College preview: Week 2
Jake Shaw's previews the college action across Texas.
This may as well be called "charity week" on the Texas college football scene. Every year, FBS programs essentially pay FCS programs to come to town, show up for a game, take a beating, then leave with a nicely-sized paycheck.
This weekend, the state has five such matchups. Not surprisingly, every FBS team is favored by double digits, from 10 all the way up to 43.5 points (I've still yet to witness a team scoring a half-point). Things could get ugly this weekend, but that won't stop me from trying to sort it all out before it happens.
Every week, I order these previews based on my confidence in my prediction. If I feel sure about a game, it goes at the top. If my pick is a little shaky, it goes at the bottom. Anything in between -- you guessed it -- goes in the middle.
This week, I picked six games with very high confidence. Some might even misinterpret it as arrogance. But with five Texas programs hosting FCS teams this weekend, the state will see a lot of lopsided results this weekend.
From the blowouts to the nail-biters, this is how I see it all playing out on Weekend No. 2 of the Texas college football season.
(as in I'm confident I'm a better speller than Notre Dame's marketing department)
> No. 13 Oklahoma State (1-0) at UTSA (1-0), 11 a.m. Saturday, FS1
> Why my confidence is high: It will be a number of years before UTSA has the talent to match a program like OSU. Even then, it would still probably fail to match the depth of a long-established program. But what the Roadrunners will always have going for them -- at least as long as Larry Coker is around -- is a team that plays smart football, takes care of the ball, and just never beats itself. That's what will make UTSA a pesky opponent for OSU (that and what should be a rowdy and loud crowd at the Alamodome). But pesky isn't quite good enough. Though OSU had some offensive issues against MSU last week, naming J.W. Walsh its starting quarterback should steer the Cowboys toward greeter consistency. UTSA won't go down easily, but the Roadrunners need more time to be prepared for a team of OSU's caliber.
> Key stat: 2, the number of third downs converted on 16 attempts by Mississippi State in its loss to Oklahoma State. That's bad news for UTSA, which only converted three times on 10 tries in its win at New Mexico.
> The mob says: Oklahoma State by 26
> So says I: Oklahoma State 50, UTSA 16
> Buffalo (0-1) at No. 23 Baylor (1-0), 2:30 p.m. Saturday, FSN
> Why my confidence is high: Just how good is Baylor, many are wondering right now. Because a score like 69-3 will get people's attention, even if that score came at the expense of an FCS team. So even through the transitive theory can be dangerous in practical application, I'm going to use it anyway. Baylor on Saturday entertains a Buffalo program that hung around with then No. 2 Ohio State for most of the game. Buffalo, down 23-0 early on, rallied to cut its deficit to 10 points twice at The Horseshoe. On one such occasion, Buffalo forced an OSU fumble that it recovered and returned inside the OSU 10-yard line. Only the forced fumble was a result of a horse collar penalty, negating the turnover. Buffalo was that one break away from quieting the 100k in attendance. So don't think Buffalo will play scared at Baylor, not after its gutsy performance in Ohio. The Bulls will give Baylor a tougher fight than what the Bears saw last weekend. But Baylor's got more going for it: talent, momentum and, yes, the weather. High on Waco this Saturday is 99 degrees with mucho humidity. The high in Buffalo on the same day? A crisp 75. Baylor will eventually wear down Buffalo for a big win.
> Key stat: 15, the number of tackles for a loss by Baylor's defense in the 69-3 win against Wofford. That was the most of any team in the country on the opening weekend of the season. Baylor needed three games in 2012 to reach 15 TFLs.
