Our long national nightmare is over. College football season arrives in full force Saturday with a slate of tasty FBS matchups across the state of Texas. The season started for two in-state FBS programs and one FCS title contender in Week 0. The best time of the year is beyond us, and we set the stage with four truths, one prediction, and one question.
Austin Aune loves playing against UTEP: The North Texas quarterback has seen a lot in his near 29 years on this earth, and one of his favorite sights during that span is the UTEP defense. Aune is 3-0 as a starter against the Miners. His start on Saturday night in El Paso was the 24th time he’s played for North Texas. He’s thrown for 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions in his career after the three-touchdown performance in the 31-13 Week 0 win. He’s thrown for 778 yards, nine scores, and zero interceptions in three games against the Miners. Aune has thrown 17 touchdowns to 13 interceptions in the other 23 games he’s played in during his Mean Green career.
Opportunity lost for UTEP program: Building momentum at G5 programs is never easy, but that’s especially true in El Paso where the Miners are isolated and left out of conference realignment. Head coach Dana Dimel inherited a team that went winless in 2017. UTEP went 2-22 in Dimel’s first two years on campus and suffered through a pandemic-altered 3-5 campaign in 2020 before breaking out for a seven-win season in 2021. The Sun Bowl was sold out for a conference game on Saturday night for the first time since 2005, which was the last time UTEP reached bowl games in consecutive seasons.
UTEP entered the game against North Texas on Saturday night with an opportunity to rally the city of El Paso and the surrounding areas to take notice once again of UTEP football. Instead, a one-hour lightning delay served as a precursor to a long and disappointing night in a 31-13 loss to the Mean Green. UTEP was outscored 17-0 in the second half and the crowd of over 40,000 were at home by the time the clock hit zero. Will they come back when UTEP next plays at home?
No need for SFA to panic: The Jacks received a rude welcome to a 2022 season that held high hopes and expectations for Colby Carthel’s football team. Jacksonville Stat ran away from SFA in the opener, 42-17, thanks to a dominant second half. SFA led at 17-7 until the Gamecocks scored 14 points with less than two minutes left in the first half. They outscored SFA 21-0 in the third quarter before the game was called due to bad weather early in the third quarter. But despite the disappointing effort, panic shouldn’t begin in Nacogdoches. Carthel teams tend to play better as the season moves into the fall and the schedule offers plenty of opportunities for resumé building wins. The Jacks lost the trenches battle to a team with more scholarships transitioning up to the FBS level. There’s no shame there, but the defensive effort must improve, and the offense can’t go stagnant for whole halves of play.
Houston at UTSA is the game of the week: The only Power 5 on Power 5 matchup in the state for Week 1 takes place Friday night when TCU and new head coach Sonny Dykes travel to face a struggling Colorado Buffaloes program. That means all eyes should be on San Antonio Saturday afternoon when the defending Conference USA champions host a Houston Cougars squad that ended the 2021 regular season with an 11-game winning streak. This is a start of a brutal three-game run for the Roadrunners with Army and Texas next up. Houston possesses a legitimate shot to run the table and knock on the door for the College Football Playoff. Clayton Tune vs. Frank Harris. The wide receiver trio of UTSA vs. Houston defensive coordinator Doug Belk. Jeff Traylor’s experienced offensive line vs. Sack Ave. Buckle up. Buy some Frenchy’s Chicken or find some barbacoa and Big Red (both?) and enjoy life. It doesn’t get much better.
Texas FBS teams go 7-5 in Week 1: The five Power Five programs in Texas should go undefeated in Week 1 with four out of the five playing G5 or FCS programs to ease into the season. The Longhorns face UL-Monroe, while the Aggies start with Sam Houston. The Joey McGuire era begins with Murray State, while Sonny Dykes’ first game at TCU is against Colorado on Friday night. Baylor faces Albany. The G5 ranks feature two matchups between in-state programs with Houston traveling to UTSA and North Texas hosting SMU. Two of those teams must lose. The other two losses should come from UTEP playing Oklahoma, Rice debuting against USC, and Texas State facing Nevada. So, the P5 programs should go 5-0 with the G5 teams struggling to a 2-5 Week 1.
How many of the 12 FBS programs reach a bowl? Let’s start with the obvious choices. Texas A&M, Baylor, Houston, UTSA. That’s four. Let’s add SMU and North Texas, which is now 1-0 after a win over UTEP into the mix to make six. The Texas Longhorns should be improved from a 5-7 campaign in 2021, so let’s say we’re at seven teams to make a bowl game. That leaves TCU and Texas Tech at the P5 level, and I think at least one of those teams – most likely TCU – reaches six wins. Now, we’re at eight programs before we start discussing UTEP, Rice, and Texas State. Give me one of those teams – my best guess is still UTEP – to reach the six-win barrier. So, my guess is that nine of the 12 FBS programs reach a bowl game with Texas Tech, Rice, and Texas State failing to reach six wins. Texas Tech faces a tough schedule in year one under McGuire, and we’re just not sure what Rice and Texas State are until conference play begins.
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