RANKING THE STATE

Texas Div. I football rankings: A&M and UT have big tests this weekend

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12.  RICE

As predicted, Rice took another loss and the lost season continues. It's tough to say where it all ends but on the plus side they're off this week. With just two wins in as many seasons under Bloomgren, Rice has trended steadily downward since the 2013 Conference USA Championship and things aren't looking good for the young head coach.

11.  UTEP

So I was saying nice things about these guys playing tough opponents but that they now had a chance to win against UTSA, but they didn't. They lost head to head to the team right below them in the ranking? That means they switched places. Don't worry Miners fans, basketball season is coming soon enough.

10.  UTSA

UTSA came out of the game victorious and that means they moved up one spot over UTEP, whom they beat. That's a cool feeling. This week though UAB comes to visit after beating Rice and they play good football, so this may be a short run of success but if it isn't, they're only one game (and a heads up loss to Baylor) out of the lead in their division.

9.  NORTH TEXAS

Hopefully rust gathered because these guys haven't been playing great and maybe they could use an excuse or at least a change in habits. They travel to Southern Mississippi and now we'll see what direction things are going in, when they lose they don't score more than 30 points, when they win they score over 40. So keep an eye on the scoreboard.

8.  TEXAS STATE

After two wins in a row and a week off to feel great about themselves Texas State is hosting UL Monroe, another team they can beat if they play well. Let's see if these guys have figured out what winning football looks like yet. UPDATE: They haven't and they lost.

7. TEXAS TECH

Tech turned in its biggest win of the year, beating Oklahoma State as a 10-point underdog. The Red Raiders get a chance to back that up with a win at unbeaten Baylor. Back to back wins from the underdog position would launch this program back into the low end of some of the ranking metrics and sets an opportunity for them to finish the season strong.

6. HOUSTON

Houston seems to be trying to settle things and right the ship, Cincinnati is a good program but this is a possibly winnable game for Houston. Let's see what they put together this weekend. Houston is currently a hard program to judge just because of all the turmoil that's swirled through the program this year, but winning and losing is ultimately the way we tell the story in football, so a win here helps to further settle things down.

5. TCU

TCU is off this week. That win against Kansas looks less and less worthwhile after completely dropping the ball against Iowa State, and for those who have been reading this with me weekly know that I think time off after a loss is the worst thing for a football team, so lets see how TCU handles it.

4.  SMU 

For the first time since the death penalty was laid on SMU over twenty years ago, the Mustang are ranked now. They squeaked out a dramatic win against Tulsa and are now off this week. The run they've been on is impressive and I'm not ready to bump them over Texas A&M, even though the nation has, because the Aggies are hosting Alabama this weekend but that might change next week.

3. TEXAS A&M

Well, this is really their last chance to stay in the top three. Let's see what happens this week, I mean I think they're going to lose, but maybe not.

2.  BAYLOR

They won while A&M was off, we'll see what happens this week. I think Baylor will win against Tech and A&M will lose and SMU is off this week, so more than likely there won't be much change here. In my opinion Baylor needs to keep winning to hold onto it's position in the rankings more than a program like A&M, considering there are zero quality opponents on the list of teams they've beaten so far.

1.  TEXAS

Well this is the big one, The Red River Rivalry. Jalen Hurts just made the grave mistake of downplaying the importance and size of this rivalry. This is the most dangerous game on Oklahoma's schedule, I think and the one game where they see it coming and may not be able to stop it. Here we go.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

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Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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