Welcome back to the 411 – a feature meant to provide information from around the Lone Star State following each week of the college football season. The Week 10 slate crystalized situations across Texas – good and bad. The Longhorns escaped. The Aggies crashed on the road – again. UTSA outlasted rival North Texas. And Texas State crossed a program milestone.
Never apologize, Texas fans: Outsiders might try and diminish the Longhorn victory over Kansas State on Saturday because the Wildcats suffered through unusual coaching decisions in the fourth quarter and overtime with the game in the balance. First, Kansas State failed to convert red zone trips into touchdowns twice in the fourth quarter when six points could’ve won the game. Then, head coach Chris Kleiman went for it on fourth down on the Wildcats’ first overtime possession when a field goal would’ve extended the game. Texas held Kansas State on that fourth down attempt to escape at home against a ranked team while playing its backup quarterback.
Let’s count the reasons Texas should’ve lost this game. The Longhorns without starting quarterback Quinn Ewers for the second straight week. Backup Maalik Murphy threw two interceptions, and the offense turned the ball over three times. Texas was without tackles Kelvin Banks and Christian Jones by crunch time. Kansas State scored 20 straight to tie the game at 27 with 12:37 left.
The Longhorns of 2021 and 2022 lose game because of those reasons. Texas blew second half lead after second half lead with poor third and/or fourth quarters throughout the first two seasons that Steve Sarkisian was in charge. The defense came up with timely stops, including keeping Kansas State out of the end zone after the Wildcats scored that game-tying touchdown with 12:37 left in the game.
Texas is ranked seventh – second-best of all on-loss teams – in the College Football Playoffs, and it controls entry into the Big 12 championship game. Up next are trips to TCU in Week 11 and Iowa State in Week 12 – which might be the last true test for Texas in the regular season. A Week 13 home game against Texas Tech concludes the regular season with a Big 12 championship game against another ranked opponent looming.
Win out, and the Longhorns likely go to the CFP unless all four conferences end the year with an undefeated champion. Style points won’t matter. A 12-1 record would equate to a Big 12 championship and proof of concept for Sark & Co. as they head into the SEC next season.
It is time, Aggies: The great Maya Angelou famously said, “When someone shows you who they are believe them the first time.” For Texas A&M, they’ve seen it for years now – Jimbo Fisher isn’t the guy who’ll put the Aggies into SEC contention and national relevance. He can do it on the recruiting trail, but not the football field. Not anymore. The Aggies are now 5-4 in 2023 after a three-point road loss to Ole Miss on Saturday. It was the ninth consecutive road loss for Texas A&M. The last win on the road for Fisher’s crew was a 2021 date against Mizzou.
Fisher is now 44-25 in his sixth season in charge of Texas A&M. Take away the 2020 season and the Aggies are 35-24 in five full seasons as head coach of the Aggies. His program is 26-21 in SEC play. These are the types of records and finishes that got Kevin Sumlin fired. In fact, Sumlin had a better winning percentage through his first 69 games in charge.
Fisher was given a 10-year, $75 million-dollar contract late in 2017 to lead Texas A&M into SEC contention. His team was 9-1 in 2020 and on the doorstep of the College Football Playoff. The Aggies signed the best recruiting class in history in the 2021 cycle. The hopes were that recruiting successes turned into victories, but the 2022 season ended with five wins and the current team has now lost three of its last four.
Because Fisher was extended after 2020, the Aggies owe him $76.8 million if he’s fired. That number drops to $67.55 million after 2024. At this point, no one can think Fisher is hanging on to 2025 and beyond. It is time to cut bait and focus on the next hire.
Roadrunners in catbird’s seat: UTSA is now 24-3 in conference play under head coach Jeff Traylor. The Roadrunners are on a 15-game conference winning streak that includes two CUSA championship games. The last conference loss was the regular-season finale against North Texas back in 2021. A 1-3 start to the season and the move to the American Athletic Conference clouded the 2023 forecast, but that was cleared up in a hurry.
