -- that's no typo -- and consumed eight minutes and eighteen seconds of game time. That's how you win a game. That's how you earn just the third bowl strip since the 1950s. Of Rice's 11 third-down conversions, four came on that game-winning drive. Though UTEP would answer with a field goal, Rice took the opposite approach with its next touchdown, scoring in one play -- a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Jeremy Eddington, who scored twice Saturday for the Owls. UTEP didn't have the best of seasons, but this was no gimmee for Rice. Winning in El Paso is tough, especially in an emotional game where Mike Price was coaching his final game of his 31-year career. But this was obvious a special day in a special season for Rice, one that looked like a lost cause when the Owls were 2-6. But four wins (and one 20-play, 95-yard drive) later, Rice is back in the postseason.
Star of the game: You never know what you're going to get out of Charles Ross. Six games he's been held under 50 rushing yards. Three times he hasn't even gained 10 yards. But in three others, Ross has topped the 100-yard mark, including on Saturday, when he rushed for a career-best 154 yards along with 2 TDs in his next-to-last game as an Owl. Ross literally saved his best for last.
Key number: 10, the number of times Rice stopped UTEP on third down on 11 attempts. Rice's defense gave up 443 yards but got the stops when it needed to. Rice's offense, meanwhile, converted 11 of 19 third-down attempts.
What's next: If you skipped over all the above, Rice is headed back to a bowl game, its third trip this century and second under head coach David Bailiff. Waiting a week will lend more certainty, but as of now, a trip to the New Orleans bowl looks like a strong possibility.
7) SMU (6-6, 5-3 in CUSA)
The mob said: Tulsa by 4
So said I: Tulsa 33, SMU 30
What actually happened: SMU appeared to be on the road to a blowout of the best team in Conference USA, a win that would clinch a bowl berth for the Mustangs. But the West Division champs truly made SMU earn the 35-27 victory over Tulsa Saturday in Dallas. Zach Line's third rushing touchdown of the day gave SMU a 35-6 lead with just more than 20 minutes of game time left. That's when Tulsa quit making mistakes and started finishing drives. The Golden Hurricane, which will host UCF for the CUSA title this weekend, scored touchdowns on three of its next four drives, cutting the deficit to eight points with 5:35 to play. SMU got the ball back and though it only gained 21 yards on the drive, the Mustangs still trimmed off 4:07 of the clock, leaving Tulsa with 58 seconds on the clock and 94 yards to go to try to tie the game. Tulsa came up just one yard short. A Hail Mary on the final play of the game came down in the hands of Tulsa receiver Jordan James at the SMU 1 yard line, where a host of SMU defenders swiftly brought him down to the ground. Had the pass traveled three more feet, Tulsa would've had the chance to convert a 2-point try and send the game to OT. It just shows how little room there is for error some times in college football. One yard longer, and perhaps today we're talking about SMU blowing a huge lead and missing out on the postseason.
Star of the game: Playing in his 52nd game as a Mustang -- tied for the most in program history -- LB Ja'Gared Davis had one of his best showings. He blocked a punt, forced and recovered a fumble, and intercepted a pass, all three plays leading to three SMU touchdowns. He finished the game with 7 tackles, 2.5 behind the line of scrimmage. His effort helped SMU earn a bowl game, where Davis will play in a school-record 53rd game of his career.
Key number: +3, SMU's turnover margin in the win. Tulsa out-gained the Mustangs by 286 yards, held SMU to 4 of 15 on third-down conversions, and forced eight SMU punts, but big plays set up short fields for the SMU offense. Three of SMU's touchdown drives totaled a combined 69 yards.
What's next: Like every other CUSA team not named Tulsa or UCF, SMU will not play this week. But like just four other CUSA teams, SMU will wait a week to decide where it will play its bowl game.
8) Houston (5-7, 4-4 in CUSA)
The mob said: Houston by 14.5
So said I: Houston 46, Tulane 24
What actually happened: The season won't be remembered all that fondly -- not after UH's recent run of bowl games -- but at least the Coogs ended on a high note, beating Tulane 40-17 in the final game of the season and the last game at Robertson Stadium. Soon, bulldozers will be clearing the way for a new stadium, set to open in time for the 2014 season. The 2013 season, Houston's first in the Big East, won't start with a whole lot of momentum, but this was a season where UH relied on a host of new faces to compete, and the results were always mixed. Few would've pegged Crawford Jones, a former walk-on, as the starting QB for the final game of the season, but he was forced into action with the injury to David Piland. Charles Sims could've been an all-conference back, but injuries also cost him a lot of time this season, so UH got a boost from freshman Ryan Jackson, who just about doubled his season totals with 129 rushing yards and a 72-yard touchdown run. And Houston's top three receivers on Saturday, Ronnie Williams (10-73, 2 TDs), Dewayne Peace (7-101) and Deontay Greenberry (3-97) were all non-factors last year. Heck, Greenberry was in high school a year ago. Houston's recent success is what made this 5-7 lapse so surprising, but in hindsight, this was a young team being led by a first-time coach in a transitional season.
