Saturday’s college football games provided the first real test for some of the teams of interest in the Houston area. Texas had to go on the road against a legitimate opponent; A&M picked up its first SEC victory and looked good in the process. And the real version of NCAA 13 continues to show up all over college football. A look at the games:
Texas 41, Oklahoma State 36: After thumping on some weaklings, the Longhorns finally got a real test in Stillwater, one that passed with a nice two-minute drive to close out the Cowboys after a wild fourth quarter. No, they didn’t roll over Okie light, but this is a tough road venue and the Cowboys are probably the best team in Oklahoma this year. The most impressive thing for UT was the continuing development of quarterback David Ash, who is turning in to a very solid player. Ash was 30 of 37 passing with three TDs and just one pick in yet another efficient performance, and he was terrific on the game-winning drive. The good news is this kid will only get better. Texas is one of the few teams in the Big 12 that actually plays defense, and that should serve them well as the season goes on. Okie State managed to put up yards and points against UT, but the Longhorns got it done. UT kicked off tough stretch of Okie State, West Virginia and Oklahoma with an important win, and are now 7-0 in Stillwater under Mack Brown. The Horns still aren’t quite national title contenders, but Ash will keep improving and this team has a great shot to win the Big 12.
A&M 58, Arkansas 10: It would be easy to say, “yeah, but Arkansas is awful this year.” But A&M did what you are supposed to do to an awful team — step on their throats and pound them. Before the season, Arkansas loomed as a brutal test for A&M, but the Hogs have been John L. Smith’d and are on their way to oblivion. Still, it was a big one for A&M to get its first SEC victory and do it in such an impressive fashion. To quote the Iron Sheik, Johnny Manziell is “the real” at quarterback, and it should be fun to watch this kid’s progression over the rest of the season and over the next few years. A&M’s defense has performed better than expected as well. The good news for A&M fan is the Aggies haven’t embarrassed themselves against two SEC opponents. They are going to lose some games down the road, but it’s no longer ridiculous to think they could finish in the top half of the SEC West, and don’t be shocked if they beat a team they aren’t supposed to in the coming weeks. There are some losses ahead, too, but A&M fan has a lot to be excited about.
Houston 35, Rice 14: Well, at least the Cougars are off the schneid. That’s about the only thing you can say. Despite a rather easy win, the Cougars still aren’t as efficient on offense as they will need to be to contend in C-USA, and stifling a beaten up Rice team with a backup quarterback is hardly a sign the Cougars are back. They get North Texas and UAB the next couple weeks and should be 3-3 by then, but they are going to have to continue to develop on defense, eliminate the stupid penalties and drops on offense and simply improve across the board to do any better than a 5-7 or 6-6 type season. The good news is there is till time for that. This is a young team that should get better. But anything short of a 7-1 finish will mean a disappointing season, and that looks highly unlikely at this point.
West Virginia 70, Baylor 63: We included this game simply because it was bizarre. In fact, UH fans probably got a kick our of seeing former head coach Art Briles and former OC Dana Holgorsen go head to head and play the kind of game so often seen at UH — video game offense, zero defense. This wasn’t just great execution by the offenses; it might have been the worst defensive performance by two teams in the Top 25 we’ve ever seen. Blown coverages, missed tackles, all around sloppy play. These teams can put up points on anyone, but defensively, they are going to have real problems with the upper echelon teams in the Big 12. It was great having Geno Smith in my college fantasy team, but it will be hard to see WVU beat teams like Texas, Kansas State and maybe even OU and Tech with this defense. By the same token, Baylor is good enough on offense to upset some teams down the road, but the defense will cost them some games as well.
Texas Tech 24, Iowa State 13: It might be time to start paying attention to the Red Raiders. They have cruised through an easy early schedule, and a win over Iowa State hardly stamps them as a contender, but the Cyclones are double tough at home and Tech grinded out a nice win to get to 4-0. Like Texas and TCU, they actually play defense, and that should serve them well down the road in the Big 12. We’re not sold yet, but they certainly bear watching.
TCU 24, SMU 16: Played in a downpour, this one was just ugly. Garrett Gilbert continues to struggle big time at quarterback for SMU, but his receivers did him no favors, with numerous drops. The rain had a lot to do with that, and a botched punt snap made this game closer than it actually was, but at some point June Jones may have to give up on the Gilbert experiment if SMU is to have any shot at salvaging a really bad C-USA West. As for TCU, their defense is good, but a better spread team playing in better conditions is going to be able to take advantage of them in a big way, and that means trouble when they play the Baylors, Okie States and West Virginias of the world. TCU is very young on both sides of the ball and will get better, but despite the unbeaten record, they look more like a middle of the pack Big 12 team than a serious contender.
By the way, can we get Louisiana Tech in the Top 25? The Bulldogs are unbeaten with wins over Illinois, Virginia and Houston on the road. They haven’t scored less than 44 points in a game. They have a brutal test coming up with A&M on Oct. 13 and a late-season home game with pesky Utah State, but if they get by the Aggies, they are almost a cinch to run the table. Their offense is ridiculous and they make enough plays on defense to win football games. The state of Louisiana is well represented with Tech, a solid La.-Monroe team, a quality ULL team and that SEC squad that wins a lot of football games.
Speaking of LSU, it’s not quite panic time, but after struggling at Auburn and failing to crush Towson on Saturday, it might be time for alarm bells in Baton Rouge. This team is talented, but if they are going to challenge Alabama and avoid losing to a lesser opponent before that, the Tigers need to improve, and if anything they have regressed the last two weeks. They are still in the title mix, but they won’t be if they keep playing like this.
Finally, did anyone catch the Louisville Southern Miss game? It was played in a ridiculous downpour and frankly the conditions were unsafe. It’s hard to believe they would have continued to play that game had it been in Louisville. But since it was in Hattiesburg and Southern Miss had an early lead on a ranked opponent, the game went on. Louisville pulled it out, but there needs to be some common sense applied sometimes. The water was as much as six inches deep in some parts of the sideline. It was unfair to the players, the people who paid money to be there and to Louisville, a team with a legitimate chance at running the table. No harm, no foul, since no one was injured and the Cardinals escaped with a win. I know it’s football, but an inch of water on the field the entire game is ridiculous and both teams are lucky no one was seriously injured.
Meanwhile, despite going 1-2 on our three picks again, of the games we gave out on the site yesterday, we went 4-3, including our can’t-miss lock of the weekend with UL-Monroe.