College Confidential

College Confidential: TCU’s young defense faces test from SMU

Jimmy Burch and Carlos Mendez sound off on the issues of the day in college football in College Confidential at star-telegram.com.

No. 3 TCU faces its final nonconference game Saturday against SMU. How much more development is needed from the Horned Frogs’ young defense, which has battled September injuries and attrition, before it is ready to hold its own against Big 12 opponents?

Jimmy: We’ll find out Saturday because SMU’s improved offense, led by quarterback Matt Davis, resembles a typical Big 12 attack more than any opponent TCU has faced thus far. The real litmus test comes Sept. 26 in Lubbock against Texas Tech.

Carlos: How about a whole spring and summer? I guarantee you that’s what Gary Patterson would like. Instead, he’ll have to make do with one more game. This is going to be quite a feat of on-the-job training if Patterson can pull it off.

In the span of one week, Texas coach Charlie Strong has changed his offensive play-caller and starting quarterback. He’s also seen the athletic director who hired him leave the school. What impact will those developments have on preparations for Saturday’s game against California?

Jimmy: The departure of athletic director Steve Patterson should have zero impact on Saturday’s outcome or the football team’s ability to succeed this season. But the mesh between new quarterback Jerrod Heard and new play-caller Jay Norvell will be essential, and must grow each week, if Texas plans to improve on last year’s 6-7 record. Right now, the Longhorns are an average college football team. At best.

Carlos: Oh, probably zero. Maybe the head coach will be more relaxed and that will clear his mind for ideas. But he’s got more problems than an AD’s departure will fix.

Texas A&M climbed to No. 17 in this week’s AP poll with its second lopsided victory of the season. How close are the Aggies to joining TCU and Baylor in a viable, three-team discussion about which school has the best college football team in Texas?

Jimmy: They’re at least two wins away. We’ll know more when A&M opens SEC play against Arkansas, Sept. 26 at AT&T Stadium. It’s worth noting that the once-touted Arizona State team that the Aggies thumped in their opener had to rally in the fourth quarter last week to beat Cal Poly, 35-21, on the Sun Devils’ home field. In retrospect, that ASU victory may not have been as monumental as initially believed.

Carlos: Results-wise in 2015, they’re there. They belong in that discussion. They have to prove themselves in the SEC, like TCU and Baylor have to in the Big 12, but right now — with that defense, and with quarterback play that’s going to only get better — I throw them in there.

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