Week 3 of college football in Texas is in the books and we learned a few things about the 10 FBS programs in action over the weekend. TCU and UTEP were idle. Texas A&M and Texas coasted to shutout victories against overmatched opponents. SMU received a miracle on the last play of the game to survive a trip to La Tech. And UTSA stayed undefeated to set up a mega showdown against Memphis.
We talk about that and more in this edition of the 411, which includes four truths, one prediction and one question.
Baylor is ready to test the Big 12: Not much was expected of the Bears entering the 2021 season with a change at quarterback and fresh faces developing into larger roles. The defense was always going to be good under head coach Dave Aranda, a former hotshot defensive coordinator most recently at LSU. That defense is living up to the high hopes in Waco, especially in the 45-7 win over Kansas on Saturday. The Jayhawks only managed eight first downs and 166 yards.
The surprising part to people outside of the program is the offensive line. Baylor’s big men up front are mashing people and are amongst the highest-graded units in college football, per PFF. The Bears ran for 307 yards against Kansas, averaging 6.8 yards per attempt. The unit didn’t allow a sack of quarterback Gerry Bohanon, who finished with 269 yards and two touchdowns to no interceptions.
Baylor’s schedule set up perfectly to boost the confidence of Bohanon and the entire team prior to Big 12 play (Kansas doesn’t count). Business picks up this upcoming weekend when Iowa State arrives in Waco as a ranked team with Big 12 title aspirations. If the Bears can win, Aranda is looking at challenging for a spot in the Big 12 championship game.
Texas isn’t dead: The 40-21 loss at Arkansas was so embarrassing that it was easy to write off the Longhorns in 2021. The offensive line is bad. The defense was underwhelming. New head coach Steve Sarkisian was forced to make a quarterback change after two games of his tenure. The mood around the 40 Acres was bad, and the expectations built after beating a ranked Louisiana squad in Week 1 were erased. And then Rice came to town.
The Big 12 isn’t great. Oklahoma struggled with a Nebraska team that was beat down by Illinois. Iowa State was humbled by Iowa. None of the other teams look unbeatable. That leaves an opening for the Longhorns and new starting quarterback Casey Thompson. The Oklahoma native went 15 of 18 for 164 yards and two touchdowns in his first start. He led the Longhorns on touchdown drives in five of the first six possessions of the 58-0 win over Rice.
The way Texas runs into Big 12 title contention is by running the football with a stable of running backs. Bijan Robinson rushed for 127 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries. Roschon Johnson added 112 yards and a touchdown on three carries. As a team, the Longhorns ran for 427 yards and six touchdowns on 41 carries for an average of 10.4 yards per carry.
Texas State is in trouble: The mood in San Marcos was optimistic throughout the week. I was on campus for press conferences on Tuesday and coaches and players, including head coach Jake Spavital, spoke about a renewed culture inside the program after an overtime win on the road against FIU. Flash-forward five days and Texas State suffered its first loss to an FCS program since joining FBS in 2012. Incarnate Word, out of the Southland Conference, beat Texas State 42-34 thanks to the passing prowess of Cameron Ward. The freshman threw for 376 yards and four touchdowns to leave the Bobcats back at square one in year three of the Spavital era.
Tyler Shough is just fine: The Red Raiders are at their best with a quarterback capable of lighting up defenses. Oregon transfer Tyler Shough was average in his first two starts for Matt Wells at Texas Tech. His coming out party was held Saturday night in a 54-21 win over FIU. Shough was 26 of 35 for 399 yards and four touchdowns in the win. Maybe as importantly, he didn’t throw a single interception. Shough found 11 different receivers in the win. Up next for the Red Raiders is a trip to Austin.
Does the open week benefit TCU more than momentum helps SMU after its win?
TCU hosts SMU on Saturday at 11 a.m. for the Iron Skillet and both teams are taking opposite paths into game week. TCU was off on Saturday a week after beating Cal in dramatic fashion. SMU was on the road at La Tech and came home with a win thanks to a Hail Mary pass from quarterback Tanner Mordecai to wide receiver Reggie Roberson Jr. to seal a 39-37 win. So, which of those routes benefits the program more? TCU should be rested and prepared after two weeks to game plan for the Mustangs. SMU, conversely, will be riding a high all week thanks to the last-second win on the road.
There will be blood: Texas A&M faces its first real test, on paper, of the 2021 season when it meets Arkansas at Jerry World in Arlington. Expect a blood bath. Both teams are nasty in the trenches, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. Arkansas bullied the Longhorns on both sides of the ball in Week 2. The Aggies under Jimbo Fisher have returned the Wrecking Crew to glory and the offensive line is stacked with experience and budding stars. Neutrals without a rooting interest should be treated to an old-school afternoon of football with both teams hoping to establish dominance at the line of scrimmage.
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