It’s a new year and hopes are as high as the west Texas sky. For one more week every team is undefeated* and the possibility of a championship is in everyone’s minds (you’re allowed to dream). In Texas we’re lucky enough to have three straight days of Texas teams on national TV, starting with national #2 TCU on Thursday September 3.
Friday will showcase Baylor and SMU renewing a Southwest Conference rivalry with the overall series separated by just one game (in Baylor’s favor). Saturday continues the string of major matchups featuring Texas schools, as an offensive explosion is expected in Houston between TAMU and Arizona State, followed by two of the country’s most storied programs facing off when UT and Notre Dame line up in South Bend.
While most of the state’s major programs are locked up in marquee battles, some of the less covered programs will be going head to head against nationally ranked opponents on foreign soil. Can any of them pull massive upsets to bring further glory and attention to Texas football?
(Interesting side note: out of 12 FBS programs in Texas only 4 are starting their season with a home game. UNT is off to start week one.)
#2 TCU @ Minnesota, 8:00 PM, ESPN
- Boasting their highest preseason ranking in school history, the Horned Frogs will be making the trip to Minneapolis to face the Golden Gophers. Minnesota finished last season 8-5 including a major victory over Michigan; however, the Gophers were dispatched by TCU 30-7. While the Horned Frogs will face some rebuilding on defense, the offense returns 11 starters and an attack Minnesota won’t be able to slow. There’s little question of who will win, rather what will the margin of victory be – TCU wins 38-10.
UTSA @ #22 Arizona, 9:00 PM, Pac-12 Network
- Many consider the 2014 Roadrunner season a disappointment but with more depth and starters fully healthy, the Roadrunners will be looking to improve this year. Arizona had eight games decided by single digits last season, including a 26-23 victory over UTSA. If the Roadrunners can keep it close again this year anything could happen. However, home field advantage will likely play a key role – Arizona wins 31-14.
#4 Baylor @ SMU, 6:00 PM, ESPN
- While this offseason may have produced more distractions than the Bears are used to, this team looks like it will be ready to roll. However, in Dallas Chad Morris is looking to start the Mustangs off on the right note. Morris has shown the ability to have an immediate impact offensively, first at Tulsa under Todd Graham and then at Clemson under Dabo Swinney. While the Mustangs will make strides over the season, they won’t be in this game – Baylor wins 49-7.
SHSU @ Texas Tech, 2:30 PM,
- This year marks the 100th season for Sam Houston State’s football program. What better way to kick off the anniversary than by knocking off a FBS program? The Bearkats have proven one of the most consistent programs at the FCS level and look to be one of the few that might dethrone North Dakota State this year. Meanwhile, Kliff Kingsbury and the Red Raiders are looking for a bounce back season. With new defensive coordinator, David Gibbs, Texas Tech will see its eighth new defensive player caller in the last eight seasons. The defense should improve but there will likely be growing pains – Texas Tech wins 49-28.
Wagner @ Rice, 2:30 PM,
- Over the last two seasons Rice has gone 18-9, claimed a Conference USA title and a Hawaii Bowl victory. David Bailiff has quietly produced one of the most consistent programs in the state, no easy feat considering Rice’s exceptional academic standards. The Owls will be reloading this year, only returning five offensive and three defensive starters. They start the newest chapter right – Rice wins 31-13.
UTEP @ #18 Arkansas, 2:30 PM, ESPNU
- Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema didn’t win over many hearts in Texas when he described his victory over UT in the Texas Bowl last year as “mildly erotic.” It’s probably fair to say, every Longhorn fan would love to see a UT branch school humble the Razorbacks. However, even with Arkansas’ preseason loss of Jonathan Williams, the Miners light defensive ends (starters listed at 235 and 255) will struggle mightily to hold up against a powerful Razorback o-line that returns four of five starters – Arkansas wins 34-6.
#15 Arizona State versus Texas A&M, 6:00 PM, ESPN
- Perhaps the most intriguing team in Texas this year will be the Texas A&M Aggies. While most schools offer known commodities, the Aggies have been predicted to finish anywhere from 6-7 to SEC Champions. If new defensive coordinator, John Chavis, can get more consistent play out of a defensive unit returning six starters, that should be enough to propel the program to new heights (especially when coupled with Kevin Sumlin’s established offense). The theory will be tested early and often – Texas A&M wins 38-31.
Texas @ #11 Notre Dame, 6:30 PM, NBC
- The Charlie Strong era has officially begun in Austin. Season one went alright, as Strong inherited players not necessarily fit for his style of play and still managed to go bowling. However, the Texas Bowl left a sour taste in the Longhorns’ mouth as they fell to Arkansas 31-7 and managed just 59 total yards. The Longhorns look to jump right back into the flames with a week one contest against the Fighting Irish in South Bend. The two storied programs will be meeting for the first time in almost 20 years (a telling side note on the series: the last seven times these two schools played, both teams were ranked in the AP Poll). South Bend will prove too much for the Longhorns but there will be signs of improvement – Notre Dame wins 31-21.
Texas State @ #10 Florida State, 7:00 PM, ESPNews
- Dennis Franchione and the Bobcats were clicking on all cylinders by the end of last season, finishing 7-5. They were hoping it would culminate in an invitation to a bowl game but the invite never came. The Bobcats believe they left too much up to fate, so this year they have adopted the slogan, “Leave no doubt.” Unfortunately, Texas State won’t have what it takes against a College Football Playoff semifinalist in Tallahassee – Florida State wins 52-20.
Tennessee Tech @ Houston, 7:00 PM, ESPN3
- A new era dawns in Houston as Tom Herman comes to the Cougar sideline after spending last season as National Champion Ohio State’s offensive coordinator. Herman has promised a, “Very physical, very tough, very downhill, bloody-your-nose, hit-you-in-the-mouth football team.” Expect the Cougars to display their new identity early – Houston wins 35-7.
0-0 (The first and last week of perfection)
Texas v. Non-Texas Opponent Record (Year-to-Date)
*Division I FBS Texas teams
(These are solely the opinions of Ryan Sprayberry and do not represent the thoughts or beliefs of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame)