As I watched TCU beat Texas 17-10 in Austin on Saturday night, two thoughts crept through my head. The first, and more inconsequential, thought was "I can't believe the score is only 17-10." A game hyped to be the Big 12's biggest of the season was supposed to be an offensive shootout because it featured a TCU team that seemed to know no other way; instead, it was a defensive slugfest. Both defenses dominated the evening, and the game became a war of attrition.
The second, far more relevant question was "what's different at Texas?" When you see what coach Sonny Dykes has done at TCU, it isn't hard to see a difference in the Horned Frogs. Last year's TCU team looked miserable, as did its coach, Gary Patterson. It was a program that clearly needed a reset after a long, successful run. And it got one. Dykes -- who was reportedly close to being the coach at Texas, by the way -- has revitalized the program. With Saturday's win, the Horned Frogs are 10-0, have clinched a spot in the Big 12 Championship and put themselves in a position to play for a national title.
In other words, TCU is everything Texas thinks it is, or should be, but hasn't been since Colt McCoy got knocked out of the 2010 BCS Championship Game in a 37-21 loss to Alabama. Steve Sarkisian is the third coach Texas has turned to since Mack Brown resigned in 2013, but 22 games into his tenure I've yet to see much evidence of it happening on the field.
There have been plenty of recruiting wins off the field. Texas' 2022 class finished sixth nationally, and the 2023 class, which includes Arch Manning, currently ranks fifth. However, Texas has always recruited well. Charlie Strong had top-10 classes, too. Tom Herman had a couple of top-five classes. Acquiring talent has never been Texas' problem, it's turning those stars into wins that's proven elusive. That's what Sarkisian was supposed to fix.
Following Saturday's loss to TCU -- which ranks far lower in the recruiting rankings yet seems to win anyway -- Sarkisian is 11-11 overall and 7-9 in the Big 12. Tom Herman went 13-9 in his first 22 games but was 9-6 in the Big 12 and went to a bowl game his first season. And after going 0-4 against ranked teams in his first season and losing to Oklahoma, Herman started his second season with three wins against ranked teams, including a 48-45 win over No. 7 Oklahoma (No. 22 USC and No. 17 TCU were the others). After Saturday's loss, Sarkisian is 2-6 against ranked teams, with the wins coming last week against Kansas State and in the 2021 opener against Louisiana. Like Herman, Sark beat Oklahoma in his second season, but the Oklahoma that Herman beat was a top-10 team that finished 12-2 and reached the College Football Playoff. The Oklahoma team Sarkisian beat is 5-5 and may not make a bowl.
Looking at performances alone, there are further reasons to question Sarkisian. Quarterback Quinn Ewers looked spectacular before leaving with an injury in the first quarter of a near-upset over Alabama earlier this season, but he has not been nearly as impressive since his return. In the four games since tearing apart Oklahoma for 289 yards and four touchdowns, Ewers has completed only 49% of his passes for 5.92 yards per attempt with seven touchdowns and four interceptions. Against TCU, he was 17 of 39 with an interception. His receivers haven't done him many favors, but Sarkisian is supposed to be a quarterback guru and play-calling savant. Ewers is considered one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country. Put the two together, and those aren't supposed to be the results.
It's possible Texas figures it out this weekend at Kansas, wins the final two games on the schedule, and then wins a bowl game to head into 2023 with momentum. Then, we'll spend the offseason talking about how Arch Manning will be the answer, and this will be the season Texas finds itself again. You know, like we do every offseason.
What's different at Texas? I don't know. It all looks the same to me.
Best Conference of the Week
As I stayed up into the early morning hours watching UCLA lose to Arizona 34-28, only a few hours after Oregon fell to Washington 37-34, I knew what the story would be come sunrise: The Pac-12's College Football Playoff hopes were hanging on by a thread, with USC -- a team without a win over a ranked opponent -- as its only hope. However, I'm one of those freaks who doesn't believe the CFP is the most important thing in the sport, nor do I need it to assign meaning to games. Instead, my thought watching all of that unfold was the Pac-12 is having an incredible season.
I don't care if it makes the CFP. Granted, I don't get any money if it does, so it's much easier for me to say. Still, while some will see the 2022 season as a failure for the conference if it misses out, I see it as an incredible success.
