Texas FBS Football Rankings

Through 4 weeks the top programs in Texas begin to distinguish themselves from the pack while others fight to stay relevant

Tom Herman and the Longhorns are on the move. Tim Warner/Getty Images

Texas has 12 FBS teams. Each week we rank them based on season-long performance, the prior game, and success relative to their competition. These are the updated rankings following Week 4 and looking forward to Week 5.

No. 12: UTEP  

In their best performance of the season thus far the Miners lost by 7 points to New Mexico state. UTEP now remains as the only FBS team in Texas without a win.

No. 11: Texas State

Texas State lost by just 4 points to UTSA in week 4 and now sit at 1-3. The Bobcats will have their bye week this coming weekend before they face Louisiana Lafayette, who will be at the mercy of No.1 ranked Alabama in week 5.

No. 10: Rice

The Owls suffered another big loss in Week 4 to Southern Mississippi 40-22. Rice has now lost three straight games since their week 1 victory over Prairie View A&M and has failed to hold any of their opponents to under 40 points in the last three games. The Owls will have a tough matchup against Wake Forest in week 5 but hope to break this trend.

No. 9: UTSA

The Road Runners claimed their first victory of 2018 in Week 4 over Texas State University and jump two spots in this week’s rankings. While they won by just 4 points, a win is a win and the Road Runners will have momentum heading into their week 5 game vs. 0-4 UTEP.

No. 8: SMU

SMU holds the No. 8 spot for a second week after their 1-point victory over Navy. The even bigger news the Mustangs than their first win is the change at quarterback. After three straight losses, 2017 starter Ben Hicks was benched for Freshman William Brown. Through two appearances this season, Brown has thrown four touchdown passes and has brought some life to this struggling SMU team. The Mustangs will have a very good opportunity in Week 5 to get their second win of the season vs. Houston Baptist university.

No. 7: Baylor

The Baylor Bears continue their solid start in 2018 after a 26-7 win over Kansas. Sophomore quarterback Charlie Brewer looks to have cemented his role as the starting quarterback with over 200 yards passing and his second three-touchdown performance. Baylor will have their work cut out for them in Week 5 as they will go up against No. 6 Oklahoma in Norman.

No. 6: Houston

After a disappointing loss in week 4 when the Cougars gave up 63 points to Texas Tech, UH bounced back with a 70-point performance of their own vs. Texas Southern. While Houston continues to regain momentum as they head into conference play, they will have a favorable matchup coming up against a Tulsa team that has not won a game since Week 1. Also, quarterback D’Eriq King continues to prove that he is one of the most talented and efficient quarterbacks in the nation. King currently has the ninth most passing yards in the nation with 15 touchdowns and only 1 interception.

No. 5: TCU

TCU drops three spots after suffering their second straight loss. The Horned Frogs came out of the gate strong this season and looked like an early season favorite to compete for the Big 12 conference title but have quickly dropped off the college football map with consecutive losses to Ohio State and Texas. The bad news for TCU is their upcoming schedule for the next three weeks. They will have to fight through the some of the Big 12’s most disruptive and competitive teams starting with an Iowa State team who handed TCU one of their only two losses last season. It will be interesting to see how young quarterback Shawn Robinson bounces back after turning the ball over three times in Week 4 vs. Texas.

No. 4: Texas Tech

The Red Raiders climb up to the No. 4 position after an impressive Week 4 victory over what was an undefeated Oklahoma State team. Texas Tech dominated in a 41-17 win, while Freshman quarterback Alan Bowman lit up the stat sheet one more time with almost 400 yards passing and two touchdowns. Tech was able to crack the Top 25 with their victory over the Cowboys but are set to face arguably their toughest opponent so far this season in No. 12 West Virginia. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury and his re-energized team will enter into Week 5 with a chance to collect another statement win and quiet the rumors surrounding Kingsbury’s job security.

No. 3: Texas A&M

While Texas A&M was handed their second loss of the season, the Aggies deserve some grace considering the fact that those losses came by the hand of two of the nation’s top teams, Alabama and Clemson. Though the Aggies were not able to compete with Alabama like they were with Clemson, there is still no team in the nation that has faced two tougher opponents this early in the season. In Week 5, Texas A&M will have a chance to get back to their winning ways as they go up against an Arkansas team that has gotten trampled in their last two games, first by the University of North Texas 44-17 and then by Auburn 34-3. A&M would like to be the next team to add to the suffering and should be expected to do so.