Star of the game: Missing three games prevented Sims (846 yards) from a shot at the 1,000 yard mark, but it opened the food for freshman Ryan Jackson to show what he's capable of, and he responded by rushing for 129 yards and 2 TDs after rushing for 123 yards and a score in his previous 11 games. He, Sims and Kenneth Farrow give UH a great stable of running backs for next season.
Key number: 6, the number of takeaways collected by the UH defense, helping offset the three interceptions by Houston QB Crawford Jones. UH had four interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
What's next: For the second time in three years -- but only the second time in the past eight years -- the Coogs will not play a postseason game. There are several areas to look for determining why UH won't go bowling, but the season-opening loss to Texas State is the right place to start.
9) UTSA (8-4, 3-3 in WAC)
The mob said: Texas State by 1.5
So said I: Texas State 27, UTSA 24
What actually happened: What better way to close your inaugural season as an FBS program, one that saw you defy expectations and win eight games, the latest a 38-31 win over rival Texas State, than with a marriage proposal? That's how the night was fittingly capped for UTSA QB Eric Soza, who after throwing for three scores and rushing for another, proposed to his girlfriend, Audrey Jones, in the stands. Though Soza threw two interceptions Saturday, this proposal was completed -- she said yes. Soza and all the 40,000 Roadrunner fans in attendance deserve to celebrate. Even with a soft schedule, few people pegged UTSA to win twice as many games as it would lose. UTSA had its first double-digit lead early in the game, scoring on a 79-yard punt return for a 10-0 lead. Then Soza took over, accounting for the next four Roadrunner touchdowns. His final score, a 34-yard pass to Jeremiah Moeller, gave UTSA a 14-point lead, and after Texas State cut it back down to seven points, UTSA stopped the Bobcats on one final drive to set off the fireworks.
Star of the game: He got a lot of help from his teammates, namely RBs Evans Okotcha (11-93) and David Glasco (14-68), but the day belonged to Eric Soza and his 297 total yards and 4 total TDs. Oh yeah, and he's now engaged to be married as well.
Key number: 13, the number of penalties by UTSA, nearly twice what it averaged per game. It was uncharacteristic of this very fundamental program, but it's also no surprise when penalty numbers rise in a rivalry game.
What's next: Ineligible for a bowl game, UTSA head coach Larry Coker will try to ride the current momentum on the recruiting trail. Prospects should be impressed by UTSA for several reasons -- winning on the field, the impressive attendance numbers, and playing in a great facility. Coker is no longer selling hope to recruits; he now can sell reality.
10) North Texas (4-8, 3-5 in Sun Belt)
The mob said: Western Kentucky by 11.5
So said I: Western Kentucky 30, UNT 20
What actually happened: Had this been a battle for bowl eligibility, this 25-24 loss to Western Kentucky would be far more stinging. Yet even though the Mean Green were eliminated the week before, this loss hurts. UNT had control of this game, leading 24-10 early in the fourth quarter and in possession of the ball. One more score, be it a field goal or touchdown, would likely seal the win. Instead, Western Kentucky swung the game around, picking off a Derek Thompson pass and returning it 39 yards for a touchdown. The next UNT possession, a punt. The next Western Kentucky possession, a field goal. Suddenly, it was a 24-19 game. UNT needed to slow WKU's momentum, but the Mean Green went three and out, punting it back to Western Kentucky. Three plays and 78 yards later, WKU was back in the end zone, scoring to take a 25-24 lead (they would miss the extra point). Just like that, in less than 10 minutes of game time, UNT's lead was gone. Seemingly out of air, North Texas couldn't pick up a first down on its final drive of the game, giving a disappointing season a painful end.
