The permanent smudge on the Lone Star State’s collective record for this college football season became a reality Tuesday when none of Texas’ schools cracked the Associated Press’ postseason poll.
That’s not a misprint. For the first time in 49 years, all 12 of the FBS programs from the state that produces more college football talent than any place in America were omitted from the final Top 25 rankings.
Even worse: There’s no way to mount a case that any of our schools were cheated at the ballot box. Houston (9-4), a 34-10 loser to San Diego State in the Las Vegas Bowl, emerged as the lone team from the Lone Star State to receive any votes from the AP panel in a season that concluded with Texas’ major college teams combining for a 65-85 record and a 1-5 mark in bowl games.
Had the poll extended far enough, Houston would have tied for No. 37 among the 42 teams that received votes. At least the Cougars turned a few voters’ heads, which was not the case for Power 5 programs at Texas (5-7), Texas A&M (8-5), Texas Tech (5-7), TCU (6-7) or Baylor (7-6).
Among the state’s 12 FBS teams, nine posted losing records. The low-water mark belonged to Texas State (2-10).
Again, that’s not a misprint. Until Tuesday, Texas teams had not been shut out of the final poll since the 1967 season, when the rankings included only a top 10. Since the advent of the AP poll in 1936, Tuesday marked the first time that no Texas teams finished among the top 25 vote-getters in the final poll of the season.
This happened in a football-loving state filled with elite high school prospects that is home to more major college programs (12) than any state in the U.S. In other words: the near-impossible just became reality.
We’ll address reasons and potential corrective measures momentarily. But first, one last sobering fact: more schools from basketball-crazed Kentucky (No. 24 Louisville, Western Kentucky) received votes in Tuesday’s postseason poll than schools from Texas.
One of the myriad reasons offered as an explanation for Tuesday’s predicament is the proliferation of spread offenses among Texas high schools. Theoretically, this leads to more 7-on-7 focus during the off-season and, subsequently, to smaller bodies and less-physical tacklers heading to college.
Among the many flaws in that logic: Clemson, the freshly crowned national champion, runs a spread offense. Alabama, the national runner-up, featured 10 Texans on this year’s roster, including quarterback Jalen Hurts (Channelview), the son of a Texas high school coach. We are only two seasons removed from having two Texas teams that run spread offenses (TCU, Baylor) finish among the CFP’s top six contenders for the 2014 playoff bracket.
Don’t blame a drop-off in the talent pipeline. No college coach, publicly or privately, will besmirch the quality of Texas’ blue-chip prospects. Nor should they. But other factors are in play.
During a recent interview, TCU football coach Gary Patterson identified two issues that command attention from the state’s college coaches.
“I think some of the better players have left the state in the last three to four years,” Patterson said. “We’ve got to do a better job keeping guys at home. We’ve got great skill here but not as many big bodies as what we used to have.”
A drop-off in big-bodied linemen could be a byproduct of the trend toward spread offenses in Texas’ high schools. Yet the most coveted lineman in the 2017 NFL Draft is Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, an Arlington Martin graduate. Clearly, quality still exists locally.
That is why Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, who leans heavily on Texas high school talent while building his teams, considers it “an aberration” that college teams from the Lone Star State failed to crack this year’s Top 25.
“It’s just unusual it happened here, this one year,” Stoops said. “There’s always great players here.”
And, typically, enough of them stay at local schools to keep at least one Texas team viable on the national landscape each season. It happened every season from 1936 through 2015. But not in 2016, the season of the stunning shutout in the postseason poll.
The concern going forward is letting a one-year blip turn into a dangerous trend. Texas’ college football recruiters have until Feb. 1, National Signing Day, to stem a potentially ominous situation. As of Tuesday, zero of the 11 Texans listed among the nation’s top 100 prospects by Rivals had committed to in-state schools. Instead, the nine pledges went to Ohio State (three), Oklahoma (two), LSU, Notre Dame, Stanford and Arizona State. Two others remain uncommitted.
The top-rated player pledged to a local school is Austin Westlake quarterback Sam Ehlinger (No. 107), a Texas commitment. Tuesday’s poll shutout ups the challenge for every recruiter with a Texas address.
The Top 25 teams in The Associated Press college football poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, final records, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote, and previous ranking.
1. Clemson (60)
3. Southern Cal
6. Ohio St.
7. Penn St.
8. Florida St.
11. Oklahoma St.
15. W. Michigan
16. Virginia Tech
18. West Virginia
19. South Florida
25. San Diego St.
Others receiving votes: Kansas St. 83, Georgia Tech 47, Nebraska 38, W. Kentucky 32, Air Force 30, Pittsburgh 21, Boise St. 19, Iowa 14, Minnesota 12, Tulsa 10, BYU 9, Temple 8, Houston 8, North Carolina 8, Navy 1, Washington St. 1.
How Star-Telegram staff writer Jimmy Burch voted: 1. Clemson, 2. Alabama, 3. Washington, 4. Ohio State, 5. Oklahoma, 6. Wisconsin, 7. Southern California, 8. Florida State, 9. Penn State, 10. Michigan, 11. Oklahoma State, 12. Stanford, 13. Virginia Tech, 14. Florida, 15. LSU, 16. Western Michigan, 17. Miami, 18. San Diego State, 19. West Virginia, 20. South Florida, 21. Louisville, 22. Colorado, 23. Kansas State, 24. Tennessee, 25. Air Force.