September 22, 2013

Texas teams don’t top polls but rank No. 1 in other areas

Lone Star State is place to turn for explosive offense, conflicted fans

In the college football universe, the great state of Texas has long been considered the No. 1 destination for coaches seeking blue-chip recruits.

As of this week, we cannot point to a team from Texas atop either of the college football polls. But we can find teams, groups and individuals from the Lone Star State that rank No. 1 in various aspects of the sport. A quick rundown:

No. 1 conflicted fan base: Congratulations, Texas fans. While coach Mack Brown led the Longhorns to a share of first place in the Big 12 standings by knocking off Kansas State 31-21, a group of fans attended Saturday’s contest wearing orange T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Saban 2014.” The shirts also feature a website address,, where fans can place online shirt orders and sign a petition calling for Brown’s removal in favor of the Alabama coach who has won three BCS national championships in the past four seasons.

As of Sunday, the online petition had drawn 129 signatures. There is no telling how many potential signees Brown swayed back to his side after Texas (2-2, 1-0 in Big 12) played its best game of the season while breaking a two-game skid.

Nor is there any indication on whether the movement, triggered by last week’s report of an off-season meeting between Texas representatives and Nick Saban’s agent, will lose steam after Saban’s comments that he is “too damn old,” at 61, to relocate and take on a fresh coaching challenge.

Bottom line: Brown supporters can counter by purchasing one of the maroon “Keep Mack” T-shirts that have become popular in College Station the past two weeks. Or Brown can continue winning and start moving down the list of embattled coaches on the website Brown still held the top spot Sunday, even after the big win over K-State.

An interesting item on the Saban2014 site, where you can find a photo-shopped image of the Tide coach in a burnt-orange blazer and tie, is this message from its organizers: “This is not a ‘Fire Mack’ site. We are grateful to Mack for bringing Texas football back. We just feel it is time for him to move on ... We hope he retires with dignity and gets his name on some buildings.”

Little wonder, then, that Brown chose his words carefully when asked if he was able to breathe a sigh of relief after Saturday’s victory.

“I’m not there yet,” Brown said.

No. 1 celebrity: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, has graced more magazine covers and generated more off-field headlines than any player in college football the past 10 months. Manziel also topped multiple straw polls last week in regard to 2013 Heisman favorites and did nothing to harm his stock during Saturday’s 42-13 rout of SMU.

Manziel, who sat out most of the second half with the game in hand, threw for 244 yards and one score. He rushed for 102 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 8.5 yards per carry.

“He is an amazing player,” SMU coach June Jones said. “We tried everything. You blitz him, and he is accurate with the ball. You rush three, and he can scramble around. He is a great college football player and he is in the perfect system.”

Manziel also will receive his first taste of a hostile environment since winning the Heisman Trophy when No. 10 A&M plays Saturday at Arkansas (6 p.m., ESPN2). It will be interesting to gauge his response. And the greeting from Arkansas fans.

No. 1 offense: Baylor leads the nation in total offense (751.3 yards per game) and scoring (69.7 avg.). The Bears (3-0), who are idle this week, boosted both numbers during Saturday’s 70-7 rout of Louisiana-Monroe, the same team No. 14 Oklahoma defeated 34-0 in its season opener.

Baylor, which climbed to No. 19 in Sunday’s AP poll, has scored 28 or more points in the first quarter of all three games. The Bears became the first FBS team since LSU in 1930 to score 60 or more points in the first three games of its season.

Without question, the Bears have benefited from a soft non-conference schedule. But it’s hard to hang 70 points on any college team, regardless of classification, as long as it suits up 11 defenders. Baylor essentially has done that three times in three tries.

Naysayers who believe this offense is more bluster than substance figure to have their eyes opened when the Bears begin conference play Oct. 5 against West Virginia.

No. 1 freshmen QB tandem: That title belongs to No. 24 Texas Tech, which has ridden freshmen quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Davis Webb to a 4-0 start in its first season under coach Kliff Kingsbury. The Red Raiders rank No. 16 nationally in total offense (520 yards per game). But Kingsbury made it clear after Saturday’s 33-7 victory over Texas State that he needs more from the position.

Webb’s completion rate is low (51.6 pct.), with a touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio of 4-4. Mayfield, a walk-on, has struggled in his last two outings. With sophomore Michael Brewer expected to return to practice this week, look for an open competition for the starting job before Tech’s next game, Oct. 5 at Kansas.

“We’ve got to play a lot better with that position overall,” Kingsbury said. “Two freshman quarterbacks, that’s what you get early on. And we’ll continue to get better.”

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