Star-Telegram writers Jimmy Burch and Stefan Stevenson sound off on the issues of the day in college football in College Confidential at star-telegram.com.
Of the 12 FBS college football programs in Texas, only Baylor and North Texas use green as their primary color. Both control their destinies in their conference championship races. Which one is more likely to get across the finish line?
Jimmy: I expect both of them to finish the job, actually. If they do, they’d be claiming conference titles in the same season for the first time since 1994. To me, the biggest remaining challenge for both teams comes Nov. 23, when No. 5 Baylor (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) is at No. 12 Oklahoma State (8-1, 5-1) and UNT (7-3, 5-1 Conference USA) meets UTSA (5-5, 4-2), a scrappy team with lots of senior starters.
Stefan: Yes, the other Texas teams must be green with envy. Sorry, that was lame. UTSA could give the Mean Green a battle. Larry Coker obviously is someone who knows how to coach, with two national coach of the year honors when he was at Miami. Baylor’s game at OSU will be fun to watch. I think the Bears have the defense to cause problems for the Cowboys. I think Baylor goes undefeated.
No. 24 Texas (7-2, 6-0 in Big 12) remains the leader in the conference standings by a half game over No. 5 Baylor (8-0, 5-0). But the Longhorns lost leading rusher Johnathan Gray, the former Aledo High School standout, and play-making defensive tackle Chris Whaley to season-ending injuries last week. Does Texas have the necessary depth to run the table and claim the Big 12 title?
Jimmy: For the Longhorns, those are two huge losses heading into a closing stretch that starts with this week’s game against No. 12 Oklahoma State. Texas has had its share of close calls during its six-game winning streak and I think that streak ends against OSU. Coupled with a season-ending loss at Baylor, I do not see the 2013 season ending well for coach Mack Brown.
Stefan: I agree, Jimmy. But I’m still impressed with Texas’ turnaround since the 1-2 start. I think it says a lot about Brown and his staff. Whether it will be enough to impress new athletics director Steve Patterson remains to be seen.
TCU kept alive its bowl hopes by winning last week at Iowa State. Can the Horned Frogs turn the trick again this week at Kansas State?
Jimmy: In one word, “No.” It’s been 10 weeks and I have yet to see enough from the TCU offense to believe the Frogs can beat either of their remaining opponents, Kansas State or Baylor.
Stefan: If Casey Pachall continues to progress and help improve the offense, the Frogs could make it interesting in Manhattan, Kan., on Saturday. I don’t think the offensive improvements will be enough against Baylor on Nov. 30, but TCU’s defense is good enough to make that game interesting, too.
Texas Tech is riding a three-game losing streak heading into Saturday’s showdown against No. 5 Baylor at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. But the Red Raiders (7-3, 4-3 Big 12) are 15-2 against the Bears in the Big 12 era. How do things shake out Saturday in JerryWorld?
Jimmy: Baylor takes this one against a Tech defense that has struggled to stop the run as injuries have mounted in recent weeks. But I expect another inspired effort by the Red Raiders. This team still plays hard for first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury, and I expect that to continue, regardless of how long Tech’s losing streak becomes during a difficult closing stretch.
Stefan: I think this could get ugly for the Red Raiders. If Baylor does what it has against other Big 12 opponents, I don’t see how Texas Tech has enough defensive play-makers to handle the Bears, even without Tevin Reese out with an injury. Like Jimmy said, the Red Raiders will match the Bears emotionally, but I don’t think they can match them athletically.