The 411: Texas Tech, Houston roll into rematch; Longhorns get taste of life in SEC

Photo by Dave Cambell's Texas Football

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The sound you hear across the state of Texas is business picking up. Week 1 served as a glorified preseason game for most of the 12 FBS programs in the Lone Star State. Some were on the right side of the blowouts, and others were the ones receiving a check for their sacrifice. Week 2 gets better. Houston travels to Texas Tech to face off with Joey McGuire in hopes of securing revenge from last year's collapse against the Red Raiders in Week 1. Texas hosts Alabama. UTSA travels to Army a week after suffering a triple-overtime loss to the Cougars. Baylor heads to Utah to face future Big 12 rival BYU. The list goes on.

Let's football. 

Four Truths 

Houston, Texas Tech roll into rematch: Two teams hoping to establish themselves as power brokers in the new-look Big 12 face off in a pivotal matchup between Joey McGuire’s Red Raiders and Dana Holgorsen’s Cougars. Both teams are 1-0. The two programs played in Week 1 of the 2021 season, albeit without McGuire on the sidelines. Texas Tech overcame a 21-7 first-half deficit in Houston to knock off the Cougars, 38-21. Houston was outscored 31-0 in the second half as Clayton Tune threw four interceptions and the defense allowed 5.2 yards a rush. 

Houston shed some of those demons a week ago by overcoming adversity in a Week 1 clash on the road against UTSA. It was the Cougars that faced a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter, and just like Texas Tech did to them in 2021, Houston turned the corner against the Roadrunners and escaped with a road victory. Tune threw three touchdowns, zero interceptions, and flipped into the end zone to clinch the win with an acrobatic run to convert a two-point conversion. 

Texas Tech didn’t face much adversity on the field against Murray State in a blowout win. The challenges came in the medical tent when starting quarterback Tyler Shough was forced out with a shoulder injury. The Red Raiders don’t know the details or extent of the damage (they should know more Monday) but Shough will at least miss games against Houston and N.C. State. A broken collarbone forced him to miss the final eight regular season games and the bowl win over Auburn. Donovan Smith steps into the starting role.

Plenty rides on this game. These two programs now recruit against each other in the Big 12. Texas Tech faces a tough schedule, so the Red Raiders need to hold serve at home to at least reach six wins and earn a bowl invite to keep momentum rolling with McGuire at the helm. Houston eyes an undefeated record and an American Conference Championship in its final year as a G5 program. The stakes are high, and Las Vegas sees it as a pick’em game. 

Texas readies for Alabama: The Longhorns get a taste of the future with a home clash against top-ranked Alabama. Texas will join the Crimson Tide in the SEC within a few years. Head coach Steve Sarkisian gets to face his old boss – Nick Saban. Texas played 76 different players in a lopsided Week 1 win over UL-Monroe. Of the 35 new faces on campus, Sarkisian said that 28 saw action last week. The youthful Longhorns need to grow up fast to avoid humiliation at DKR on Saturday. ESPN College Gameday is scheduled to be on the 40 Acres for the 11 a.m. kickoff. 

Sarkisian admitted in his Monday morning press conference that his team wasn’t mentally prepared for a Week 2 loss to Arkansas. He sounded like a coach that’s more confident in his program, but also of a coach who knows his team isn’t ready to compete with Alabama from a roster standpoint, and who is? Sark was sure to praise Saban for helping him the learn the value of discipline and routine while cautioning anyone on the outside to see this game as anything more than an out-of-conference contest that provides his team with a chance to get better before conference play. 

“One of the biggest mistakes that people make is to say, ‘This is the game that will define our program,’”, Sark said to a room full of reporters. “Maybe it might be, maybe not.” 

Quinn Ewers debuted for the Longhorns in the Week 1 win over Monroe. He went 16 of 24 for 224 yards and two touchdowns to one interception. The good news for Texas is offensive skill position players such as Bijan Robinson and Xavier Worthy would start anywhere in the country, including Alabama. The bad news for the Longhorns is that the talent in the trenches is still young and inexperienced, especially on the offensive line. Texas will need good fortune to pull the upset. The last five teams to beat Alabama have won the turnover battle. 

