I waited an extra week to do these, partly because of my schedule but also to get a better look at these teams. I feel more confident in assessing this group but I am still waiting to see something from a couple to really get a feel for how to rank them.
1) University of Texas
This is by far the easiest part of the list, Texas is the most talented team and is coming off a strong performance in their loss to LSU. Offensively the Horns are banged up in the backfield, meaning Ehlinger is being asked to carry a substantial load. So far, he has looked sharp but long term for his health and the team’s success they need Ingram to rebound from a poor performance.
Defensively, this group is young and talented. The youth really showed against the Tigers, and these DBs had no answers for a veteran group of receivers. They were in the right place usually, but just could not body up and take the ball away from the receivers. Also, at times pressure failed to get home allowing Burrow to pick them apart with ease which can happen to any secondary.
Texas is back, but back does not mean a national title this year.
2) Texas A&M
The Aggies looked awful against Clemson. That garbage time touchdown cleaned up the score, but they looked just bad. Of course, Clemson will do that to you and there were some bright spots.
The defense was outclassed, but stayed in the fight and forced Lawrence to make critical errors. Offensively though, Mond was completely out of his depth. The quarterback who calls himself the best in the SEC looked about as bad as you could.
If Mond continues to struggle, which I believe he will, the Aggies are going to sink like a stone on this list.
3) Texas Tech
Call it confirmation bias, but I expected Tech to look this good and they have. Across all phases the team looks far more disciplined and tougher. Defensively, Tech finally has the dudes to not just compete with, but dominate matchups. The secondary is a concern, but the front seven look like the best in the state.
Khalil Tate will test that assertion, but I think the Red Raiders are up to the task. Offensively, Bowman is the best quarterback in the state and the offensive line will get healthy. When they do, there will be no stopping this offense.
The running backs and receivers are talented, and Bowman can distribute the rock like nobodies business. The question for years in Lubbock has been can the defense do their jobs, Saturday will be time for the question to get answered this year.
I don’t feel right separating these two teams quite yet. TCU can easily make an upward move if they dominate Purdue. Baylor won’t get to prove itself till the game against Iowa State. TCU is probably worse, especially on offense, but with only one game under their belts I will wait to pass judgement. Baylor has looked good against terrible teams, and I just can’t bring myself to buy into that.
SMU beat up an overrated, but solid North Texas team. With an explosive offense, and a surprisingly improved defense the Mustangs have an opportunity to be the first G5 team to hop into the top spots above the P5 schools.
I believe SMU is finally ready to compete in the AAC, maybe pick up 8 wins and a bowl victory. An upset of TCU would go a very long way for changing how the state views this program, and so far this year the Mustangs are off to a great start.
Houston moves to the end of this list largely because SMU has the better win. I still like King, he is an under-the-radar talent capable of huge numbers. But the Cougars never seriously threatened Oklahoma and I wanted to see at least a little fight. Yes, they were never going to win but for the majority of the game they just rolled over.
They woke up late, and the offensive talent was on display but I wanted to see them jump out of the gate and throw a punch and the best we got was a weak jab. The defense is porous, and is feeling the loss of Ed Oliver in a big way. But I still think this is an 8 win team. SMU and Houston could be a hell of a game this year.