Welcome back to the weekly 411 from across the state of Texas. We examine the college football world in the Lone Star State by presenting four truths, one prediction, and one question after each week of action during the regular season. Week 9 crystalized the picture for each of the 13 FBS teams in Texas. The Longhorns remain the lone Big 12 contender in Texas, while SMU and UTSA march towards AAC title berths. Texas State continued its struggles against FBS teams with winning records and the Baylor Bears stubbed their toe at home for the fifth time in six games.
Longhorns know the recipe: It wasn’t always pretty, or all that enjoyable for the Longhorn faithful, but reality hit on Saturday in the win over BYU: Texas knows how it must win the last few games of the season. Without a healthy Quinn Ewers at quarterback, the Longhorns struggled to put away a pesky BYU squad. The game was 21-3 at the end of the first half, but seven of those points came from a punt return touchdown. The Longhorns didn’t score at all in the third quarter and an opponent with a competent offense probably puts a scare in Texas.
Don’t expect the road to become less tricky. Maalik Murphy was 16 of 25 for 170 yards and two touchdowns to one interception. Arch Manning never saw action, which means that Steve Sarkisian is all-in on Murphy carrying the torch until Ewers returns – if Ewers returns.
The good news is that Texas doesn’t need a high-flying passing attack to win the Big 12. The Week 10 opponent – Kansas State – won the conference crown in 2022 without one, as did Baylor in 2021. The Longhorns have a good rushing attack and a stout defense, and those groups must carry Texas to the Big 12 championship game and beyond for this group to reach expectations.
Texas A&M about to be on the road again: The Aggies righted the ship with a Week 9 win over South Carolina, though the fans didn’t walk out of Kyle Field with much excitement thanks to another lackluster offensive performance. Still, Texas A&M has five wins with four games remaining and is talented enough to win each of the remaining games. The only problem? Two of them are on the road and Texas A&M is struggling mightily outside of College Station.
Jimbo Fisher’s crew is 0-2 in true road games this season and are currently on an eight-game losing streak in away games. The last road victory was on Oct. 16, 2021 against Mizzou. Next up for the Aggies is a trip to Ole Miss to face Lane Kiffin. The season ends with a road trip to Baton Rouge against LSU. Before the season, most thought Fisher needed eight or nine wins to remain the coach at Texas A&M. He’ll need to win on the road down the stretch to reach those goals.
The Bears are broken: Baylor’s loss to Iowa State at home in Week 9 is the latest example of the fall felt by the Baylor faithful since the end of the 2021 season. The Bears are 9-12 overall since the start of 2022. That includes a 6-8 Big 12 record and 4-8 mark at home in that span. Baylor is 1-5 at McLane Stadium in 2023. The only win was against FCS Long Island. Baylor is 1-8 against Power Five competition at McLane since the start of 2021 with the only victory coming last year against Kansas. The only two conference wins in 2023 are against Big 12 and P5 newcomers UCF and Cincinnati. Baylor would need to win three of its last four plus win the bowl game to avoid its third losing season in four years under Dave Aranda.
Levels to this, Bobcats: First off, the turnaround orchestrated by G.J. Kinne & Co. deserves a round of applause. Texas State is 5-3 with four games left – one game away from the first bowl invite in program history. Attendance is up by over 20 percent. Students are having fun. Alums are buying back in. The vibes are great in San Marcos.
But that doesn’t mean the Bobcats are ready to compete for Sun Belt championships or for top G5 program in Texas. There are levels to this, as the Bobcats have learned in 2023. The five wins on the season came against opponents with a combined 14-27 record after Week 9. The only victory over a team with a winning record so far this season was against FCS Jackson State. The four FBS teams that the Bobcats beat are a combined 8-24. Conversely, the three losses – UTSA, Louisiana, and Troy – were against teams with a combined 16-8 record.
The next step for Texas State is to reach a bowl game. The step after that is to jump a level and start competing with the Sun Belt favorites. Each of the last four games on Texas State’s schedule are against teams that are .500 or better.
Are SMU and UTSA on an AAC collision course?
The business model at Dave Campbell’s is simple – cover the state of Texas like a national beat with a focus on the top FBS teams. So, when the AAC schedule first arrived and the realization that UTSA vs. SMU wasn’t on the schedule, our offices were obviously disappointed. But that frown is turned upside down if the Mustangs and Roadrunners reach the conference championship game. That possibility is growing each week as both teams storm through conference play as each sit at 4-0 heading into Week 10.
On paper, the two teams only have one true challenge left. SMU faces Memphis in Week 12 while UTSA travels to Tulane in Week 13. Memphis and Tulane look beatable the last two weeks as both allowed near comeback victories over North Texas in consecutive weeks. The Green Wave only beat Rice by two in Week 9. SMU is beating conference opponents by a whopping 38.25 points. UTSA sits at 19.
Loser of TCU, Texas Tech won’t go bowling: A sneaky big game takes place Thursday night when the Horned Frogs travel to Lubbock to face Texas Tech in what equates to a must-win situation for both programs in terms of bowl eligibility. The loser is up against the odds to play in December. TCU has four wins but faces Texas and Oklahoma in two of the final three. A loss to Texas Tech means that Sonny Dykes’ team would need to knock off one of the two Big 12 favorites to avoid becoming the first national runner-up to miss a bowl the next season. Texas Tech only has three wins and faces Texas down the stretch. A loss to the Horned Frogs means that the Red Raiders would need to win out to reach the postseason in year two under Joey McGuire.
WEEK 9 SCORES
UTEP 37, Sam Houston 34
Texas A&M 30, South Carolina 17
Kansas State 41, Houston 0
SMU 69, Tulsas 10
Memphis 45, North Texas 42
Texas 35, BYU 6
Iowa State 30, Baylor 18
UTSA 41, East Carolina 27
Tulane 30, Rice 28
Troy 31, Texas State 13
Idle: Texas Tech, TCU
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