Jake Shaw previews the weekend's college action across Texas.
This particular week of the college football season reminds me of the days following Christmas. Sure, there are some random Christmas parties here and there after the big day has passed, but it's just not quite the same thing.
Last Saturday was a huge day for Texas college football. Every team was in action playing in mostly high-stakes games. Last Saturday was the Christmas part of this comparison. This weekend represents the days that follow it. Only four teams play this Saturday. The other eight have the weekend off, and half of those teams are done for the season. There's still football to be played on Saturday, but it doesn't compare to the weekend before.
Still, a truncated schedule won't prevent me from previewing the final four games of the regular season. As always, I order these previews based on the amount of confidence I have in my predictions of the final outcome.
(as in I'm confident the Big 12 missed out on an expansion opportunity)
> No. 18 Texas (8-3/5-3 in Big 12) at No. 6 Kansas State (10-1/7-1), 6 p.m. Saturday, ABC
Credit goes to someone on the Twitterverse -- I wasn't smart enough to think of it first -- but here's an interesting tidbit: Mack Brown offered scholarships to the most recent Heisman winner and the upcoming presumed Heisman winner. Only he offered Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel as defensive backs. Brown struck gold with Vince Young and Colt McCoy, and while he hasn't exactly struck out with David Ash and Case McCoy, neither have proven capable of consistently leading the Texas offense. Ash had arguably his worst game of the season last week, and McCoy couldn't do enough when he relieved Ash in the loss to TCU. With Ash banged up, McCoy will start his first game of this season, doing so against a very angry Kansas State team that lost its grip on both a BCS title game and the Heisman for its quarterback, Collin Klein. The Wildcats don't want to lose their grip on the Big 12 title, but that would happen with a loss. I expect a huge rebound from Kansas State after it has had time to ruminate on the loss to Baylor. It was an uncharacteristic performance by the Cats to say the least. Texas? What we see from the Longhorns is almost anyone's guess. McCoy is capable of rallying the team. Even if he does, it won't be enough against a Kansas State team wanting to regain some respect and give Klein one last shot at winning the Heisman.
Key stat: 28.3, the points Texas allows per game, the most since 1998, Mack Brown's first season in Austin, when the Longhorns allowed 28.1 points per game to its opponents.
The mob says: Kansas State by 11.5
So says I: Kansas State 34, Texas 21
> New Mexico State (1-10/0-5 in WAC) at Texas State (3-8/1-4), 3 p.m. Saturday, No TV (available online here)
The grind of a season in the FBS ranks appears to have worn down Texas State. An FCS program a year ago, the Bobcats were a respectable 3-4 when November started, but since the start of this month, Texas State has gone 0-4, giving up an average of 40 points per game (up from 30 per game) while allowing teams to gain just about 580 yards per game. Thank goodness this game will be played on December 1st. Maybe the changing of the calendar will be enough to snap Texas State out of it. If that won't, the opponent will. The combined record of Texas State's four November opponents: 36-13. NMSU, if you didn't see the line above, has just one win this season, a victory over an FCS club in the first game of the season. So down are New Mexico's version of the Aggies that the program is challenging for the No. 1 ranking -- in ESPN.com's The Bottom 10 rankings. As tough as the previous month was, Texas State has a chance to close out its first FBS season with a win, at home, on senior day. With the way senior QB Shaun Rutherford has played of late (averaging 307 yards of offense in the past two games), I expect 2012 to end on a winning note in San Marcos.
Key stat: 107/113, the respective national ranks of New Mexico State in total offense and total defense. New Mexico State is out-gained by an average of 147 yards per game.
