The 411: Baylor makes statement, UTSA deserves to be ranked

Courtesy of UTSA Football

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Week 7 is behind us and four teams in Texas are already bowl eligible. No, not Texas or Texas A&M. The four teams already at six wins are SMU, UTSA, Baylor, and UTEP. Who had that on their 2021 Bingo card? SMU and Houston were idle, but the rest of the 10 FBS programs in Texas were in action. The Longhorns blew another first-half lead. Texas A&M looks like the team we thought we’d see before the season. And Baylor dominated BYU in a statement win for the Bears. 

Four truths

Rank UTSAThe Roadrunners are 7-0 for the first time in school history after a 45-0 victory over Rice. UTSA scored two defensive touchdowns and pitched a shutout for the second time in 2021. The program hadn’t posted a single shutout in its history prior to this season. Quarterback Frank Harris went 12 of 19 for 125 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Sincere McCormick ran for 117 yards on 13 carries. Wide receiver Joshua Cephus caught four catches for 63 yards and two touchdowns. Trevor Hermanson and Corey Mayfield Jr. returned interceptions for touchdowns and the defense allowed only 102 yards of total offense. 

It was a complete effort and UTSA continues to prove it deserves to be ranked. If not now, when? The Roadrunners went on the road to start the season and beat Illinois a week after the Fighting Illini beat Nebraska. Since then, UTSA collected road wins over Memphis and Western Kentucky. Reaching 10 wins feels like the floor for this squad with Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss, and North Texas remaining on the schedule. A trip to UTEP and a home game against UAB on Nov. 20 are the biggest hurdles between UTSA and an undefeated season. 

Spiller, Achane form the best backfield in Texas:  The state of Texas is stacked with running back duos. Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson at Texas. Sincere McCormick and Brenden Brady at UTSA. Zach Evans and Kendre Miller at TCU. Abram Smith and Trestan Ebner at Baylor. But none of them are more impactful than Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane at Texas A&M

The pair carried Texas A&M to a blowout win over Missouri over the weekend. Spiller ran the ball 20 times for 168 yards and a touchdown. Achane finished the game with 124 yards and two scores on 16 carries. Including catches, the duo touched the ball 28 times. The team only ran 77 plays. 

Baylor is the real deal: The Bears welcomed future Big 12 foe BYU to Waco on Saturday in a game I’m calling “The Battle of the Book”. The running game of Baylor was too much for the visiting Cougars. Smith led the way with a career-high 188 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries. Ebner added 95 yards on 11 carries. As a team, Baylor averaged 6.4 yards a carry and topped the 300-yard mark on the ground. Conversely, BYU ran for 67 yards on 24 carries and 56 of those yards came on one carry in the third quarter. 

Baylor is 6-1 with its lone loss coming at undefeated Oklahoma State. The Bears can reach the Big 12 championship game by winning out and the toughest games remaining on the schedule take place at McLane Stadium. Baylor hosts Texas on Oct. 30 after an open week for both teams. Oklahoma comes to town on Nov. 13.

It is time for a change at North Texas: Head coach Seth Littrell won nine games in his second and third season in Denton. Since the of the 2018 season, Littrell has won nine of 28 games North Texas has played in. The program isn’t the same without Mason Fine at quarterback and the roster isn’t talented enough to expect a turnaround in 2022. The offense, which is supposed to be Littrell’s forte, struggles to reach 100 yards passing routinely. The only difference-maker on the offensive side of the ball is running back Deandre Torrey. North Texas trailed Marshall 42-7 at home on Friday night in a new low point in his six-year tenure.    

One question 

Would you take over or under eight wins for UTEP

This question would have looked insane before the season. Everyone would take the under if I poised this question back in August, or even at the end of September. Reaching a bowl game by winning six games felt like a reach. Well, seven games into the season and the Miners already reached that six-win threshold following a victory over Louisiana Tech. UTEP is 6-1 on the season and 3-0 in Conference USA. The schedule still consists of winnable games against North Texas and Rice. That would put UTEP at eight wins. Could the Miners pull another upset over UTSA, UAB or FAU to topple that eight-win mark? It’s hard to bet against this current UTEP squad.  

One prediction

Dave Aranda’s name will be mentioned for the LSU squad: The downside of success is that bigger fish hope to poach your head coach. It happened to Baylor after the 2019 season when Matt Rhule rode his success in Waco to an NFL job coaching the Carolina Panthers. Aranda might face a similar decision if the Bears keep rolling towards a Big 12 championship game berth in the 2021 season. He was the defensive coordinator at LSU when the Tigers won a national championship in 2019. Even with a win over Florida on Saturday, national outlets and radio hosts feel like LSU head coach Ed Orgeron will be relieved of his duties following the 2021 season. Aranda’s name will get mentioned as a possible replacement and Baylor can’t allow that outside noise to become a distraction. 

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