Snap Decisions

Your unofficial playbook for watching college football in Texas during the weekend of October 23.
Snap Decisions
Andy Dalton and the Horned Frogs: number five in the country but number one in the state.

If there two things that college fans love to debate, it’s how their team could be playing better and how unfair the polls are. So after the release of the first BCS poll of the season on Monday, why not throw one more (highly subjective) ranking into the mix? Therefore, I present TEXAS MONTHLY’s first statewide poll of its college football teams.

#1 TCU (7-0): There was time when this pick would have caused a stir, but no longer. The Horned Frogs remain undefeated and debuted at number five in the BCS poll, a number that had to have disappointed fans in Fort Worth. Because of the quality of their opponents, it’s easy for critics to dismiss the fact that they are scoring 40.1 points per game (seventh in the nation) or allowing only 9.3 points (first in the nation). It doesn’t help that quarterback Andy Dalton has disappeared from the Heisman race or that there’s no signature player on the rest of the team or that the defensive unit doesn’t even have a cool nickname. In short, TCU hasn’t been able to build any national buzz that could help capture the imagination of the country. That leaves TCU at the mercy of other teams. But when SEC West foes Auburn (ranked number four in the BCS) and LSU (ranked number six) meet on Saturday, the results will probably leave TCU standing still, regardless of the outcome. But as for our statewide poll, does that mean TCU could beat Texas? The best direct evidence we have is the shared game against Wyoming. Texas beat the Cowboys 34–7; TCU beat them 45–0. That’s pretty much a wash, and it tells me that it would be a wonderful treat to see TCU play Texas in the future. Hmm, what bowl would that be?

#2 Texas (4-2): Remember, dear reader, when I wrote last week that the fastest way for the Longhorns to get people to stop talking about their losses was to win a game? Well, hello Nebraska! Mack Brown showed us that with the right game plan and better focus, this Longhorns squad was not ready to write off the season. The pollsters rewarded Texas with an AP ranking of 22 and a BCS ranking of 19. Now comes the late-season grind: Not all of the opponents are marquee teams, but a loss to a sinking program like A&M or rising ones like Oklahoma State and Baylor could wipe out their gains. But if they win out, Texas will find itself back in the national conversation—and back on track. The Longhorns won’t play a role in the Big XII championship, but each win helps them increase their bowl stock.

#3 Texas Tech (3-3): Welcome to the part of the list that gets muddy and the elbowing for position in the bottom half of the Big XII South heats up. It’s difficult to argue that the Red Raiders don’t deserve to be ahead of the Baylor Bears, given that they beat them in their head-to-head match-up in the Cotton Bowl. Yet it seems clear that two questions have been raised about head coach Tommy Tuberville, whose undefeated 2004 Auburn team came as close to a shot at the national title as one can get. First, does he really want to be in Lubbock after all? Second, what has he done to maximize the talent on the roster? For sure, he has tried to recalibrate a team that always had a split personality under Mike Leach: all offense, no defense. But the numbers so far are disheartening, having given up 32 points per game (99th in the nation). Tech should end up with a winning record in 2010, but that’s only because Weber State and Houston round out the schedule.

#4 Baylor (5-2): The feel-good story of the year is on the border between greatness and irrelevance. Here are the upcoming teams on the schedule: number 22 Kansas State, number 19 Texas, number 14 Oklahoma State, unranked Texas A&M, and number 1 Oklahoma. In that scheme, a win against the Aggies is the line in the sand. Anything less than that leaves the Bears with no division wins and last place in the Big XII South. Baylor is better than that. Now they need to prove it.

#5 Texas A&M (3-3): Mock me all you want for giving the Aggies such a relatively high ranking. (Years ago I wrote that it would be a mistake to fire R.C. Slocum; who’s laughing now?) But I still don’t believe that even the better Conference USA teams currently have the size or the depth to compete with the struggling Aggies (though Houston knocked off the Big XII’s Oklahoma State and Texas Tech last year, this year the teams simply aren’t as strong). Missouri thoroughly dominated Texas A&M in College Station last week, prompting head coach Mike Sherman to say, “We should take out everybody, including myself… . We could have fired everybody today.” Even CNN commentator and A&M alum Roland Martin joined the battle, blasting the coach’s abilities. Such are the troubles in Aggieland. It makes the days of R.C. Slocum seem downright blissful.

#6 SMU (4-3): Last week’s loss against Navy really slowed SMU’s momentum. The Ponies had a 14–0 lead at the half, but mistakes doomed them in the last two quarters. The good news is that SMU is still in position to make a run through the West division and play for a conference title. That would be huge news for a program that is taking incremental steps under June Jones. Even better, the key game for the Mustangs comes at home tomorrow against Houston, which this year just isn’t the same old Houston.

#7 Houston (3-3): This is simply not how the season was supposed to go. Case Keenum was poised to be a Heisman trophy candidate, a win over a power conference team was in the works, and the Cougars would never, ever lose to Rice. The first article of faith evaporated

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