No. 2: Texas

For the second weekend in a row, the Longhorns have surprised the nation and dominated a Top 25 ranked opponent. After their big Week 3 win over USC, Texas kept the ball rolling vs. TCU with a 31-16 victory. TCU had beaten the Longhorns 5 out of the last 6 seasons since 2012, but 2018 may mark the turning of the tides. Texas overmatched the Horned Frogs on both sides of the ball and looked like a team who will demand respect for the rest of the season. The Longhorns will have to try not to get too far ahead of themselves in Week 5 vs. a struggling Kansas State team, with their Week 6 rivalry game vs. Oklahoma looming in the near future.

No. 1: UNT

North Texas stays put in the No. 1 spot for a second week in a row and remains the only undefeated FBS team in Texas. While many people question UNT’s validity as a legitimate program in comparison to the other top tier teams in Texas, there is no way to overlook the fact that the Mean Green have yet to be held to less than 40 points in a single game this season. Not only has UNT dominated on the offensive side of the ball on the shoulders of quarterback Mason Fine who has the 6th most passing yards in college football, their defense also ranks in the top 20 in all of college football. This team can do it all and deserves to be taken seriously.

 

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Here's what to make of the Rockets free agency moves. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

No NBA team with title aspirations entered the offseason with more questions than the Houston Rockets. Ironically, Houston's situation got more precarious as the offseason went along. From head coach Mike D'Antoni walking away after the season to general manager Daryl Morey following suit shortly after that, the Rockets have been a sinking ship in desperate need of stability. They found some of that once new head coach Stephen Silas was hired, but the boat took on more water when star players James Harden and Russell Westbrook demanded to be traded a couple of weeks later.

It's been a giant roller coaster and it was unclear how Houston would approach their free agency. Would they double down on contending for a championship to try and convince their star players to stay or would they be forced to rebuild?

It looks like Houston tried to thread the needle and accomplish both: They appear ready to rebuild if they can't convince James Harden to stay, but also addressed roster needs and acquired better fitting pieces for their stars. It's hard to say whether or not they got better, but they're certainly a lot younger and look to play a lot different. Let's take a look at each player and how they fit into the framework.

Christian Wood

Contract:

3 years, $41 million

Grade:

B+

If there's a signing that embodies Houston's offseason, it's Christian Wood. For obvious reasons and some subtle ones, Wood is the exact kind of player Houston had to acquire this summer. Let's start with the obvious: Wood is the perfect player to have alongside both James Harden and Russell Westbrook because of his unique set of skills. Wood can hit threes at a high clip for someone his size (36.8% for his career) and stretches the floor for the moments you want Russell Westbrook barreling to the rim or James Harden trying to break a trap.

Lob threat

The Rockets didn't have a big man with that capability on the roster last year, so they had to resort to trading for Robert Covington and going small so they could properly space the floor. However, in doing that the Rockets lost their best lob threat and limited themselves on offense even further. This is where Wood solves the second problem: He may not be as good of a lob threat as Clint Capela, but he's damn close.

Over the past few years, the Rockets have slowly phased out pick and roll out of their offense and resorted to isolation. Part of it is because of how teams have defended the pick and roll, but part of it is also them not having the option anymore. James Harden is too good of a pick and roll ball handler for it to not be a part of the Rockets' attack. Adding more pick and roll to Houston's offense should be a priority next season, regardless of what else Silas decides to do.

Clint Capela was the perfect center for James Harden. P.J. Tucker was the perfect center for Russell Westbrook. Christian Wood is the perfect center for both.

Defensive rebounding

Another weakness Houston needed to address this offseason was their defensive rebounding (26th in NBA last season). It got to the point where it was a rarity that Houston would win the rebounding battle against good teams. This was partly by design and partly because of roster weakness. Houston was so porous at rebounding in the beginning of the season, they decided to emphasize turning over opponents to even the possession battle. If Houston were to even marginally improve in defensive rebounding, it could have a drastic positive impact on their defense.

