Friday, September 14, 2007

The Strength of Schedule Dilemna

For the past few years, Texas has had to come into the college football season fighting perception. The perception that Texas was a good football team, but played in a weak conference and did not deserve to be listed among the elite teams in college football. If you took a closer look at the schedule, it usually was warranted.

Over the past two years, Texas has worked to fight that perception, scheduling a dangerous home and home with Ohio State, and bringing on teams like TCU and Central Florida, a team that is not a complete walkover. To combat a conference that I would probably put behind the Big East at this point, Texas needs their games against TCU and Central Florida to be convincing and stand up. Well, the win against TCU was convincing. Texas looked like an athletic and multi-talented team on offense and defense for at least a half of that game. It was a game that Texas could point to when TCU went 11-1, with one of the conferences best defenses.

Thursday night, TCU returned the favor, screwing over the Horns with a loss on the road against Air Force. Granted, Air Force is always a solid team, but blowing a 17-3 4th quarter lead, is just painful. It puts into question the type of year the Horned Frogs can put together, as they fall to 1-2, after blowing a 10 point lead against Texas and a 14 point lead in one quarter against Air Force. The psychological damage done by two winnable games gone array could dismantle the entire season for TCU. It is scary to see whether we are looking at a 7-5 team come November and saying, why didn't we beat them worse?

Texas can't afford to have TCU and Central Florida not pan out as quality opponents. When your conference consists of four pop warner teams in the Big XII North (Kansas may be good, it's just hard to tell against High School teams) and two flawed teams in Missouri (No defense) and Nebraska (Not flawed? Wait until USC this weekend), it is difficult to be taken seriously. Even in the Big XII South, that high powered, unstoppable offense of Oklahoma State seems to be put on hold, Texas Tech will always blow out weak opponents and come up short against real talent, and Texas A&M still appears not ready to take the next step after less than stellar performances against Montana State and Fresno State.

It once again appears the Big XII title will come down to Oklahoma and Texas. With Oklahoma somehow turning into a national title contender over night and looking down right scary, it means Texas will either need to pull a big upset against the Sooners, or hope for a BCS at large birth. With TCU faltering, the propostion of having a top 50 strength of schedule and be taken seriously on a national stage looks increasingly difficult.

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