Ready or not, the college football season is two weeks away from ending. Week 12 is important within the Lone Star State as the 12 FBS programs jockey for conference and bowl contention. The only teams eliminated from a bowl bid are Texas A&M and Texas State. TCU remains in the College Football Playoff discussion with three games remaining since the Horned Frogs already clinched a spot in the Big 12 title game. UTSA is also guaranteed a spot in the C-USA championship game.
The 411 provides four truths, one question, and one prediction heading into Week 12.
Quinn Ewers needs a shorter leash: Anyone suggesting that the former five-star prospect from Southlake Carroll should be benched, or that Arch Manning is taking over for him next season, is off base, but that doesn’t mean Ewers should be untouchable in 2022. No one is saying that Hudson Card should start in front of Ewers on Saturday against Kansas or even against Baylor in the season finale, but the idea that Card should see time if Ewers continues to struggle should be common sense. No player on a 6-4 team should be guaranteed four quarters of action. And if he played any other position, he would’ve already been relegated to the sidelines for at least a series or two.
Ewers arrived on the 40 Acres with high hopes after a gap-year at Ohio State. He lived up to that potential early, going 9 of 12 for 134 yards in the first half against Alabama before suffering an injury. He turned a month later to engineer Texas’ blowout win over Oklahoma when he went 21 of 31 for 289 yards and four touchdowns compared to just one interception. He threw three touchdowns and completed 65.4 percent of his passes in a win the next week over Iowa State.
He's struggled since that win over the Cyclones. Ewers was 19 of 49 against Oklahoma State. He was 18 of 31 at Kansas State in a win and 17 of 39 at home against TCU last week in a loss. He’s completed 45 percent of his passes over the last three games. He’s accounted for as many interceptions (4) as touchdowns during that time.
Yet, he’s never seen the bench. Despite Texas possessing a proven backup in the experienced Hudson Card. The lowest completion percentage for Card in 2022 was 63.6 percent in relief duty against Alabama. He was over 65 percent in the three starts between Ewers’ injury and his return against Oklahoma. Card completed 77.8 percent of his passes in his last start – an easy win over West Virginia.
Ewers is the present, and future, of the Texas offense. He’s supremely talented and was promised a lot when he chose the Longhorns in the transfer portal. The plan is for him to start in 2023, as well, before Manning presumably takes over in 2024 when Ewers is off to the NFL. The Longhorns don’t want to start a true freshman quarterback in year three under Steve Sarkisian because Texas wants to compete for a Big 12 title before exiting for the SEC. That’s hard to do with a true freshman. Ewers is currently experiencing the growing pains required to become a star quarterback.
All hope isn’t lost. The sky isn’t falling. Ewers is more likely to work his way through these struggles and become a better quarterback for it, but that doesn’t mean that Sark can’t sit him down for a few series against Kansas or Baylor if his redshirt freshman continues to struggle, especially in the vertical passing game.
TCU is on upset alert: The Horned Frogs enter the 118th meeting with Baylor holding all the momentum. They are ranked fourth in the nation after knocking off Texas in Austin last weekend. Baylor, on the other hand, was blown out, 31-3, by Kansas State in Week 11. But the games between the two rivals remain close, and unpredictable. The last four were decided by an average of 6.25 points. TCU upset Baylor in 2021 with a backup quarterback during the best season for the Bears in program history. The last win for Baylor was a 29-23 victory in triple-overtime back in 2019. Beating the Horned Frogs in 2022 would be as satisfying for Baylor as the win was for TCU last season. A loss over the last three games likely knocks TCU out of College Football Playoff contention, and the Bears want that honor.
Texas Tech on cusp of Big 12 marker: The Red Raiders are 3-4 in the Big 12 with two games remaining. They play at Iowa State this weekend and host Oklahoma in the season finale. Two wins provides Texas Tech with a winning record in Big 12 play, which would be the first time that’s happened since 2009. That was the last season Mike Leach was in charge. Matt Wells was never better than 3-6 in Big 12 play during his tenure. The best Kliff Kingsbury and Tommy Tuberville could do was 4-5.
Rice, UTEP remain alive for bowl contention: One of my favorite movies is “Holy Grail” by Monty Python and in that film is a famous scene of an old man trying to convince his son that he isn’t quite dead yet, even if his kid is ready to shuck the responsibility of elder care. That’s how I feel about UTEP and Rice in 2022. Sure, maybe we all want to turn the page and cast both teams out into the wilderness, but neither team is out of postseason contention. A win for UTEP against FIU on Saturday puts the Miners at five wins.
Rice already sits at five wins, which is one away from qualifying for bowl eligibility. Rice ends its season with games against UTSA and North Texas. UTEP ends the year against UTSA in Week 13. With the Roadrunners already locking up a spot in the C-USA title game, maybe one or both of Rice and UTEP can take advantage and earn that sixth win in the same way that North Texas beat UTSA to close the 2021 season and get to a bowl game.
Would Texas A&M really fire Jimbo Fisher after this season?
The short answer is no. Even an oil-rich and moody fan base such as the one located in College Station isn’t likely to pony up around $90 million dollars to rid itself of Fisher’s inept offense. That figure would grow over $100 million on the head coach alone because at least $10 million more would be required to secure the services of the next head coach. That’s a lot of money, even for Texas A&M. The Aggies are on a six-game losing streak and are likely ending the year at 4-8 despite entering the season ranked sixth in national polls.
We entered the 2022 season with three coaches on the proverbial hot seat. Jake Spavital at Texas State, Seth Littrell at North Texas, and Mike Bloomgren at Rice are in the second-to-last year of their contracts at their respective schools. Littrell’s Mean Green are already at six wins and are a Week 13 win over Rice away from qualifying for the C-USA championship game. Rice is at five wins and only need one more to get bowl eligible. That leaves Spavital at Texas State as the most obvious choice. Texas State is already out of bowl contention with two weeks remaining in the season. Another loss could spell the end of an era in San Marcos.
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