What a difference a week makes. TCU is now the only team from Texas ranked in the top 25. A reporter made the case that Mack Brown was being encouraged to retire (of course said reporter, Berry Tramel , is from Oklahoma, but in all fairness, I floated a similar proposition in last week’s column before the OU game). A&M shot itself in the foot against Oklahoma State, and then did it a few more times to ensure the loss on national television. And Texas Tech rallied from 24 points down against Iowa State, only to lose anyway. That means Baylor—yes, glorious 4–1 Baylor!—is the most exciting Texas team in Big XII. Now, if only the Bears can stand the pressure in the Cotton Bowl …
Texas Tech (2-2) v. Baylor (4-1)
Since the formation of the Big XII, in 1996, only three teams have won the South Division: Oklahoma (seven times), Texas (five times), and Texas A&M (twice). For the past eleven seasons, only the Sooners and the Longhorns have held the title. That has left the Bears and the Red Raiders forced to jostle for position in the standings, with Baylor typically at the bottom and the Red Raiders somewhere in the middle. That could change this year. Just as the game at the Cotton Bowl last week clarified the outlook for Texas’ season (hello, Alamo Bowl!), tomorrow’s contest between Baylor and Tech will do the same. Tech limps in with two consecutive losses to two consecutive South Division teams. Baylor hasn’t beaten Tech since 1995 but is rolling along this season, having already equaled its win total from last year. In a dominating performance against the Kansas Jayhawks last week, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III threw for 380 yards and 3 touchdowns and led his team in rushing. A win in Dallas will put the Art Briles ’ Bears on a different level. As for Tech, Tommy Tuberville has to draw the line in the sand against Baylor. A loss against a team that for so long had been a doormat will end whatever is left of his honeymoon in Lubbock—and likely move Tech to the Big XII cellar. One key matchup to watch is Griffin against Tech’s Jarvis Phillips, who leads the country in interceptions and interception yards. A big defensive play early could be enough to short circuit the Bears.
#5 TCU (5-0) v. Wyoming (2-3)
Question: What happens when the country’s 119th ranked offense (Wyoming) meets the country’s third ranked defense (TCU)? Answer: The Horned Frogs earn their 19th consecutive regular season win. TCU quarterback Andy Dalton may have looked a bit sluggish in the first half last week against Colorado State, but as long as he stays healthy, there’s nothing to stop him from putting up huge numbers. Of greater interest is what the future holds for the Frogs. Already the Horned Frog nation is feeling the bite of the polls, sitting at number 5 since the second week of the season. Two things can help bolster their chances: First, conference opponents Air Force and Utah, currently ranked 25th and 10th, respectively, need to continue to win until they meet TCU. Second, the undefeated teams above them (Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon, and Boise State) have to throw in a bad week as well to give TCU some lift.
Texas A&M (3-1) v. #11 Arkansas (3-1) at Cowboys Stadium
Which game will be fresher on Aggies’ mind on Saturday? Last year’s embarrassing loss to the Razorbacks in Arlington, 47–19? Or last week’s heartbreaking loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater, 38–35? Either way, times have been tough in College Station. For each big game that was supposed to show just how far A&M has come under head coach Mike Sherman , the losses continue to mount. Aggie quarterback Jerrod Johnson has thrown four interceptions in two consecutive games, giving him the most in the Big XII. Despite Johnson’s talent, you can bet that Sherman won’t wait too much longer to call up Ryan Tannehill , a junior from Big Spring, if Johnson continues to sputter. A post-season appearance in the Holiday Bowl is starting to feel as far away as a shot at the national championship. But perhaps the neutral site will bring some luck. Even if you’re not an Aggie fan, in this hard-luck season we can all agree on one thing: No one likes Arkansas.
Houston (3-1) v. Mississippi St. (3-2)
The Cougars were off to a strong start to win another West Division title. Then the Cougars lost Case Keenum , their star quarterback, for the season in the game against UCLA (Keenum’s rating of 159.26 still rates higher than any other Texas quarterback; see list below), then lost his backup one quarter later. That left head coach Kevin Sumlin suiting up two true freshmen quarterbacks, Terrance Broadway and David Piland . Though Broadway guided the Cougars to a win over Tulane, the sudden uncertainty of the position puts the team’s 18-game home winning streak on the line when it hosts the SEC’s Mississippi St. It doesn’t help that receiver James Cleveland , who had 131 yards and two touchdowns against Mississippi State on the road last year, is suspended for the game. The good news is that it is a non-conference game, which means Sumlin has time to find the right formula if he needs it. Regardless, this week’s performance will go a long way toward finding out if Houston still has what it takes to repeat in the West Division of C-USA. You can be sure that SMU and Rice are paying close attention.
SMU (3-2) v. Tulsa (3-2)
Last week the Mustangs snapped a ten-game road losing streak to Rice in high fashion. Quarterback Kyle Padron threw for 371 yards and 3 touchdowns. Aldrick Robinson racked up 148 yards receiving. But it wasn’t all offense. SMU’s first score was a 32-yard interception return by Sterling Moore. To add a little razzle-dazzle, in the third quarter Ja’Gared Davis returned a