Quarterback debuts a mixed bag: Multiple FBS teams in Texas debuted, or at least reintroduced, a new quarterback in Week 1 to mixed results. As mentioned above, Ewers passed his first test, though the level of competition made it more open book than final exam. Chandler Morris earned the start for TCU but left the game with an injury. Haynes King returned for Texas A&M after missing the final 11 games of the 2021 season due to an ankle injury with a hot-and-cold performance against Sam Houston. He threw for 364 yards and three touchdowns, but he also made two poor decisions that led to interceptions. 

Shough returned at Texas Tech from a collarbone injury that cost him most of 2021 only to leave the Week 1 win over Murray State with what appeared to be another upper arm concern. The best “return” of any in-state quarterback was probably Blake Shapen at Baylor. He went 17 of 20 for 214 yards and two touchdowns in an easy win over Albany. 

Injuries became the storyline at the position. Shough is out for at least two weeks at Texas Tech. Wiley Green was hurt on a pick-six he threw against USC, becoming the fifth Rice quarterback forced out of game with an injury in the last 10 games. Morris was hurt in the Horned Frogs win over Colorado. That’s a fourth of the FBS teams in Texas that lost a quarterback in Week 1. 

UTSA, SMU poised for G5 battle for supremacy: The American Athletic Conference will need new favorites once the likes of Houston and Cincinnati leave for the Big 12 in 2023. SMU is an obvious choice to float towards the top of the AAC and the G5 landscape. With BYU and UCF also on their way out of the G5 ranks, there are spots at the top of the pecking order for programs such as SMU and UTSA. 

The G5 conferences such as the AAC were given a lifeline last Friday when the College Football Playoff announced that the tournament will expand to 12 teams by 2026, and that the six highest-ranked conference champions receiver automatic bids. That means, in theory, at least one G5 program is guaranteed a spot in the CFB, and in the recent past, that highest-ranked G5 conference champion tended to reside in the AAC. UTSA took Houston to triple overtime in Week 1. 

A rivalry between SMU and UTSA – and by extension Dallas and San Antonio – feels inevitable. It’d be great for the landscape of college football in the state of Texas. As some rivalries die off due to conference shuffling, we need to remember that a few new ones are in the oven. 

One Prediction 

Baylor rushes for more yards in 2022 than 2021 

Sure, maybe no one on Baylor’s roster breaks the single season rushing record set by Abram Smith last year, but as a team, I predict the Bears to rush for more yards and touchdowns this season than the last. Even if it is by committee. The first game showed signs of this possibility, even if it was against Albany. Baylor rushed for 3,381 yards last year in 14 games for an average of 219.3 yards per contest. The Bears backfield accounted for 5.4 yards a rush and 29 rushing touchdowns. Against Albany, Baylor ran for 259 yards while averaging 6.3 yards a carry and scoring seven times on the ground. 

One Question 

Can Texas State rebound to salvage the 2022 campaign? 

At the risk of getting too hyperbolic after a Week 1 performance, is it too soon to worry about the job security of Texas State head coach Jake Spavital? The Bobcats need to reach a bowl game, or at least flirt with an invite, to make the fans feel good about the progress being made under the current regime. Texas State hasn’t won more than four games with Spavital in charge, and he’s spent much of the offseason assuring anyone that would listen that his Texas State program is more talented and deeper than it’s been since his arrival. And that’s probably true, but it won’t matter unless they win. 

The Bobcats were a one-point road underdog in Week 1 against a Nevada team that struggled to beat New Mexico State. A week later, that same Nevada team beat Texas State, 38-14. It was 14-7 at halftime before mistakes and unforced errors undid the Bobcats’ chances. Texas State finished the game with more first downs, yards, and plays than Nevada, but four turnovers, -12 rushing yards, four allowed sacks, and 10 penalties were too much to overcome. 

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