Ranking the schools

Preseason rankings for the 12 Division I college football teams in Texas

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Each week, we will rank the 12 Division I teams in the state of Texas. Here are the preseason rankings:

No. 12: Rice

The Owls won just two games last season, and while they might be improved, their schedule is brutal with Army, Wake Forest, Texas and Baylor in non-conference. No way to go up.

No. 11 UTEP

The Miners won just one game last season under Dana Dimel, but they did show improvement late in the season. This year might not be much better, but like Rice, there is nowhere to go but up.

No. 10 UTSA

This program has fallen on such hard times, they are less than a touchdown favorite against Incarnate Word this weekend. Looks like a rough season ahead.

No. 9 Texas State 

The addition of Jake Spavital as head coach should at least give fans some hope, but it won't be Week 1, when they take on Texas A&M. Still, look for improvement throughout the season.

No. 8 SMU

Year 2 of the Sonny Dykes experience should bring some improvement over last year's 5-7 mark. Former UT QB Shane Beuchele is an upgrade and the Ponies could be in line for a bowl game.

No. 7 Texas Tech

The Kliff Kingsbury era is over, and the new-look Raiders will have some rebuilding to do. Perhaps the biggest wild card on the list, they could be anywhere from 5-10 on this list when it is all said and done.

No. 6 North Texas

Seth Littrell has turned this program around and they have now gone to three straight bowl games. It won't be a shock if they make it to four.

No. 5 Baylor

Matt Ruhle did an outstanding job last season making Baylor competitive again after a rough first season. With the Art Briles controversy getting farther in the rear mirror, the Bears could take another big step this season.

No. 4 Houston

Major Applewhite's brief tenure was an exercise in mismanagement and mediocrity. Enter Dana Holgorsen, who should get this team back atop the AAC in the next three years, maybe as soon as this year. But a horrible defense from last year probably won't be fixed overnight, and the Cougars have a tough schedule. Still, as long as they have D'Eriq King, they should be competitive.

No. 3 TCU 

The Frogs had a disappointing season last year, but Gary Patterson has built too strong of a program to keep them down for long. Could easily make a run at the Big 12 as a dark horse. Or go 6-6.

No. 2 Texas A&M

If these were power rankings, the Aggies might be No. 1. But a daunting schedule that includes dates with Clemson, Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia will probably equal a record that does not match the preseason No. 1.

No. 1 Texas

Coming off a New Year's Six bowl win, expectations are sky high for the Longhorns. Realistically they might still be a season away from being "back," but an early season test against LSU might show exactly how far the Longhorns have come. They have the easiest path to an excellent season.


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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

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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