The mob says: Texas State by 13
So says I: Texas State 30, New Mexico State 18
(as in I'm confident Johnny Football, who finally addressed the media, will win the Heisman)
> No. 11 Oklahoma (9-2/7-1 in Big 12) at TCU (7-4/4-4), 11 a.m. Saturday, ESPN
The Big 12 (as well as the TV networks) did Oklahoma a real favor. Had OU been scheduled for a night game, and Kansas State for a morning kickoff, the Sooners would've known their fate by the time they took the field. But since OU plays in the first game of the day, it knows that with a win over TCU, it would do its part to try to back-door its way to a conference championship. OU would then need its good friends in Austin to upset Kansas State on the road later that night. While the latter half of that scenario is less likely, Oklahoma will try to do its part to have a chance for the league title. Fortunately for TCU, the Frogs are catching OU at the right time. Three weeks ago, the Sooners arguably had the best defense in the Big 12. After the past three games, that title undoubtedly belongs to TCU. Oklahoma has given up 45 points per game in the last three contests. The three teams OU beat have combined for 1,692 yards in those losses. That accounts for 40 percent of the total yardage Oklahoma has given up all season. Let me repeat that: Forty percent of the total yardage OU has allowed all season has come in three games, leaving the other 60 percent in the previous eight games. That's not good at all. TCU, conversely, is allowing less than 300 yards per game in its past three games, and that's come against some great offenses (West Virginia, Kansas State and Texas). TCU's defense will be ready. But what's preventing me from picking the upset is the TCU offense. It seems to have worn out, partly the product of playing so much youth across the board, from the offensive line to running back to Trevone Boykin at quarterback. If the Frogs were playing just a little bit better offensively, I'd like their chances. They're not, so I'm going with OU.
Key stat: 10.3, the difference in points per game by the TCU offense this year compared to the 2011 season. The Frogs ranked ninth in the country last season averaging 40.8 points per game, but that number has fallen to 30.5 this year, ranking TCU 54th nationally.
The mob says: Oklahoma by 6.5
So says I: Oklahoma 29, TCU 22
(as in I'm confident penalties like this will prevent fans of any team from rushing the field)
> No. 23 Oklahoma State (7-4/5-3 in Big 12) at Baylor (6-5/3-5), 11 a.m. Saturday, FX
The Bears earned a school-record third-straight bowl season with last weekend's win over Texas Tech in Dallas, but don't expect Baylor to lighten up now that the postseason is guaranteed. Especially not the way Baylor picked up its game in the month of November. I usually save the key stat for the next portion of this preview, but Baylor has too many key stats to limit it to one. To wit: The defense allowed 432.8 yards per game in four November games, not great, but far better than the efforts in October (520.3) and August/September (571.3). The third-down defense has drastically improved, too. Teams converted 64 percent of the time in October, but that has dropped to 44 percent in November. Baylor was +9 in turnover margin in the month of November after going -5 in the games leading up to the 11th month of the year. And one more stat in case you're not convinced this is a different Baylor squad right now: Before November, teams scored touchdowns on 15 of their 16 red-zone trips against the Bears. Since then, teams are just 11-for-19 inside Baylor's 20. Baylor may only be 6-5, but they have earned this bowl game the hard way, winning three of their last four, two of the wins coming against bowl-bound teams. Oklahoma State will challenge all those previous stats, though. The Cowboys are one of the few offenses that can match Baylor's gaudy stats; OSU averages 547.9 yards per game, less than a 30-yard difference than Baylor's 575.5/game. Baylor's offense will score points. So will OSU's. But even though Baylor's defense is playing much better of late, OSU has the edge there, so I think the Cowboys pull out a tight win in Waco.
Key stat: 292.75, the average number of rushing yards Baylor is averaging per game since turning the running game's focus to Glasco Martin and Lache Seastrunk four games ago. Before that stretch, Baylor only averaged 158.67 rushing yards per game. Martin and Seastrunk have rushed for a combined for 943 yards in the past four games, accounting for 40 percent of the team's rushing yards in that stretch.
The mob says: Oklahoma State by 4
So says I: Oklahoma State 48, Baylor 43
Jake Shaw is a special contributor to TexasFootball.com