Star of the game: His third 100-yard game of the season gave Brandin Byrd 890 yards for the season, though he only scored four touchdowns over his team-high 206 carries. He should enter his senior year as the established go-to running back, with sophomore Antoninne Jimmerson (108-544, 5 TDs) there as a very good backup.
Key number: 3, the number of points UNT got from its three defensive takeaways. UNT had one interception and recovered two fumbles, but they turnovers only led to one made field goal and two punts.
What's next: The rebuilding project by Dan McCarney turns to phase 3, which UNT fans hope will have more success than the previous two. It should, seeing that this was a young offense for the most part and most of the talented skill players will be back next year, when UNT makes the jump to Conference USA.
11) Texas State (3-8, 1-4 in WAC)
The mob said: Texas State by 1.5
So said I: Texas State 27, UTSA 24
What actually happened: They had never met on the football field before, and they're not schedule to meet again in the near future, so Texas State will have a long time to ruminate over the 38-31 loss at UTSA. These programs had established a rivalry in other sports, just not on the football field. But with both making their season debuts in the FBS ranks, this rivalry had a lot on the line. Winner would have bragging rights -- along with the sense that they're on the faster track to success at the highest level of college football. I thought it would be Texas State making the statement, but it was UTSA that did, taking a 17-7 lead after the first quarter and never trailing in the game. Not even a career game from Texas State QB Shaun Rutherford was enough to overcome UTSA. Texas State did take advantage of the three forced turnovers, turning them into 17 points, but the offense couldn't get much going on its other drives, not with Texas State converting just five times on its 13 third downs. But two other key plays killed Texas State's chances, a missed field goal in the first quarter, and failing to pick up a fourth-down conversion at the UTSA 20 early in the fourth quarter.
Star of the game: In his final game at Texas State, Shaun Rutherford passed for a career-best 342 yards and two scores and was not intercepted. He also led the rushing attack with 42 yards and a TD.
Key number: 2, the number of lost fumbles by Texas State on Saturday, including one on a kickoff return. That was one of two major special teams gaffes bu the Bobcats. The other was giving up a 79-yard touchdown return by UTSA.
What's next: The State schools of Texas and New Mexico square off when Texas State hosts New Mexico State on Saturday. A win would prevent Texas State from finishing in the cellar of the WAC.
12) UTEP (3-9, 2-6 in CUSA)
The mob said: UTEP by 1
So said I: Rice 27, UTEP 24
What actually happened: The traditional Senior Night and a somewhat impromptu Mike Price Appreciation Night appeared to be heading for good endings, but a combination of Rice's long scoring drive followed by quick-strike touchdown handed UTEP a 33-26 loss Saturday night in El Paso. Mike Price, coaching the final game at UTEP and most likely his final career game, saw the game end in slow, painful fashion. With UTEP leading 21-20, UTEP punted Rice deep. The Owls responded with a 20-play, 95-yard drive to take a 26-21 lead. And even after UTEP answered with a field goal to get within two points, Rice scored in a flash, returning the ensuing kickoff 97 yards to seal the win and a bowl trip for the Owls. Senior QB Nick Lamaison got his first start in the past few weeks and passed for 249 yards and two scores, but he had more incompletions (14) than completions (8), a sign of UTEP's struggle to move the ball consistently. The Miners converted just once on their 11 third-down plays, leading to only 59 plays from scrimmage, a new season low. Not even another good game from RB Nathan Jeffery (13-95, TD) could get the Miner offense going. And so it ends. The season is over, another one without a bowl game, but this offseason will be interesting in El Paso as the program looks for its 26th coach in program history. Though Price had some down years, if his successor can out-do what Price achieved, UTEP will have found a solid replacement.
Stars of the game: The Miners weren't consistent in the passing game, completing less then 40 percent of its passing attempts, but some of the completions led to big plays by WRs Michael Edwards (5-121, TD) and Jordan Leslie (3-168, TD), whose touchdown covered 65 yards.
Key number: 1, the national ranking of UTEP's kickoff return defense before Saturday's game. But the 97-yard touchdown return by Rice, the final points of the game, dropped UTEP all the way down to 42nd in the country. It was Rice's first kickoff return for a score since 1984.
What's next: The coaching search gets underway. UTEP would be best served to find the replacement for Price right away to ensure the current recruiting class can remain intact as much as is possible.
Grading My Predictions
Last week straight up: 6-2
Last week against the spread: 6-2
Season straight up: 106-34
Season against the spread: 57-51
Jake Shaw is a special contributor to TexasFootball.com
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