The 2015 season promises to be a thrilling one for many major college football programs in Texas.
In many parts of the country, the changing colors of the leaves and cooler temperatures signal the beginning of fall.
Here in Texas, we still have temperatures in the 90s in the fall, but instead of the foliage it’s college football that indicates this time of year. Football is king in Texas, especially the college game as the state boasts five teams in the Power 5 conferences (Big XII, Southeastern Conference) and seven others in Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conferences (American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Sun Belt).
This season could be a special one for several teams – either in their quest to play in a bowl game, a conference championship or even better, in the national championship game. Enjoy our college football outlook for the top Texas teams for 2015.
Baylor – It wasn’t that long ago Baylor was considered the laughingstock of college football. Wins were few and far between, and even when they had the ball with the lead in the final seconds, they would find a way to lose (see UNLV in 1999).
But then Art Briles brought his Texas drawl and high-octane offense to the Brazos, and he now has the Bears in the national title hunt. Most, if not all, preseason polls have Baylor in the top-5. Their offense shouldn’t miss a beat with Seth Russell at quarterback, and defensive end Shawn Oakman should lead a surprisingly good defense.
What could hinder Baylor once again from the national title race are a soft non-conference schedule and the absence of a Big XII conference title game. The Bears have road games in Austin and Fort Worth this season; in fact, the Nov. 27 game against TCU could have major conference and national title implications.
Texas – Year 3 of the Charlie Strong era will be a crucial one for the Longhorns head coach. The Texas faithful are demanding double-digit win seasons and championships, but those might happen this year.
The Longhorns, fresh off a lowly Texas Bowl loss to former rival Arkansas, are still searching for a quarterback who can move the offense. Could it be Tyrone Swoopes or Jerrod Heard? We’ll see.
Defensively, the Longhorns should be good. There isn’t one glaring weakness on that side of the ball, which should please Strong, a former defensive coordinator.
Texas will have its hands full in the season opener at Notre Dame. The Longhorns also will play California before conference action begins, and that’s not a cakewalk either. Road games at TCU and Baylor, along with its annual tilt with Oklahoma will be tough tests.
Texas A&M – The Aggies have been prolific on offense ever since Kevin Sumlin took over as head coach in 2012. But the defense has been an issue. So, A&M went the “can’t beat him, hire him” route, nabbing defensive coordinator John Chavis from LSU. In the three seasons A&M has been in the Southeastern Conference, they have beaten every West Division team but LSU, thanks mostly to Chavis’ defensive schemes.
Turning a young defensive corp into the “Wrecking Crew” will be a tall task, but even if the Aggies rank in the top-50 this year, they will be light years ahead of last season. Defensive end Myles Garrett should be a consensus All-American and help fortify that side of the ball. Offensively, quarterback Kyle Allen is the leader and has a bunch of weapons at wide receiver that should open up the offense.
A&M begins the season in Houston for a “neutral site” game against top-20 ranked Arizona State. The schedule gets easier from there, until they hit SEC West play. Home games against Auburn and Alabama, and road games at Mississippi and LSU will be tough.
Texas Christian – Now that the Texas-Texas A&M rivalry has been put on hiatus for a bit, the red-hot showdown has to be TCU and Baylor. Not only because of the 61-58 loss a year ago, and the subsequent “co-champion” honor the Big XII bestowed on both programs. There’s also the history between the two schools that involved conference realignment in the early 1990s and TCU being ranked ahead of Baylor in the preseason polls.
How far ahead? Several polls have TCU playing in the national title game. The Horned Frogs return a ton of talent on both sides of the ball this season, headlined by quarterback Trevone Boykin. His showing in the Peach Bowl rout of Mississippi has made him a frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy in 2015.
What head coach Gary Patterson has to make sure of, is that his players don’t succumb to any trap games or play below their level. TCU will travel to Minnesota this year, and also will play road games at Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The date everyone has circled is Nov. 27 – the home game against Baylor. So much will be at stake that game.
Texas Tech – Head coach Kliff Kingsbury has become a celebrity of sorts for his good looks and youthful exuberance. Unfortunately, Tech fans also want him to be known for being a championship-winning coach, and that hasn’t happened yet.
The Red Raiders failed to reach a bowl game last season, and the players and staff have vowed that history won’t repeat itself this year. No matter who is directing the Tech offense at quarterback, Kingsbury’s “Air Raid” offense should thrive. The Tech defense returns eight starters from a year ago, and should improve this season.
However, their schedule is a toughie, as the Red Raiders travel to play Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas, and host TCU and Oklahoma State. The annual series against Baylor at AT&T Stadium will be an exciting one, and their final game at Texas could have major bowl implications for both teams.
Houston – New head coach Tom Herman has sparked an excitement at the University of Houston that hasn’t been seen since the Run-N-Shoot days. He’s also doing wonders on the recruiting trail, nabbing top Texas talent away from the Longhorns, Aggies and other Power 5 conference schools.
North Texas – The Mean Green have played some college football heavyweights in recent years (Alabama, Georgia, LSU) and this year will be no different as they play at Iowa and Tennessee. But Apogee Stadium should be rocking this season when North Texas plays host to Rice, UTSA and UTEP.
Rice – Fast fact: Rice boasts an 18-9 record over the past two seasons, besting all but one major Texas college football team (Baylor). Head coach David Bailiff should have the Owls in a solid bowl game again this season.
Southern Methodist – Last season’s 1-11 campaign was a disaster for SMU, and the Mustangs might have some struggles this year. But new head coach Chad Morris has generated a lot of buzz on the recruiting trail, and his prolific offensive play calling will make SMU a fun team to watch this season.
Texas El-Paso – The Miners’ loss in the New Mexico Bowl last season was UTEP’s sixth consecutive bowl defeat. Their last bowl win: the 1967 Sun Bowl. Will this year end the dubious drought? Games at Arkansas and Texas Tech and a home game against Rice will make it tough to get into a bowl game.
Texas-San Antonio – A brutal non-conference schedule will have the Roadrunners battled-tested for Conference USA play. However, will those games against Arizona, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Colorado State prevent UTSA from becoming bowl-eligible?
Texas State – Head coach Dennis Franchione has done an impressive job with the Bobcats since they moved up to Division I-A football in 2012. Games against Florida State and Houston will be tough, but Texas State has a good chance to “go bowling” this season.
By Robert Rodriguez
Feature photo courtesy Houston Athletics/@UHCougarFB