There were major questions facing most Lone Star teams — besides conference realignment — coming into the 2011 season. Could Texas rebound from a losing campaign? Could Texas A&M continue its late 2010 momentum while being distracted with an SEC move? How was TCU going to replace the massive losses from its 13-0 squad? Could Robert Griffin III lead Baylor to another level? How would Houston’s Case Keenum bounce back from injury? The answers have been mostly positive, especially with the Cougars starting 8-0. The Longhorns and Aggies have some scars but no bad losses. Texas Tech looked solid until last week, while Baylor has faded from its exciting start.
Best team in the Lone Star State?
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Tough call, but I will go with Texas A&M. The Aggies are 5–3 overall, with all three losses by seven points or less. And two of their losses — vs. Oklahoma State and Arkansas — have come against teams currently ranked in the top 10. Texas is 5–2, and both of the Horns' losses have come against top competition, but they weren't as competitive, losing 55–17 to Oklahoma and 38–26 to Oklahoma State. Also, Texas' best win (by far) is at UCLA. A&M, on the other hand, can claim wins at Texas Tech and vs. Baylor (by 27 points) on its resume. We could have thrown Texas Tech into the equation last week, after its shocking win at Oklahoma, but the Red Raiders lost the following week at home to Iowa State by 34 points. I haven't forgotten about Houston, which is ranked No. 25 in this week's Athlon Sports top 25. The Cougars are 8–0 and feature the nation's No. 1 offense, but their schedule has been very, very soft. They do own a win at home vs. UCLA (by four points), but they have not defeated a team with a winning record.
Mack Brown Texas Football still has the Lone Star State locked down. Granted, this year's Longhorns are a young group, but they're only getting better. Freshman Malcolm Brown (635 yards, 5 TDs), senior Fozzy Whittaker (288 yards, 4 TDs) and Texas' 17th-ranked ground game (218.9 ypg) have picked up the slack for a passing attack still under construction. Defensively, new coordinator Manny Diaz has a unit that is ranked 13th nationally (296.4 ypg), 19th against the run (104.1 ypg) and has allowed just 11.8 points per win. UT's only losses this season came in back-to-back weeks against two of the top teams in the country — Oklahoma (55–17) and Oklahoma State (38–26). Texas will have a chance to prove it is better than in-state rivals Texas Tech (Nov. 5), Texas A&M (Nov. 24) and Baylor (Dec. 3). Unfortunately, there is no showdown with Houston or TCU this season. But make no mistake, the Lone Star State is still burnt orange.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Despite having three losses, I still like Texas A&M as the top team in the Lone Star State. The Aggies are 5-3, but have close losses to Oklahoma State (by 1), Arkansas (by 4) and Missouri (by 7 in OT). The defense has been less than stellar this season, ranking last nationally against the pass and 90th in yardage allowed. However, the offense is one of the most-balanced in college football. The rushing attack is averaging 224.5 yards a game, while the Aggies are throwing for 295.3 yards a game. Although the offense has been solid all year, turnovers have been an issue. Texas A&M ranks fifth in the Big 12 with 13 turnovers lost, while the defense has forced only six. In addition to turnovers, the Aggies have struggled in the second half, which was a big reason for the losses against Oklahoma State and Arkansas. There’s really not a team in Texas without any question marks. Yes, Houston is undefeated, but the strength of schedule just isn’t there. If the Cougars and Aggies had a regular season game this year, Case Keenum and his receivers would score, but Houston’s defense would struggle to stop Texas A&M’s ground attack of Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael. Considering the Aggies garnered preseason top 10 hype, a 5-3 record is a disappointment. However, considering the options on the table, I still think they would beat the other teams in the state if they played tomorrow.
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
Case Keenum is the best player in the state of Texas. Gary Patterson is the best head coach in the state of Texas. Robert Griffin III is the most exciting person in the state of Texas. And the most talented collection of athletes is located in Austin. Honestly, this debate will be settled on Thanksgiving in College Station when the Longhorns visit Texas A&M in the Lone Star Showdown. For now, I think the Burnt Orange Longhorns are playing better football than the Aggies. Their only losses are to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State (a combined 15-1), and David Ash has stabilized the quarterback position finally. TCU and Houston would play for third place honors with the Baylor/Texas Tech winner rounding out of the top five.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I think if you had a Lone Star round-robin (JerryWorld?), the Texas A&M Aggies would prevail. Texas is close, but it may be another season before the Longhorns can keep up in a shootout. The good thing is that we’ll get the answer on Thanksgiving night in College Station, in what will be the final Big 12 game for the Aggies. Mike Sherman’s club has lost three games (all of which A&M led by double-digits at half) with the defense struggling, but I’d still take the Aggies to outpoint anyone else in Texas. The obvious omission is the 8-0 Houston Cougars, but Keenum and crew just haven’t beaten anyone of consequence. Plus, they struggled to get by UCLA, UTEP, and Louisiana Tech. Every team in Texas has some question marks, but I’ll take the SEC-bound Aggies for the time being.