Greg Tepper's Blog
NCAA Preview
Posted by Jake Shaw on 23 November 2012

Jake Shaw previews the weekend's college action across Texas.

 By Jake Shaw
 TexasFootball.com
   

TCU got the weekend started right (except if you're a Texas fan), winning at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium on Thanksgiving night for the Frogs' first win in Austin since 1967. The medium-sized upset of the Longhorns, however, was just the first of eight games involving Texas programs this weekend. Below, I preview all the leftover games to be played Saturday. As always, I order the previews based on the amount of confidence I have in my predictions of the final outcome.

 

My confidence level: Very high
(as in I'm confident only one Texas team will make the NFL playoffs)


> Missouri (5-6/2-5 in SEC) at No. 9 Texas A&M (9-2/5-2), 6 p.m. Saturday, ESPN2
One of the many beauties about this here game of football is that it's the ultimate team sport. Every unit depends on another unit to be successful. The best of secondaries will eventually break down if a defensive line can't get any pressure. A running back can't get yardage if his offensive line isn't creating lanes. Despite all that, few games will have a spotlight shining on one person more than Saturday. All eyes will be on Aggie QB Johnny Manziel. Can he become the the first freshman to win the Heisman? What his competition does is beyond his control. But Manziel has a chance to make a statement, that he is this season's best college player. Missouri is in bad shape, but the Tigers do have a decent defense, ranking in the Top 50 in passing and rushing defense and 40th overall in total defense. But if the Tigers fail to pressure Manziel -- something many teams failed at thanks to A&M's overlooked and truly excellent offensive line -- then Manziel will put up more yards and more points and more highlight reel moments. If he does that, Texas A&M will win big. Then, it will just be all left to the voters.
Key stat: 20, the average number of points Missouri loses by to ranked teams this season.
The mob says: Texas A&M by 16.5
So says I: Texas A&M 45, Missouri 20


> Tulane (2-9/2-5 in CUSA) at Houston (4-7/3-4), 2:30 p.m. Saturday, FSN
Houston opened the season with three straight losses, and here the Coogs are again, riding a three-game losing streak, the final defeat one that knocked UH out of the postseason for the second time in three years. This is not how UH envisioned its final season in CUSA before it heads to the Big East. Beating Tulane won't exactly salvage the season, but it's extremely important UH wins to ensure the season isn't a total trainwreck. Houston will start former walk-on QB Crawford Jones, a senior, on Saturday. Before last week, Jones had 44 career attempts. Last week, however, he passed it 44 times in the near comeback win at Marshall, throwing for 316 yards, 5 TDs and 0 INTs after starter David Piland went down. He won't be around next year, when UH accomplishes its longtime goal of playing in an auto-BCS conference, but he will ensure that Houston -- as bad as 2012 has been -- will end with a win.
Key stat: -6, Houston's point differential in 11 games this season. UH averages 31.7 points per game but gives up 37.7. Last year, Houston was +26.9, scoring 49.3 points per game while only giving up 22.4 per contest.
The mob says: Houston by 14.5
So says I: Houston 46, Tulane 24


> North Texas (4-7/3-4) at Western Kentucky (6-5/3-4), Noon Saturday, espn3
A coach's No. 1 job is to win and, thus, make it to a bowl game. For the second straight year under Dan McCarney -- and eighth overall in Denton -- UNT has not won enough games to achieve that end. Last week's 26-point loss at Louisiana-Monroe sealed the Mean Green's fate. But that doesn't mean UNT should give up. Every game is a learning experience. McCarney is trying to rebuild a program that had all but crumbled before he arrived. Winning Saturday would offer UNT a little bit of solace after another losing season. UNT lost last year to Western Kentucky, a team fresh off the move up to the FBS ranks, in a game that also knocked the Mean Green out of the postseason race. The following week, UNT hammered Middle Tennessee State, 59-7. That's what UNT hopes to do gain -- end a season on a high note, and beating bowl-bound WKU would do that. The challenge, of course, is to take that momentum into the 2013 season. Yes, it may be soon to talk about next season, but the page is about ready to turn to 2013. With its entire offensive backfield and its top six tacklers back, UNT needs to finish this season with a purpose, and that is to
Key stat: 20.6, North Texas's points per game this year, the lowest since averaging exactly 20 per game in 2008.
The mob says: Western Kentucky by 11.5
So says I: Western Kentucky 30, UNT 20

 

My confidence level: Medium
(as in I'm confident an outstanding game tomorrow would clinch the Heisman for Johnny Manziel)


> Tulsa (9-2/7-0 in CUSA) at SMU (5-6/4-3), 11 a.m. Saturday, FX
There's really only one game on SMU's schedule that the Mustangs lost but truly should have won, that being the 27-26 decision at Tulane. Outside of that, SMU has pretty much played to expectations. But because of a tough schedule, that loss in New Orleans has given SMU a razor-thin margin of error. To get to a fourth-straight bowl game, SMU must upset Tulsa, which has secured a place in the CUSA title game next weekend. This is a very different team than Tulsa teams in the past, including the one that beat SMU 38-7 last season. The Golden Hurricane usually preferred to beat opponents through the air, but this year Tulsa has been far more grounded. Tulss has rushed for 2,655 yards compared to 2,301 in the air. It's the first time in at least the last six seasons that the running game has had the edge over the passing game. And that's about the only good news for SMU. The Mustangs rank 21st i nthe country against the run, giving up only 124.64 yards per game, nearly 100 yards fewer than what Tulsa averages. If SMU plays to that ranking, the Mustangs can win this one. A bonus would be a big game for SMU QB Garrett Gilbert against a Tulsa passing defense ranked 79th. Tulsa is the better team, there's no doubt about it. But the new offensive look for Tulsa makes this a better matchup for SMU than in the past. The Mustangs will put up a right for a bowl bid, but I don't seem them pulling it off.
Key stat: +12, SMU's turnover margin at home, which bodes well for Saturday. SMU is -3 on the road, including -2 in last week's loss at Rice.
The mob says: Tulsa by 4
So says I: Tulsa 33, SMU 30