Per 36 minutes:

22.0 PPG

10.6 RPG

1.5 BPG

65.9% True Shooting

Houston also replenished their coffers in the process of acquiring Wood. By flipping Robert Covington to the Blazers, the Rockets netted two draft picks back after losing two the prior offseason in the Westbrook trade. It may not matter in the grand scheme of next season, but these assets could be especially useful if Houston pivots to a rebuild. They could also be useful to upgrade the roster at the trade deadline if Houston gets Harden's buy-in. (As an aside, the series of transactions that led to Wood are impressive and reflect well on new GM Rafael Stone's ability to get deals done.)

The subtle reason Wood embodies their offseason is his age, 25 years old. Wood would immediately become the youngest starter on the team and be a building block piece on the next iteration of the Rockets. He's also old enough to make an immediate impact should Houston acquire a ready-made blue chip prospect in a James Harden trade. With the 76ers rumored to be a team interested in Harden's services, it probably isn't a coincidence that Ben Simmons (24 years old) falls neatly into Wood's age group. It also probably isn't a coincidence that the ideal team for Simmons has always been imagined to be a team that can spread the floor at the four other positions on the court. Having Wood is great start to try and accomplish that.

David Nwaba, Sterling Brown, and Jae'Sean Tate

Contracts:

Negligible

Grade:

B-

Nwaba, Brown, and Tate are all being placed in one category because it's quite clear what the Rockets are trying to accomplish: Take bets on young, cheap wings on the market and hope one pans out enough to make the final rotation for Stephen Silas.

While David Nwaba technically wasn't signed this offseason, he's essentially a free agency signing because the Rockets signed him up a few months ago with the knowledge he wouldn't be able to play in the first year of his deal. He's the oldest of this group (27 years old), has the largest wingspan (7'0"), and has logged the most NBA minutes (3295). Because of all this, he's probably the safest bet to make Houston's final rotation. However, just because he's the 'safest bet' doesn't mean he's a 'safe bet' per se.

Nwaba suffered a season-ending achilles injury on December 9th of last season and has spent the past year rehabbing. It's unclear how he will respond from this, but before the injury, Nwaba had found a nice role in Brooklyn as a combo forward who could shoot well enough from beyond the perimeter (34.4% for his career). The Rockets have desperately needed competent perimeter defenders off the bench since their 2017-18 campaign and a healthy Nwaba was just that.

Sterling Brown, 24, found his way on the fringes of the Bucks' rotation the past few seasons and gained the trust of head coach Mike Budenholzer enough to play nearly 15 minutes a game. Brown is a pesky defender and average three-point shooter (34.5% for his career) and like the other wings in this category, he doesn't need the ball. He's probably the second most proven wing here and if he cracks the rotation, it's unlikely he will have to play more than he did in Milwaukee.

Jae'Sean Tate, 25, is probably the most intriguing prospect of this bunch as he's never played in the NBA before. Tate played under new Rockets assistant coach Will Weaver on the Sidney Kings and averaged 16.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists on 66.0% shooting from the field last season while earning first-team All-NBL honors. He's 6'4" with a 6'8" wingspan and was considered to be one of the top basketball prospects outside the NBA before signing with Houston. The Rockets appear to be quite high on him considering they used part of their mid-level exception to sign him to a three-year deal.

The Rockets already have much of their rotation locked in:

James Harden and Russell Westbrook will likely play at least 35 minutes a piece, P.J. Tucker will probably play around 32 minutes, and finally Danuel House and Christian Wood will likely play around 30 minutes each. That leaves 78 minutes for a bench that already has Eric Gordon and Ben McLemore. Also, Houston will probably sign another center before the season starts. Now, the Rockets may try to ease the load off of some of their older starters, in which case there might be more time available. However, whatever way you slice it, they really only need one of these wings to crack the rotation for regular season purposes.

It's unlikely all three signings end up backfiring for them, but we'll see. Stranger things have happened.

It's also convenient that all three of these players are 27 years or younger should the Rockets decide to trade Harden at the trade deadline. Like Wood, these signings give Houston the option to pivot in another direction. Because of Houston's lack of room under the apron, they didn't have the option to use their full mid-level or bi-annual exception. Ring-chaser types also weren't going to sign with the Rockets for the minimum given the uncertainty surrounding their stars. This was a nice way for Houston to hedge their bets while also filling out the roster with possible contributors.

The Rockets aren't done making moves yet, but they're close. Understanding the circumstances, it's hard to be too critical of what they did in free agency.

Overall Grade: B

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