College Confidential

Six September games will decide if Texas has college playoff contender

Texas A&M defensive end and Arlington Martin graduate Myles Garrett, right, face a tough task in their season opener Sept. 3 at home against UCLA.
Texas A&M defensive end and Arlington Martin graduate Myles Garrett, right, face a tough task in their season opener Sept. 3 at home against UCLA. AP

Preseason college football magazines fill the local newsstands, but all offer the same bleak message about glass ceilings for teams from Texas: If you’re looking for a College Football Playoff contender from the Lone Star State, you’d better set your sights on 2017, not this season.

Either that, or hope the Houston Cougars post a perfect regular-season record that provides them enough political clout, as champion of a non-Power 5 league (American Athletic Conference), to steal a spot in the CFP’s four-team playoff bracket from the winner of a blue-blood conference like the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, ACC or Big 12.

It might happen if the Cougars finish 13-0. But the prevailing politics of big-time college football suggests otherwise. Also possible: a surprising run to a Power-5 conference title and a CFP playoff berth by Texas A&M (SEC) or one of four candidates from the Big 12: TCU, Texas, Texas Tech or Baylor.

Hey, it’s July and all things remain possible because all teams remain undefeated until September. The only certainty is that, if a team from Texas is going to reach the playoffs, it will have to turn some heads with a significant September win.

As the Big 12 media days get underway Monday in Dallas, we highlight six games that will tell us, very quickly, if the Lone Star State has a CFP title contender to track during the 2016 season:

Oklahoma at Houston, Sept. 3

The Cougars, who return QB Greg Ward and lots of other key pieces from a 13-1 team, face the defending Big 12 champs in a season-defining statement game on opening weekend.

UCLA at Texas A&M, Sept. 3

The Aggies have lots of nice individual pieces led by DE Myles Garrett, an Arlington Martin graduate who is a candidate for multiple national honors. But maximizing the win total behind transfer QB Trevor Knight could be a challenge.

Notre Dame at Texas, Sept. 4

The Longhorns left spring drills with optimism about their young nucleus, which could be led by freshman QB Shane Buechele, an Arlington Lamar graduate. They’ll open with a stress test from the Irish, who won last year’s meeting 38-3 in South Bend, Ind.

Arkansas at TCU, Sept. 10

The Horned Frogs should be in the Big 12 title chase. Taking down an SEC opponent would boost TCU’s “body of work” if CFP committee members need to analyze it in November.

Texas Tech at Arizona St., Sept. 10

The Red Raiders could be a Big 12 contender if elite QB Patrick Mahomes stays healthy and the defense improves. Taking things to a national level would require winning this game, however.

Oklahoma State at Baylor, Sept. 24

This is arguably the most intriguing game on the Big 12’s September schedule because of the uncertainty surrounding the Bears, who have a talented roster but will be led by an interim coach (Jim Grobe). If Baylor wins this one, the team could carry a 7-0 record into the November stretch run despite the absence of Art Briles, the coach who cobbled together this roster but was let go officially June 24 after a report on the handling of sexual assault complaints against football players.

Jimmy Burch: 817-390-7760, @Jimmy_Burch

Big 12 Media Days

TV: 9 a.m.-1 p.m., FS2 and FSSW

Note: Coaches begin at 10 a.m.

Monday’s coaches lineup

Gary Patterson, TCU

David Beaty, Kansas

Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

Matt Campbell, Iowa State

Mike Gundy, Oklahoma St.

Tuesday’s coaches lineup

Charlie Strong, Texas

Dana Holgorsen, W. Virginia

Jim Grobe, Baylor

Bill Snyder, Kansas State

Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

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