> Texas State (3-7/1-3 in WAC) at UTSA (7-4/2-3 in WAC), 1 p.m. Saturday, No TV
For teams that have never played before -- and may not play for a while, since they're heading to different conferences -- there sure is a lot of animosity between Texas State and UTSA. That's what happens when you both make the leap to the FBS ranks at the same time. Texas State and UTSA will draw comparisons to each other for years to come. If one team succeeds early, the other fan base will wonder why they can't match that success (though UTSA has won four more games, give Texas State an identical schedule, and Texas State would be in the same position). Both programs really want to outperform the other. This will be one of the more heated games between teams with a combined 10-11 record. It's Texas State that brings that combined record down, but it's that same Texas State schedule that leads me to give the Bobcats the edge. UTSA's schedule is rated 109th in the country -- and that doesn't include the four games against FBS/DII opponents. I think UTSA did the smart thing, breaking in with a supremely easy schedule to get some wins. But those games haven't prepared UTSA for better competition, and Texas State qualifies as better competition, 3-7 record and all. Texas State may have lost four straight, but the Bobcats gave San Jose State, Louisiana Tech and Navy almost more than they could handle in those losses. The Bobcats are actually playing better football right now, and that should give them the bragging rights in what could be a shirt-lived rivalry.
Key stat: +9, the scoring difference for Texas State in conference games and non-conference games. Texas State is averaging 30 ppg in WAC play, compared to 21 ppg out of conference. UTSA is the opposite, having averaged 29 ppg in a soft non-conference schedule, compared to 27.4 against WAC opponents.
The mob says: Texas State by 1.5
So says I: Texas State 27, UTSA 24

 

My confidence level: Low
(as in I'm confident that the entire current UT coaching staff will be around this time next year)


> Baylor (5-5/2-5 in Big 12) vs. Texas Tech (7-4/4-4), 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Dallas, FOX
It's a very good debate about which team is better, the Bears or Red Raiders. The programs are tied in the current DCTF Power Poll. Two things aren't debatable: Tech is going to the postseason, while Baylor needs one more win; and Baylor is playing better football right now, having won 2 of 3 (the lone loss a one-score defeat at OU), including last week's throttling of Kansas State, while Texas Tech is trending downward. The Red Raiders have lost 3 of 4 and barely escaped against Kansas for the lone win. But no matter what you saw in Baylor's upset of the former No. 1 team, Texas Tech may be a more difficult matchup for Baylor than Kansas State was. Tech doesn't have KSU's defense, but it has the type of passing game that can cripple Baylor's defense. Baylor will win this game if it can pressure Seth Doege like it did Collin Klein. If not -- if Doege has a lot of time to pass it, like many QBs have had against Baylor -- then Tech could very well end its regular season on a high note. No matter what happens, expect this one to not be decided until the final minutes. Because take away Baylor's big win last year, the previous three games involving TT and BU had all been decided by a touchdown.
Key stat: 15, consecutive losses to Texas Tech by Baylor before the Bears finally beat Texas Tech, 66-42, for their first win against Texas Tech in Big 12 play.
The mob says: Baylor by 2
So says I: Baylor 48, Texas Tech 45


> Rice (5-6/3-4 in CUSA) at UTEP (3-8/2-5), 6 p.m. Saturday, Fox College Sports
The motivations couldn't be more contrasting for these two Texas programs. UTEP will play its final game under head coach Mike Price, whose retirement will essentially begin around 10 on Saturday night. Price definitely made a mark on the Miners, but the team had experienced a backslide the past few seasons, so even Price was aware a change was needed. Expect his players to give it everything they have to try to send him out as a winner. Rice has even more on the line. This program only has nine bowl appearances -- just two since 1961. The postseason is mostly uncharted territory for the Owls. But they can assure the 10th trip in school history with a win in El Paso. The game will come down to however you want to view the rushing game -- which run defense will step up, or which running offense will get the better of the opponent -- because both teams will be grounded Saturday night. Rice has 172 more rushing than passing attempts. QB Taylor McHargue is a competent thrower, but Rice's offense is predicated on getting yardage on the ground. Same for UTEP now that QB Blaire Sullivan has taken over as the starter. The redshirt freshman has 14 more running attempts than passes since taking over as the starter in these past few wins. And RB Nathan Jeffery has put up 802 rushing yards despite missing two games with an injury and being very limited in one other game because of that injury. UTEP has a lot to play for, but it pales in comparison to what's on the line for Rice. I think the Owls find a way to squeak out that much-needed sixth win of the season.
Key stat: 86, the combined difference in yardage gained and allowed by Rice in this three-game winning streak. The Owls are averaging 10 more yards per game offensively while allowing 76 fewer yards per game defensively in these past three wins.
The mob says: UTEP by 1
So says I: Rice 27, UTEP 24

All times CST; all rankings from the Current BCS standings; all betting lines taken from ESPN.com's opening lines.

 


Jake Shaw is a special contributor to TexasFootball.com

 


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