The state of Texas is home to 12 FBS squads and 11 were in action during Week 12. Fireworks were found in every corner of the Lone Star State with TCU rallying to escape an upset loss at Baylor. UTSA clinched homefield advantage in the C-USA title game with a win over Rice. Texas A&M was unimpressive in a win over UMass. And Texas State and UTEP took a step in the right direction. We touch on it all in a snap-shot look at the landscape after Week 12.
1. All they do is win, win no matter what: The one-point win over Baylor was the seventh-straight victory by 10 points or fewer by the Horned Frogs. They don’t need to impress anyone, even if the suits in charge of picking the four teams in the national invitational tournament say that they do. An undefeated record for a Power Five team is enough to crack the CFP, and TCU is currently two wins away from punching its ticket to the four-team playoff.
Five of the team’s 11 wins are by single digits. Only three are by more than 10 points, and one of those was against an FCS team. Wins over Oklahoma, Kansas, and Kansas State included injuries to the opponents’ starting quarterback. The three non-conference victories were against Colorado, Tarleton, and SMU. But none of it matters. The qualifiers aren’t important. Only the zero in the loss column.
Two wins separate TCU and history. No team in Texas has made the four-team playoff. It is amazing to think that this same team was 5-7 a year ago. The only regular season game remaining is Saturday at home against Iowa State. After that is the Big 12 championship game against Kansas State or Texas. Two wins put Dykes’ crew in rarified air. The only other Big 12 team to qualify for the playoffs is Oklahoma.
2. Another heartbreak for Baylor: College football is about fine margins, especially in an evenly matched Big 12. The Bears did almost everything right in the loss to TCU, except have the ball last. They outgained TCU, 501-442. They accounted for 25 first downs and were eight of 14 on third and fourth down conversions. Baylor ran the ball 46 times for 232 yards and three touchdowns against a TCU defense that only allowed 28 yards on 22 carries last week against Texas and Bijan Robinson. But it wasn’t enough, as has been the case for Dave Aranda’s team in 2022.
Baylor was 4-1 in one-possession games in 2021 on the way to a 12-2 record and a conference championship. The only loss was by two points to TCU. The Bears are 2-3 in one-possession games this season following the one-point loss to TCU. They’d be in Big 12 title contention again this season if that one-possession record was 4-1 rather than 2-3. Those extra two losses are the difference between an impressive or disappointing season. Fine margins.
3. Keep it simple, Sark: The Longhorns limped to three offensive points in a loss to TCU last week when the team combined for 28 yards rushing on 22 carries. Head coach Steve Sarkisian went back to basics in the Week 12 blowout win over Kansas by putting a little Bijan Robinson on nearly every play early in the win. Robinson, who will only suit up as a college player for two or three more games at the most, ran the ball 25 times for 243 yards and four touchdowns. He became the seventh Longhorn to rush for over 3,000 yards in his career in the process.
And it wasn’t just Robinson. Roschon Johnson went down with a leg injury, but former Mr. Texas Football Jonathan Brooks topped 100 yards rushing and a pair of scores. The Longhorns ran the ball 57 times for 427 yards and six touchdowns against Kansas. They only threw the ball 22 times. Quinn Ewers was 12 of 21 for 107 yards and a touchdown. That should be the same script in the season-finale against Baylor.
4. No fun in College Station: A depleted group of Aggies toiled past UMass in a 20-3 win over an empty and apathetic Kyle Field. That’s what a six-game losing streak and an 11 a.m. kickoff over a 1-10 team in cold weather will do to even the best of fan bases. The diehards that did show up weren’t rewarded with pretty football. The losing streak ended, but no one left feeling good about the direction of the program. Jimbo Fisher’s oversized contract remains the talking point on social media, the message boards, and the columns (including this one). The SEC West champs head to town in a week so the nightmare isn’t over for a team that entered the season ranked sixth in the nation.
5. Road curse broken: Texas Tech was 0-4 on the road in year one under Joey McGuire entering the final road test of the season. The Red Raiders overcame a slow offensive day to win 14-10 to reach six wins and bowl eligibility. They haven’t finished .500 or better in Big 12 play since Mike Leach roamed the sideline in 2009. Texas Tech is 4-4 with a home game against Oklahoma to close out the regular season.
6. Saint Frank strikes again: Sometimes legends aren’t appreciated in their own time. That’s not true for UTSA quarterback Frank Harris. There is no question about who the best player in the short history of the Roadrunners football team is because, as the kids say, Harris is Him. The sixth-year senior was writing a new chapter in his fairytale as the San Antonio native scored four first-half touchdowns and broke his own school record for rushing yards (124) in a game for a quarterback in a 41-7 win over Rice.
Jeff Traylor’s squad earned the right to host the Conference USA championship game for the second year in the row in the process. Harris accounted for five total touchdowns in the victory. He completed 11 of 14 passes for 103 yards and two scores, while adding 124 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. UTSA is 9-2 and on a seven-game winning streak. The Roadrunners and TCU are the only two FBS programs in Texas that have fewer than four losses.
7. Texas State answers the bell: Everyone thought Jake Spavital’s Bobcats were down for the count following the loss – their seventh of the season – last week to South Alabama. That defeat guaranteed that Texas State wouldn’t qualify for a bowl game for finish .500 for the fourth time in four years under Spavital. But with whispers about his job security occurring on every corner of the internet, his team responded with a 16-13 win over Arkansas State at home. They are now 4-7 and have a chance to reach five wins for the first time since a seven-win 2014.
8. Cougars back on track: Houston showed the talent that made most of us predict a 10-win season and a conference title appearance in a 42-3 drubbing of East Carolina. Houston sits at 7-4 on the year with a home game against Tulsa in the season finale. Clayton Tune completed 32 of 44 passes for 435 yards and four touchdowns. Nathaniel Dell and true freshman Matthew Golden each caught two touchdowns. The defense held an opponent under 20 points for the first time this season.
9. The Mustangs stall out: SMU’s three-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt Thursday night in a 59-24 loss at Tulane. The defense allowed 34 or more points for the seventh time in 11 games. The Mustangs have allowed at least 41 points in three of their five losses. They allowed 34 or more in three of their six wins. The only teams the defense has held under 27 points were North Texas and Lamar in Week 1 and Week 2, respectively. The offense can’t always score 50-plus points. The defense must improve in the offseason for SMU to compete for conference titles in a new-look AAC.
10. UTEP one step away: The only thing separating the Miners and consecutive bowl invites is a win over UTSA in Week 13. Dana Dimel’s group looked refreshed following a late-season idle week in a 40-6 win over FIU. The Miners are now 5-6 on the year. The good news for them is that UTSA already locked up homefield advantage in the C-USA championship game. The Roadrunners entered Week 13 of 2021 with that same comfort and lost to a 5-6 North Texas squad. The Miners hope to do the same.
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