There are several meaningful games remaining that will have an immediate impact on both the conference title race and the national championship picture. That has not been the case in the Pac-12 lately! As we enter the final two weeks of the regular season, there are five teams with shots to win the conference. That includes two more games between top-20 teams this weekend that serve as semifinals in the Pac-12 race. This has led to more national interest in the league when it's in the market for a new television deal. These are all good things!
Granted, it's not ideal that two of the five teams in the league bringing you the attention are leaving for the Big Ten, but we're trying to make the best of a difficult situation here, folks.
"Holy Crap" Throw of the Week
Speaking of the Pac-12, while there were a lot of incredible moments in Washington's upset win over Oregon, nothing blew my mind more than this throw from Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. I haven't taken a physics class in a long time, but I'm pretty sure this was impossible to do back then.
One-Man Wrecking Crew of the Week
In his first season at LSU, Brian Kelly has beaten Alabama and clinched the SEC West with a win over Arkansas Saturday. Still, one could argue that his most significant win with the Tigers came in early February. That's when Kelly and the LSU staff managed to flip Harold Perkins Jr. from his commitment to Texas A&M.
Perkins, who was battling the flu, was an absolute monster against Arkansas on a day when his team needed him to be every bit of one. He finished with eight tackles, tied a school record with four sacks and forced two fumbles -- the second of which sealed the game in the final minutes.
Stat of the Week
The Big Ten West race is up for grabs following Purdue's win over Illinois and Iowa's win over Wisconsin. Now, four of the division's seven teams are tied for first at 4-3 with a confusing tiebreaker picture. I have no idea what will happen, but the nerds tell me Iowa is the most likely to win the division, which would be truly incredible considering where the Hawkeyes were only a few weeks ago.
What's more incredible is how Iowa beat Wisconsin Saturday. The Hawkeyes beat the Badgers 24-10 despite averaging only 2.15 yards per play on offense. Now, stop for a moment and think about how bad the Iowa offense has been all season. It's led.
Well, what if I told you the 2.15 yards per play was Iowa's worst output of the season? It was. The previous low was 2.68 yards per play in the 54-10 loss to Ohio State. And yet Iowa won. By 14 points. This was a rarity, even for Iowa.
Lowest yds/play in a win of 14+ since 2007:— Bill Connelly (@ESPN_BillC) November 13, 2022
2011 FSU (1.61 vs. Florida)
2007 ND (2.12 vs. UCLA)
*2022 Iowa (2.15 vs Wisconsin)*
2012 Mizzou (2.43 vs. Florida)
2008 Ariz St (2.44 vs. UCLA)
2012 Florida (2.82 vs. SC)
THREE OF SIX INVOLVED MUSCHAMP. https://t.co/DW0hJQlqdk
It's the third-lowest yards per play output from a team that won by at least 14 points since the 2007 season. What's more remarkable is not just how often this has happened over the last 15 years but that it's the first time it's happened in a game involving Iowa.
Catch of the Week
Grittiest Juke of the Weekend
Now that's a juke from someone who's the first one into the weight room and the last to leave right there. It's a real coach's son of a move. Deceptively agile. Real gym rat of an ankle-breaker.
Bowl Eligible Team of the Week
Since UConn is an independent, it's technically not bowl bound just by picking up its sixth win, but I don't care. UConn has won six games in a season for the first time since 2015. Jim L. Mora took over a team that was 1-11 last season and 4-32 since 2018, and he has the Huskies at 6-5 already.
I was one of many who raised an eyebrow in suspicion when Mora was hired, but he's proving to be a miracle worker in Storrs. The Huskies get a 3-6 Army squad to finish the regular season this weekend. They're currently 10-point underdogs, but considering Army's three wins have come against Villanova, Colgate and Louisiana-Monroe, it's not ridiculous to believe they could finish 7-5. Even if they don't, we have a billion bowl games. There has to be a spot for the Huskies. They've earned it.
Most Uncomfortable Highlight of the Week
That's ... that's not where you want to get hit with a helmet and launched into the air. If I were to power rank the parts of my body where I'd like to take that shot, it's definitely not finishing in the top 20. I might choose it over a knee, but even then, it depends on the angle of contact with my knee.
My thoughts are with Alante Brown and his future children.
College Football Playoff Projection of the Week
Not a difficult projection this week. I suppose it's possible the committee bumps TCU up a spot after the win over Texas, but based on what we've seen from it over the years, it doesn't seem likely.
Until the next Monday After!