The 411: Aggies are a Top 10 team; that UTSA defense is something serious; tough talks needed at TCU

Courtesy of Texas A&M Football

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Week 8 wasn’t filled with flashy matchups, but it did provide for some entertaining football. Nine of the 12 FBS teams from Texas were in action with the group ending the weekend with a 5-4 record. SMU started it off with an easy win over Tulane on Thursday. Rice pulled an upset on UAB two days after announcing that the Owls were joining North Texas and UTSA in an exodus from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference

Speaking of UTSA, the Roadrunners improved to 8-0 on the season and continued to break records. The underappreciated defense is a focal point of one of the four truths in the Week 8 edition of The 411, which also includes a question and a prediction. 

Four truths 

Pay attention to UTSA’s defense: The talk surrounding the 8-0 start for UTSA tends to focus on head coach Jeff Traylor or running back Sincere McCormick. Even quarterback Frank Harris’ improved play gets plenty of publicity. The secret sauce for the Roadrunners, however, is a defense on the verge of elite status. UTSA didn’t shut out a single opponent in the decade-long history before the 2021 season. The Roadrunners have pulled the trick twice in 2021, including a 45-0 win over Rice where the Owls only gained 102 yards. The unit was again outstanding in the 45-16 win over Louisiana Tech on Saturday night. 

UTSA doesn’t just stop opponents from scoring. The unit scores on its own. Dadrian Taylor returned an interception for a touchdown in the third quarter to give UTSA a 27-10 lead and the momentum. It was the fifth defensive touchdown for the Roadrunners, most in FBS. UTSA only allowed six points to La Tech after the first quarter. La Tech averaged 1.9 yards a carry in the defeat. UTSA recorded six sacks and 10 tackles for loss as a team. 

Texas A&M is one of the top 10 teams in the country: This was supposed to be the year Texas A&M challenged for a spot in the College Football Playoff. The defense was stacked. The backfield loaded. The wide receivers oozing with potential. And it looked like Haynes King was a quality replacement for the departing Kellen Mond after a win against Kent State. And then he was injured and Texas A&M started SEC play 0-2 with losses to Arkansas and Mississippi State. 

The sky was falling. Alabama was coming to town and the offense was sputtering with Zach Calzada at the helm. But then the impossible happened and Texas A&M flipped a switch. Those losses to start SEC play feel like an illusion. Texas A&M beat Alabama and then dominated Missouri and South Carolina in a way that proves that those high hopes weren’t misplaced. This Texas A&M squad is one of the best teams in the nation, even if the record disappoints. 

Tough talks are needed in Fort Worth: Gary Patterson is TCU football for more than one generation of college football fans. He’s taken TCU from afterthought to G5 power to Power Five contender in his 20-plus years in Fort Worth. He is a legend, and his status is already cemented outside of Amon G. Carter Stadium in the form of a statue. The Horned Frogs won’t fire Gary Patterson. They can’t. That’s not how Made Men exit the stage. But something needs to change. TCU fell to 3-4 on the season with a loss to West Virginia on Saturday night. It was the third home loss for the Horned Frogs in 2021. 

TCU is in serious risk of missing out on a bowl game. The Horned Frogs have lost four of the last five and need three wins to reach the six needed to reach a bowl game. A game against Kansas on Nov. 20 should get them halfway there, but the group must beat one of Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma State, or Iowa State to complete the mission. TCU is 19-23 since the start of the 2018 season. The program was 40-13 in the four seasons prior to that. 

The SMU offensive line vs. the Houston defensive line is popcorn worthy: SMU travels to Houston in Week 9 for one of the best intrastate games of 2021. SMU is 7-0 thanks to a powerful passing attack and a stable of quality running backs. The Mustangs also field an offensive line that has only allowed two sacks on 272 passing attacks. Quarterback Tanner Mordecai has turned that protection into 2,320 passing yards and an FBS leading 29 touchdowns on the season. SMU averages 5.1 yards a rush. 

The Houston defensive line, known as Sack Ave. is as an impressive of a unit. The Cougars averaged 4.2 sacks a game heading into the game against East Carolina on Saturday night. After a five-hour weather delay, Houston’s defense came up with four sacks in a 31-24 overtime victory to extend its winning streak to six games. The defensive line for the Cougars recorded eight sacks in the win over Tulane two weeks ago. Houston and SMU enter the Week 9 battle with a combined 13-1 record.  

One question 

Will Texas Tech win another football game in 2021? 

The home game against Kansas State on Saturday morning felt like the best chance remaining for Texas Tech (5-3) to clinch a sixth win and bowl eligibility. The Red Raiders jumped out to a 14-0 lead with 11:31 left in the first quarter after touchdown runs by Erik Ezukanma and SaRodorick Thompson. They only scored 10 points in the remaining 56:29 of game action as Kansas State roared back for a 25-24 victory. 

This loss can’t be blamed on the run defense. Kansas State ran the ball 29 times for 81 yards and a long of only 22. Deuce Vaughn only managed 3.5 yards a carry. Texas Tech allowed more than 300 yards rushing in its previous two losses. The lost to Kansas State is on the offense. The Red Raiders couldn’t find a rhythm with Henri Colombi and Dovovan Smith alternating snaps during the same drives at times. Tech was shut out in the second half and outscored 15-0 over the final two quarters. 

Reaching a bowl game feels like a necessity for head coach Matt Wells to remain in Lubbock for another season. Texas Tech only needs one more win, but the schedule is backloaded. The Red Raiders finish the season against the best four teams in the Big 12. It starts with a trip to Oklahoma before contests versus Iowa State, Oklahoma State, and Baylor. 

One prediction

Baylor wins the Big 12 

No one can convince me that Baylor isn’t the most complete team in the Big 12. Oklahoma State lost to Iowa State over the weekend. An Iowa State team that the Bears beat earlier in the season. Oklahoma State is the only blemish on Baylor’s record through Week 8. Oklahoma nearly lost to Kansas and was fortunate to beat an average Texas team in the Red River Showdown. Iowa State is inconsistent offensively. So is Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. The only team to play offense and defense and at a conference championship level is Baylor.

Dave Aranda’s crew is in a three-way tie for second place in the Big 12 with 3-1 records. Oklahoma is in first at 5-0 in Big 12 play. Baylor hosts Texas in Week 9 coming off an open date. The Bears close with TCU, Oklahoma (at home), Kansas State, and Texas Tech. Oklahoma still has Oklahoma State and Iowa State on the schedule. 

Baylor can run the football. Starting quarterback Gerry Bohanon makes the right decisions and is growing as an explosive passer. The offensive line is elite. The defense runs to the football and rarely gets out schemed. The Sooners are probably the favorite, but no team is playing better than Baylor and that will mean something come December.  

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