UTSA became the first 5-0 team in the AAC with SMU and Tulane still playing when the final whistle blew in Denton. Next up is a familiar foe in Rice before a Week 12 matchup with USF on Friday. The Roadrunners should be close to double-digit favorites in both of those games. Avoid the upsets and a Week 13 trip to Tulane could decide one or both spots in the AAC championship game.
Texas State is the state’s best story: Only five of Texas’ 13 FBS programs hold a winning record after Week 10. The biggest national stories remain Texas and Texas A&M as the Longhorns chase a Big 12 championship and a possible berth into the College Football Playoff and the Aggies grapple with a massive buyout of Jimbo Fisher. Look beyond the national headlines and you’ll find G.J. Kinne’s Texas State Bobcats, who blew out a solid Georgia State squad to reach six wins and clinch bowl eligibility. They’ll be invited to a bowl game for the first time as an FBS program and can win eight or nine games in 2023 – maybe more.
Coaching changes are never easy. Kinne reworked the roster with more transfers than any other program in the country that isn’t run by Deion Sanders. Almost half were FCS players. Some others were P5 rejects looking for a fresh start. One of those was Auburn transfer TJ Finley, who threw for 301 yards and three touchdowns in Texas State’s biggest game. The night ended with Kinne and Texas State president Kelly Damphousse jumping into the river. But this is just the start.
What happened to TCU?
The last time a national runner-up finished the following season with a sub-.500 record and without a bowl invite was in 2010 when Texas began its fall into a decade-plus of mediocrity. The Horned Frogs are in danger of taking the Longhorns’ place in the trivia of the sport if they fail to win two of the next three and advance to a bowl game. A loss to Texas Tech on Thursday night dropped TCU to 4-5 on the season. Since starting 12-0 in the 2022 regular season, the Horned Frogs are 5-7.
A fall to earth was inevitable. TCU isn’t Georgia or Alabama or Ohio State. Even with the transfer portal, the Horned Frogs could never replace eight NFL draft picks, including a Heisman runner-up at quarterback, and expect to compete for a conference championship or a College Football Playoff berth. But the hope was that they could avoid a similar drop off from what Baylor did in 2022 following the 12-win 2021 season that included a Big 12 and Sugar Bowl championship. The Bears went 6-6 in the regular season and lost the bowl game.
TCU ranked ninth in scoring offense last season with 38.8 points per game. The offense checks in at 61st in 2023 with an average of 29.2 points per game. The Horned Frogs were excellent in the red zone last season, converting a touchdown on 68.85 percent of their drives – 27th-best in football. This year, they rank 105thnationally in red zone touchdown percentage at 52.78. The defense is actually allowing nearly five points fewer per game, and it still doesn’t matter.
The evaluation at quarterback didn’t help. Even before injury, Chandler Morris struggled. Josh Hoover had one great game in relief but has regressed to the mean. Add in injuries and portal misses, and the Horned Frogs are an average roster getting average results.
At least three head coaching changes in Texas after the season: The 2023/24 coaching carousel in Texas could alter the landscape of college football in the Lone Star State. Of the 13 jobs, at least three will open before or after the season. Rumblings have already started at UTEP and Rice. A 3-6 start with six home losses has Baylor fans restless. If all three open, that could start a trickle-down effect depending on if those schools tap other in-state programs for candidates. Does Arkansas call Rhett Lashlee if the Razorbacks move on from Sam Pittman? What is Jeff Traylor’s future? It is the time of year when administrations start kicking the tires with agents about possible targets. Only five of the 13 programs in Texas have a winning record. There will be movement. The question is how much? My guess is at least three.
WEEK 10 SCORES
Texas Tech 35, TCU 28
Texas 33, Kansas State 30
Ole Miss 38, Texas A&M 35
Sam Houston 24, Kennesaw State 21
UTSA 37, North Texas 29
Houston 25, Baylor 24 (OT)
Texas State 45, Georgia State 24
SMU 36, Rice 31
Western Kentucky 21, UTEP 13
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