The Fixer Uppers of Texas College Football
It’s September. The kids are in school. The weather is (maybe) thinking about starting to get cooler and the college football season is finally upon us – Rice officially kicked off the season last night with a 46-14 road loss to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.
But, opening weekend is the first time fans get to see whether their school’s rebuilding projects are finally ready. And, as game time approaches, you can’t help but feel there are still some "fixer uppers" – like from HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines.
It’s a slightly awkward turn, sure, but this whole real estate analogy will work.
Starting with the Texas Longhorns, they traditionally have had the biggest house, on a manicured corner lot, in an expensive neighborhood. That house has been undergoing a major renovation for the last few years and, frankly, a lot of the neighbors – and a TV network – are tiring of the dust, noise and unsightly dumpsters.
Coach Charlie Strong and Texas fans hope for a strong showing against tenth-ranked Notre Dame Sunday night on national TV. But, after two successive seven-loss seasons, fans want a winner.
History could be on Strong’s side, though. In his third year at Louisville, his team went from seven wins to 11. But, for that kind of turnaround in Austin, the team will need help from either senior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes or freshman Shane Buechele, whomever establishes himself as the starter – a decision about which Strong has been decidedly cagey. You can hear more on that in Ben Philpott's interview with Senior Editor of the Alcalde, Chris O'Connell, below:
Speaking of quarterback problems, down the block at Texas A&M, there’s a lot of curb appeal, but some are beginning to wonder what’s going on inside the house. Coach Kevin Sumlin watched his two top quarterbacks transfer to other schools. And, over the summer, they lost top recruits after some tweets by an assistant coach. That wasn’t even the worst thing Texas A&M assistants did over the summer: two assistants were suspended after a sexist presentation made for female fans in July.
After exceeding all expectations in Sumlin’s first season in 2012, they’ve managed nine, eight and eight-win seasons in, arguably, college football's toughest conference, the SEC. Sumlin will hope to string some more wins together – starting with UCLA on Saturday – before Aggie fans begin to clamor for a remodel.
Then, there’s Baylor. The gilded house that former head coach Art Briles built has been torn down. Briles, the school’s president and the Bears' athletic director are gone, after they mishandled sexual assault allegations against members of the football team.
Former Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe has been brought in to pick up the mess, for now. A lot of the talent is still on the team that has won 10 or more games in the past three seasons. And much of Briles’ coaching staff is still in place. There will be wins, but, this fall, they may not be the most important things for the program to obtain.
So are you ready to see your fixer upper?
Baylor kicks off tonight against Northwestern State, while the Aggies take to Kyle Field tomorrow afternoon against the UCLA Bruins and the Longhorns take on the Fightin' Irish on Sunday at 6:30 p.m.