There are at least nine states in the union presently slacking off at major college football.
Ten if you count Texas.
Nine of the states—Alaska, Delaware, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont—have permission slips from their parents because they don’t field any FBS-level schools.
Texas has 12 schools in the upper division—more than any star among our fabulous 50.
Yet, last year, in the post-season Associated Press poll, after the final roundup, not long after Clemson defeated Alabama, not one team from Texas could be rustled up.
“We should be embarrassed we don’t have team in the top 25, Texas Christian Coach Gary Patterson recently said.
The lone-star state has now become the famous phrase it may have coined: “All hat, no cattle.” [membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
The state got one charity pick into last week's USA Today preseason coaches' poll, Texas at No. 23, even though the Longhorns are coming off a losing season in which they lost to, um, Kansas.
Things are getting prickly, to say the least.
Texas Tech Coach Kliff Kingsbury, a man under siege in Lubbock, started the 2017 campaign by ripping the music used at his introduction to Big 12 media days.
“I’m not sure why we had the Justin Bieber playing for my walk-up song,” Kingsbury muttered, “but we’ll move forward.”
Never mind that Bieber is a Canadian, although he did once have a hit song that perfectly summed up Texas Tech’s 2017 campaign: “Sorry.”
Things may be bigger in Texas, but right now they’re not better.
The 12 schools played to a cumulative record of 65-85, which barely keeps you alive in the AL wild card race. Texas also had a 1-5 record in the bowls. The only “winner” among the qualifiers was Baylor, a bandit program stationed in Waco defending more lawsuits at this moment than the firm of Dewey, Cheatem and Howe.
Only three Texas teams—Houston, Baylor and Texas A&M—finished with winning records.
There is no excuse for this. Texas produces, year in and year out, some of the finest prep players in the land.
Only California, among states, has a greater population than Texas’ 28 million.
So how come Texas Tech, as someone asked its coach in July, can’t find 15 or 20 guys to stop a goose feather from blowing through its secondary?
“That’s a great question,” Kingsbury responded without giving a great answer.
Maybe Texas Tech is peaking at the wrong time of the year.
“I like what I saw this spring,” Kingsbury said of a defense unit that gushed like a teenage girl at a Bieber concert.
Texas Tech finished dead last, ranked No. 128, in points-per-game allowed (43.5) and opponent yardage (554.3).
The state of Utah, with 3 million citizens, produced a top 25 team last year without one scholarship player from the Tabernacle choir.
Let’s examine our bumbling tumbleweeds:
--Houston (9-4): A good year until you consider the Cougars lost their final two games, to Memphis and San Diego State, by 82 points.
--SMU (5-7): Get this: averaged only 3.93 points every trip inside the opponents’ 40. That’s Mustang Silly.
--TCU (6-7): All you need to know is QB Kenny Hill led the Big 12 with 13 interceptions.
--Texas (5-7): Six offensive coordinators in six years? McDonald’s boasts a more stable work force at its drive-thru window.
--Texas Tech (5-7): The Red Bleeders allowed a nation-leading 241 plays of 10 yards or more.
--Baylor (7-6): Program lost six of its final seven games and, to some, any institutional integrity it had left.
--Rice (3-9): Just keep cranking out great students, Owls. Never mind your ’16 defense allowing 48 plays of 30-plus yards.
--UTEP (4-8): Averaged 3.6 yards per play and 10 points during closing six-game losing streak.
--North Texas (5-8): Play of Mean Green is actually on the rise under Seth Littrell.
--UTSA (6-7): Spotted a winning season in the periscope until losing three of its last four.
--Texas A&M (8-5): Sizzling start followed by slow finish is a better recipe for cooking barbecued ribs.
--Texas State (2-10): “Door’s open, come on in…” says team that allowed opponents to score 96.72% of time in red zone.
Ok, now the good news. Sam Houston State is ranked preseason No.1 in Street&Smith's preview for FCS (1-AA) schools? This bad patch isn’t going to last forever. The mediocrity can be, partially, explained and then fixed.
The University of Texas, the state’s bell cow college, can’t suck forever. It’s in the governing by-laws. The Longhorns got caught in a downdraft after Mack Brown and made a bad hire in Charlie Strong.
Baylor was a top-five program that self-imploded with equal parts of arrogance, hubris and moral abdication.
TCU had a rare, off year under Gary Patterson. That isn’t going to happen again. Texas A&M was a playoff team last year according to the first release of the College Football Playoff Standings.
These things ARE cyclical.
The state made two hires that could turn things around fast. Tom Herman at Texas, we think, is the second-coming of Urban Meyer and will put a re-brand on Bevo so hot he might jump the stable. And I don’t know why high-character Matt Rhule left Temple for Baylor, but he did, and that hire should put some come-to-Jesus thump back in Waco’s bible.
Kevin Sumlin gets one more year at College Station to get it right, or he’ll be replaced by someone who can. TAMU’s move to the SEC has virtually guaranteed the program a steady flow of talent supply.
I don’t expect any drop off at Houston with new coach Major Applewhite, unless Mack Brown becomes the AD and replaces him with Chris Simms.
High school football, last time we checked, isn’t drying up in Texas. The best players aren’t crossing over to basket weaving.
A few early games will be key in monitoring the state’s bounce-back ability. Texas A&M faces a key opener at UCLA, while Texas travels to USC in mid- September. Houston has a very winnable chance at Arizona on Sept. 9.
With hard work and perseverance, the state of Texas can pull out of this tailspin.
It won’t be long before Texas catches up to the California schools, or at least San Diego State, which finished No. 25 in last year’s final AP poll.
Who knows: maybe Texas Tech can even make a “Belieber” out of Kingsbury. [/membership]