> The mob says: Baylor by 27
> So says I: Baylor 51, Buffalo 17
> Sam Houston State (1-0) at No. 7 Texas A&M (1-0), 6 p.m. Saturday, espn3.com
> Why my confidence is high: The word "Alabama" better be viewed as a cuss word by head coach Kevin Sumlin. Uttering it should be the kind of offense that results in a mouthful of soap. Make no mistake, Texas A&M is so good that failing to focus for SHSU would still result in a lopsided win. But is that how you want to play the week before your program's game of the century? Not at all. Next week's tilt in Aggieland against the Crimson Tide should be out of sight, out of mind among the A&M staff and players. Let the fans look ahead. But best keep your eyes focused on the Bearkats, because they're a darn good team -- the second best team in all of the FCS, in fact, for the past two seasons. Sam Houston boasts experience and has a number of players that would be standouts on FBS programs (such as RB Tim Flanders, a guy the Aggie defense will see much of Saturday). The Aggies will win and win big, but they need to get rolling before Alabama comes to town. And a week without another Johnny Manziel incident would be pretty nice, too.
> Key stat: 28, the number of points allowed to SHSU last year when these teams played in November. The Aggies jumped out to a 34-0 lead and eventually scored 47 points, but broke concentration, giving up 28 second-half points to SHSU while turning it over 5 times.
> The mob says: Texas A&M by 43.5
> So says I: Texas A&M 55, SHSU 20
> Southeastern Louisiana (1-0) at No. 24 TCU (0-1), 11 a.m. Saturday, FSN
> Why my confidence is high: Some weeks, TCU might have a hard time getting up for an opponent such as SE Louisiana. Some quick research on the Lions from Hammond, La.: They played two FBS programs last season (Missouri and UAB) and lost those two games by a combined score of 112-13. That wasn't even the 2012's season low point. That came in November, when the Lions lost 70-0 at Sam Houston State. But after last week's bitter loss to LSU -- a game that TCU got out-played in but still had a chance to win in the fourth quarter -- TCU will be fired up to take out their frustration on the visitors to Amon G. Carter Stadium. Heck, the fans deserve a blowout win. They haven't seen a TCU victory on its home field in nearly a year. September 22, 2012, to be exact, a 27-7 win over Virginia. The Frogs lost the following four home games, but that streak will be put to bed Saturday, perhaps as soon as the end of the first quarter.
> Key stat: 259, TCU's total number of offensive yards against LSU, the fourth time in the past five games the TCU offense has failed to reach at least 300 yards of offense.
> The mob says: TCU by 43.5
> So says I: TCU 48, SE Louisiana 3
> Stephen F. Austin (0-1) at Texas Tech (1-0), 6 p.m. Saturday, FSN
> Why my confidence is high: Not many players win their conference's Offensive MVP award for the week, then have to wait to see if they'll get the start the following weekend. It's a fluid situation at quarterback for Texas Tech right now. Baker Mayfield (43-60, 413 yards, 4 TDs), taking every snap in Tech's 41-23 season-opening win at SMU, sure looked the part of a Big 12 quarterback despite having arrived in Tech months earlier a recent high school grad without an athletic scholarship. Even after his breakout game, first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury still felt it necessary to name Mayfield Saturday's starter ahead of fellow freshman Davis Webb, as if it weren't a given. Projected starter Michael Brewer's still out with an injury, so maybe what Kingsbury's up to is forcing his overnight sensation to not take anything for granted -- while showing his other two quarterbacks that the job might still be available, even if Mayfield has emerged as the leader. I'm thinking Kinsgbury might have this head-coaching thing down already. We'll get another look at it Saturday in what I expect will be a huge win for the Red Raiders.
> Key stat: 151.49, Mayfield's passer rating in his first game of his career, just three points behind the season average of last year's starter, Seth Doege. Mayfield's rating would've ranked in the top 25 in last year's final standings.
> The mob says: Texas Tech by 38
> So says I: Texas Tech 56, SFA 17
> Prairie View A&M (1-0) at Texas State (1-0), 6 p.m. Saturday, espn3.com
> Why my confidence is high: The Texas State secondary bent and bent and bent on Saturday at Southern Miss, but it never did break. The Bobcats gave up 377 passing yards -- compared to just 23 on the ground -- but they countered with two interceptions and by stiffening on third down. Southern Miss attempted 16 passes on third downs, completing just seven of them, five going for first downs. And Texas State was at its best when defending the red zone. Southern Miss completed just two of six attempts inside Texas State's 20 -- and only four of nine attempts from the 20 through the 40. This is all pertinent information since Saturday's opponent, PV A&M, also runs an unbalanced offense. The Panthers had three times as many passing yards in its 37-13 win over rival Texas Southern as it did rushing yards. Prairie View's only chance of hanging around is scoring early and often. But after Texas State came away with the 22-15 road win, I just don't think that's possible.
