Instant thoughts from Week 9 of the college football season

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Tune Time returns: Space does the body, and the mind, good. At least it has for Houston quarterback Clayton Tune. The Cougars are 2-0 following an open date in Week 6 with wins over Navy and South Florida. Tune was 31 of 39 for 380 yards and four touchdowns in the 42-27 victory in Week 9 over USF. 

Houston is now 5-3 and on a three-game winning streak. The Cougars’ first three wins came by a combined six points with two of the three coming in overtime. They beat Navy by 18 and South Florida by 15. Tune is 52 of 67 (roughly 67 percent) for 641 yards and nine touchdowns to zero interceptions in the two games following the open week. 

Frogs stay perfect: TCU has entered the survive-and-advance stage of the 2022 season with the first College Football Playoff rankings due out on Tuesday. TCU is 8-0 in Sonny Dykes’ first season in charge following a 41-31 win over West Virginia. An undefeated season would put the Horned Frogs in the playoff. Style points won’t matter because one loss would end any chances of the team reaching those heights. It might feel like a fairy tale, but it becomes more of a reality each week. To run the table, TCU needs to get off to better starts. West Virginia led 14-7 early in the second quarter. TCU had to overcome first-half deficits to Oklahoma State and Kansas State in previous weeks. 

Reese’s peaces: The star true freshman running back could’ve chucked the deuces to the Texas Tech defense on multiple occasions – three to be exact. The 5-9, 175-pounder from Bellville is turning into the top young running back in the state, and maybe the country. He ran the ball 36 times for 148 yards and three scores in the blowout win over Texas Tech. He also caught three passes. Reese ran the ball 31 times for 186 yards and two touchdowns last week in a win over Kansas. Baylor is 3-0 when he gets at least 19 carries. The Bears are 1-3 when he runs the ball fewer than 19 times in a game. The lone win was over Albany. 

Lacking the horses: Texas Tech was afforded a painful lesson in how far the Red Raiders need to go before contending for Big 12 championships. Rebuilding a program takes time, even in the transfer portal era. Teams can find quick fixes at the skill positions but retooling the offensive and defensive lines take a few years. Ask Matt Rhule. He went 1-11 in his first year in charge at Baylor as he recruited help along the offensive and defensive lines. Dave Aranda went through something similar in 2020 when a poor offensive line helped Baylor end his first year as a head coach at 2-7. 

McGuire already has his Red Raiders at 4-4 and flirting with bowl eligibility, but the rebuilding process requires another year or two developing – and recruiting – big men up front along both lines. Patience isn’t a word used much in modern college athletics, but that is what is required. There is no easy fix up front. It takes times, and dudes. Right now, Texas Tech simply doesn’t possess the horses to let the Red Raiders ride. 

Texas A&M answers a question: Texas A&M snapped a few poor offensive streaks despite falling 31-28 at home to Ole Miss. True freshman quarterback Conner Weigman became the first Aggie to surpass 300 yards passing in a game since Kellen Mond ran out of eligibility. The Aggies also scored over 24 points against an FBS opponent for the first time in 2022. Texas A&M is 3-5 and in danger of not reaching a bowl game, but Jimbo Fisher appears to have his quarterback of the future – and present. That should help the Aggies hold the ship together and build momentum for 2023. 

A Mean Green rebound: North Texas suffered a heart-breaking defeat on the road in Week 8 to rival UTSA when the Roadrunners scored the go-ahead touchdown with 15 seconds left on the clock. Without divisions in the 2022 season, however, North Texas wasn’t out of C-USA contention if the Mean Green bounced back on the road against Western Kentucky. That is exactly what Seth Littrell’s program did in a 40-13 win over a Hilltoppers team that many consider the second-best team in the conference. North Texas is now 4-1 in C-USA play and alone in second place with games against FIU, UAB, and Rice remaining. Run the table and North Texas gets another crack at UTSA. 

Owls flustered by expectations: Rice looked on cruise control for a bowl bid entering Week 9. The Owls were 4-3 with a Charlotte team coming to town that fired its head coach last week after a loss to FIU. Rice was favored by 17 to get one win away from bowl eligibility for the first time since 2014. Instead of hosting UTEP at 5-3 with a chance to clinch bowl bid on Thursday, Rice sits at 4-4 thanks to a 56-23 loss at home to a Charlotte squad that was 1-6 entering the game. The Owls were outscored 42-3 combined in the second and third quarters. Playing as an underdog is easier than handling expectations, especially for a program filled with players who haven’t yet learned how to deal with success. 

Bright quarterback future at SMU: Tanner Mordecai failed to clear concussion protocol ahead of the Mustangs’ road trip to Tulsa. That allowed former four-star recruit Preston Stone to earn his first collegiate start. The freshman impressed, completing 11 of 17 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown before an injury forced him out of the game before halftime. True freshman Kevin Jennings, who led South Oak Cliff to a state title in 2021, entered the game and looked like a future star. He was 8 of 11 for 91 yards and a touchdown in the 45-34 victory over Tulsa that moved SMU to 4-4 and kept bowl hopes alive. 

Picks down: A 24-13 home loss to Middle Tennessee State dropped UTEP to 4-5 on the season and closer to the brink. The goal is six wins, and the margins are slimming. The offense is the culprit. The 2020 version was a high-octane unit featuring wide receivers Jacob Cowing and Justin Garrett. Without those guys, quarterback Gavin Hardison isn’t the same guy. He completed 19 of 34 passes for only 177 yards. The rushing attack can’t pick up the slack. UTEP only averaged three yards a carry. A Thursday night road trip to Rice is almost a must-win game if the Miners want to reach a bowl for the second year in a row. 

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