Instant analysis from Week 4 of the college football season

Photo courtesy of Texas Tech Athletics

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Week 4 provided plenty of talking points in the Lone Star State. The 12 FBS programs combined for a 8-4 record, and two of those losses involved games with two Texas squads with Texas Tech upsetting Texas, TCU knocking off SMU, and Houston outlasting Rice. North Texas was the only FBS squad in Texas to fall to an out-of-state opponent. Here are 10 thoughts from an action-packed Saturday of action. 

1. Turning the page: The 101st Battle for the Iron Skillet was a narrative game. None of the mid-week stories broke down the on-field action or individual matchups. Instead, we all wrote about Sonny Dykes’ divorce from SMU and the arrival of his former assistant, Rhett Lashlee, as replacement. We talked about the boos he’d hear. We talked about the old faces he’d see, some friendly and others angry. We talked about the two-game winning streak SMU was on with Dykes in charge. We talked about a sell out at Ford Stadium. And then the game kicked off and TCU built a 14-0 lead before a quarter of the SMU faithful made it inside the stadium. By the time they made it to their seats, the Horned Frogs were up 28-14 at halftime. Some of those fans never returned from the bathroom break. Max Duggan won his first start against SMU in three tries nine career touchdown passes and zero interceptions against the Mustangs. With the Iron Skillet back in Fort Worth, Dykes’ Horned Frogs can concentrate on scaring a wide-open Big 12. 

2. McGuire is a winner, man: Hang out with Texas Tech head coach Joey McGuire for 10 minutes and you’ll realize why his players love him so much. Hell, it probably doesn’t take 10 minutes. The dude is contagious. The former Cedar Hill High School head ball coach is now 3-1 in his young college career. His Red Raiders earned a signature victory in Week 4 by erasing a double-digit second half deficit to beat Texas, 37-34, in overtime. Big things are happening in Lubbock. McGuire will make sure of it. 

3. Blake Shapen finds his rhythm: The Bears struggled to find explosiveness and consistency in the passing game through three games of the regular season. That inability hurt Baylor in an overtime loss at BYU in Week 2. Even in the Week 3 win over Texas State the passing game looked out of sorts and Shapen lacked a true no. 1 target out wide. That changed in a conference win over Iowa State. Shapen was 19 of 26 for 238 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Gavin Holmes caught four of those passes for 92 yards. The return of tight end Ben Sims (five catches, 39 yards, 1 TD) helped, as well. Shapen even found linebacker Dillon Doyle for a touchdown catch. Baylor’s opportunity to repeat as Big 12 champs rests largely on Shapen’s ability to move the offense. The running game isn’t the same without Abram Smith and Tresten Ebner. 

4. Second half woes return for Longhorns: Steve Sarkisian is now 7-9 in his tenure on the 40 Acres. He’s lost four of those games despite holding double-digit leads well into the third quarter. Texas is 0-2 in 2022 in one-possession games with losses to Alabama by one point and Texas Tech in overtime. The Longhorns were 2-5 in those games in 2021 with their only wins in one-possession contests coming on the road against TCU and at home against Kansas State. The margins are small in college football and Sarkisian’s Texas teams continue to come up short in crunch time situations. 

5. UTEP saves season: The Miners were headed down a dark hole, and there didn’t appear to be prospects for striking it rich again in 2021 following a 1-3 start to the season that included losses to North Texas and New Mexico. The Friday night game against Boise State was supposed to be another nail in the UTEP coffin. Instead, Dana Dimel’s crew played inspired football and owned both lines of scrimmage in a 27-10 win. That victory puts UTEP at 2-3 with a few winnable games remaining in Conference USA. Four conference wins isn’t out of the question, so neither is a bowl invite and a regular season record of 6-6. It’d be only the second time this century that UTEP reached bowl games in consecutive seasons. 

6. North Texas continues to struggle: The Mean Green defense is much too nice to opponents lately. Memphis scored 44 points and gained 334 yards in the 10-point win over North Texas. The offense allowing two defensive scores to the Tigers also didn’t help the chances for Seth Littrell’s program. They lost 48-10 in Week 1 to SMU. That means in two games against future AAC competition, North Texas allowed 46 points per game and was outscored 92-34. That’s not a good proof of concept as the athletic department decides what to do at the head coaching spot heading into 2023. 

7. M.A.S.H. Unit in San Antonio: The three-game stretch to start the season against Houston, Army, and Texas cost UTSA more than just two losses. The Roadrunners were without at least a dozen players from the two-deep in a 52-24 victory over Texas Southern. UTSA is 2-2 entering Conference USA play, but the injury concerns will linger longer than the non-conference schedule. To make things worse, Jeff Traylor’s group faces a short week ahead of a Friday night road game against Middle Tennessee. 

8. Houston escapes: They say a win is a win, but Dana Holgorsen didn’t sound like a coach who prescribes to that motto. He was livid after the seven-point win over crosstown rival Rice. He cussed a few times. Let it be known that “he isn’t taking responsibility” for some of the mistakes and that he is "tired of yelling” at his team. The Cougars are off to a slow start and sit 2-2 entering AAC play. First halves continue to plague Houston. The offense only scored seven points in the first half against UTSA, three in the loss to Texas Tech, and fell apart after a 14-0 lead against Kansas. Rice led at half against the Cougars. Not great for a team that entered the year with hopes of winning a conference crown. Things much change in a hurry for Houston to reach those goals. 

9. Rice is legit: The Owls put a real scare into the Cougars in a 34-27 loss. Rice led 14-10 at halftime and 27-24 with 11:44 left in the game after a Christian VanSickle field goal from 43 yards out. Houston scored 10 straight to win it, but the Owls proved that the Week 3 win over Louisiana wasn’t a fluke. They are a solid football team that is capable of beating anybody in Conference USA. A 2-2 non-conference record should be considered a victory for Rice, and four C-USA wins would send the team to a bowl game for the first time in the Mike Bloomgren era. 

10. Texas A&M responds: Maybe the sky isn't falling in College Station. The forecast following a Week 2 loss at home to App State felt like a death blow for the Aggies in the 2022 season with a non-conference game against Miami left before a grueling SEC schedule. People thought that a 3-6 start was possible. A 5-4 record looked like a best-case scenario for Texas A&M with games against Miami, a neutral site contest with Arkansas, and then three road SEC matchups to follow. Instead, the Aggies gutted victories against Miami and Arkansas to sit at 3-1 on the season and 1-0 in SEC play. Maybe Jimbo Fisher's offense is outdated, but his ability to lead a program through adversity can't be questioned after the past two weeks. He's earned his pay check and proven why the Aggie faithful viewed him as a worthy investment. 

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