> Key stat: 5-6, Tyler Arndt's completions and attempts on what stood up as the game-winning drive in Texas State's win, going for 71 yards. Arndt capped the drive with a 17-yard touchdown run. Arndt was 8-of-13 for just 40 yards on all his other drives combined.
> The mob says: Texas State by 30
> So says I: Texas State 40, Prairie View A&M 13
> Rice (1-0), bye
> Key stat: 509, the number of yards produced by Rice in the 52-31 loss at Texas A&M last weekend. Texas A&M only allowed more than 500 yards to two teams in 13 games last season.
(as in I'm confident that, if A&M won a national title, we would see an Aggie version of this dress)
> No. 15 Texas (1-0) at BYU (0-1), 6 p.m. Saturday, ESPN2
> Why my confidence is medium: What has happened to the air-it-out offense that once defined BYU? Since finishing 17th in the country in passing in 2009, BYU has finished inside the top 50 just once, and that was at 47. BYU's passing efficiency has steadily declined in recent years, and it didn't show signs of improvement in Saturday's 19-16 loss at Virginia. BYU had 175 passing yards, but the worst stat from the game: 13 completions on 40 attempts. That's good news for Texas, which has been just OK at defending the pass in recent years. The bad news: It's tough to tell if that was the real BYU. The loss at Virginia was played on a rain-soaked field that included a two-hour delay. While the jury may be out on BYU's once-vaunted passing game, it's a given that defense now carries the Cougars. BYU finished third nationally in both total and scoring defense a year ago. BYU will pose far more problems than did New Mexico State, which held the Texas offense in check before the Longhorns scored all of its 56 points in the final 32 minutes. Texas's schedule has oft-been labeled as forgiving, but Saturday might be an exception. Texas will have to earn this one Saturday.
> Key stat: 23:48, Texas's time of possession on Saturday against New Mexico State, down more than seven minutes from its average in 2012. BYU averaged 32 minutes and change in time of possession in 2012.
> The mob says: Texas by 7
> So says I: Texas 22, BYU 14
> Montana State (1-0) at SMU (0-1), 7 p.m. Saturday, espn3.com
> Why my confidence is medium: After the FCS's triumphant opening weekend -- seven wins against FBS opponents, including one victory over a ranked team -- Montana State might be a good candidate to add to the subdivision's collection of FBS pelts. Lest SMU sleep on Montana State, consider that the program lost just twice last year, once to Eastern Washington (the very FCS program that claimed the win over a ranked FBS opponent), and once to FCS runner-up Sam Houston State. Montana State has averaged fewer than three losses the past three seasons and gave scares to Washington State (2010) and Utah (2011). This won't be a pushover FCS team invited to Dallas just to earn a paycheck. This could be a close game. The heat will be on SMU's defense to slow a very balanced yet very productive Montana State offense, one that nearly reached 300 yards both in the air and on the ground last week. SMU didn't put forth its best effort against Texas Tech last week. The Ponies can't afford to repeat that mistake.
> Key stat: 8, the number of times Texas Tech converted on third down with passes on 10 attempts in SMU's 41-23 loss. Tech's average gain on those conversions was only 8 yards, showing SMU's struggle to stop Tech on short passing routes.
