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.


Deshaun Watson had an up and down day. Tim Warner/Getty Images

So what does Bill O'Brien have in store for a Sunday encore in the clock management follies department? All's well that ends well for the Texans if another Billy Botch episode comes with another win. Get it and home games vs. the Panthers and Falcons make 4-1 a very legit possibility.

The Texans have a good shot to get the win in Los Angeles Sunday. They may have half the crowd rooting for them. The Chargers have the lamest homefield advantage in the NFL. L.A. has largely yawned at them since their move up the coast from San Diego. In their home opener the Chargers couldn't sell out the 27,000 seat soccer stadium serving as their temporary facility. Next season they move into the monument of wow and greed they'll share with the Rams. That place will hold about 70,000.

On the field it's a big game for the also 1-1 Chargers if they hope to hang with Kansas City in the AFC West race. The Chargers' three following games are at the joke Dolphins, then home vs. the not good Broncos and the Roethlisberger-less Steelers.

For the Texans, one major subplot is a constant. How porous will the offensive line be? Deshaun Watson has been sacked 10 times over the first two games. The Chargers have one of the NFL's better pass rushing duos in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. If the Texans can protect, opportunity knocks for big plays downfield with the Chargers down both of their starting safeties. Rookie All-Pro Derwin James is on injured reserve recovering from a broken foot, Adrian Phillips broke an arm last Sunday at Detroit.

Warm California sun

So if you were 300 strikeout man Gerrit Cole, what would you be thinking about re: 2020 and beyond? I mean after next month ideally helping the Astros win the World Series. And if you are the Astros what are you thinking?

In his two Astro seasons Cole has been tremendous. The ballclub is tremendous, and if Cole re-signs it that much more figures to stay tremendous for at least another couple of seasons. But Gerrit Cole is to become the most highly coveted free agent on the market. The low end of what he should be able to command is probably in the six years 150 million range. Heck, he could get seven years 250 million.

Next year the Astros payroll is set to soar into competitive balance tax territory. Meaning, in addition to the payroll itself, the Astros are looking at paying millions in penalties if they pay up to keep Cole. To counter that the Astros certainly could pivot and trade Zack Greinke. They basically will be open to giving away Josh Reddick and the 13 million he'll make in the final year of his contract.

Maybe Jim Crane and his partners say this is such a special era, we'll forego huge chunks of profits to keep this core together. That would be fantastic, but drawing a line on how far they'll go to keep Cole would not be miserly. Long term megadollar pitching contracts carry large risks. Cole turns 30 next season.

Cole grew up in Southern California. His wife too. It's where they live in the offseason. He went to high school under five miles from Angels Stadium and grew up an Angels fan. The Angels have a desperate need for starting pitching. Even with Cole though, the Angels can't essentially promise perennial contender status. But the Dodgers can, every bit as much as the Astros, and the Dodgers have much deeper pockets. If the Coles want to spend the rest of Gerrit's prime pitching years living year-round back home in SoCal, no one should take offense. Still, if the Astros’ bid is competitive when factoring in income tax rates, proven comfort level with the team, air conditioned comfort for home games…

Big weekend for Aggies

Better college football schedule this week after the garbage card of a week ago. The biggest game nationally is seventh ranked Notre Dame at number three Georgia. Big game for Texas A&M vs. Auburn at Kyle Field Saturday. The 17th ranked Aggies are three and a half point favorites over the eighth ranked team in the nation. A hard fought loss wouldn't be shameful, but would mean that with games yet to come vs. Alabama, at Georgia, and at LSU, the Ags would have to pull off at least one upset to finish better than 7-5. 75 million dollars to lure Jimbo Fisher were not spent to yield any 7-5 seasons.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Major Applewhite would have coached the Cougars to a 1-3 start much more economically for UH than Dana Holgorsen has. 2. The Tulane Green Wave wearing powder blue uniforms is just as dopey as the St. John's Red Storm and Duke Blue Devils wearing black. 3. Names that Houstonians should rule out for daughters: Bronze-Imelda Silver-Allison Gold-Alicia

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