> The mob says: SMU by 10
> So says I: SMU 30, Montana State 27
(as in I'm confident I was excited college football took a backseat to the NFL's season-opening extravaganza last night)
> Houston (1-0) at Temple (0-1), 11 a.m. Saturday, espn3.com
> Why my confidence is low: I didn't exactly know much about Temple before this season (or in general, really). But since the Owls opened their season against media darling Notre Dame, naturally, there's no shortage of information out there now. Temple has a new coach this year, Matt Rhule, whose first order of business was to perk up a passing attack that averaged 121 yards per game last season. It worked somewhat; Temple's dual-threat QB Connor Reilly passed for 228 yards (and rushed for 65 more), but he needed 46 pass attempts to get there. The defense, meanwhile, only gave up four TDs in the 28-6 loss, but Notre Dame moved the ball at will, averaging 13.1 yards per pass and 5.4 yards per carry on the way to 543 yards. This is how Houston will beat Temple -- by piling up offensive yards. The 372 rushing yards by Houston in last week's beatdown of Southern were 70 more than last year's best output. Not bad considering Houston was dealing with losing its top RB to transfer. If the running game can keep it up, the pressure will fall off Houston quarterbacks David Piland and John O'Korn, who combined for 255 passing yards. This is a huge game for Houston because of a backloaded schedule that will make bowl eligibility tough to attain. An early September victory will go along way toward playing a meaningful game in late December.
> Key stat: 1, the tackles for a loss by the Houston defense last week in the 62-13 win over Southern. Houston averaged 7 per game last season.
> The mob says: Houston by 3
> So says I: Houston 38, Temple 36
> North Texas (1-0) at Ohio (0-1), 6 p.m. Saturday, espn3.com
> Why my confidence is low: For an example of just how quickly people are ready to move on to the next big thing, just look at Ohio. They captivated the college football world this time last year, winning at post-Paterno Penn State in the season opener, the start of seven straight wins. BCS-busting talk ensued. Since then, Ohio is 2-5, and the program might've bottomed out last weekend in a 49-7 loss to Louisville. Yes, Louisville is a very good team, but Ohio seems to have lost its touch. The Mean Green, meanwhile, might be finding theirs. UNT's passing game had rarely looked as good as it did in the 40-6 win over Idaho. Senior QB Derek Thompson set career highs in both yards (349) and completion percentage (85.2). UNT needs him to be good (maybe not that good all the time) to supplement its fine running game. If Thompson can be more consistent, UNT will indeed take its next step forward under Dan McCarney. I'm on record with that happening this season. Beating Ohio on the road will only increase the passengers on the bandwagon.
> Key stat: 8-152, the number of penalties and yards accrued by North Texas last weekend. That was uncharacteristic of UNT, which only averaged 4.3 penalties for 43.3 yards per game last season.
> The mob says: North Texas by 5
> So says I: North Texas 26, Ohio 24
> New Mexico (0-1) at UTEP (0-0), 7 p.m. Saturday, Fox College Sports (Atlantic)
> Why my confidence is low: The Sean Kugler era begins at UTEP Saturday night, and fittingly, the opponent is New Mexico. UTEP has only played one opponent, New Mexico State, more than the Lobos from across the border (to the north). Though UNM owns the all-time record, 42-31-3, Kugler's UTEP teams in the 1980s played New Mexico evenly. As a lineman at UTEP from 1985-1988, Kugler's team lost the first two contests before rebounding to win the next two by a combined score of 71-0. Kugler won't have a hard time getting his team up for UNM -- it's the first game after all. But being a rivalry game, I expect the electricity that started waning in recent years at the Sun Bowl to fully return on Saturday night. Will it be enough? My guess is no, and as you can tell, I'm not totally confident in this pick. My reasoning: Kugler inherited a program trending downward, and the reversal won't come overnight. New Mexico was there last year, with a first-year coach trying to turn things around. It's slowly happening in Albuquerque, and that puts New Mexico a half-step ahead of UTEP right now.
> Key stat: 17, the number of yards New Mexico gained on the ground on 10 third-down rushing attempts in the loss to UTSA, resulting in just two first downs. New Mexico relies on its running game, but if the UTEP defense has similar success on third down, the Miners have a far greater chance at winning.
> The mob says: UTEP by 6
> So says I: New Mexico 24, UTEP 17
Charting My Predictions:
Last week straight up: 6-3
Last week against the spread: 4-5
Season straight up: 6-3
Season against the spread: 4-5
Jake Shaw is a special contributor to TexasFootball.com. Contact him by email whether you loved, hated, were excited by or depressed by this column.