We will have some Power Rankings later (likely tomorrow) but before we get to that it is important to highlight the missed opportunity on display on Saturday. SMU hosted north Texas, and Houston visited Rice, in a couple of cross-down AAC-vs-CUSA battles. Judy’s league was comprehensively beat down, and while there were some good things to see in North Texas‘ improving defense, the end result was two blowouts. NT 12 SMU 35, Rice 7 Houston 44.
For Rice, competing with an apparently really good Arkansas was yet-another morale booster, but looking uncompetitive vs a cross-town rival is quite another. Whatever good Bloomgren has built up is quickly looking like a lot of talk and not a lot of follow-through. Houston still has talent but is by no means a juggernaut. The program has had two losing seasons entering this one, and hasn’t put up a double-digit year since 2015. Rice has been in rebuild mode for about four seasons now. While nothing is over, as a check point for the program it is very disappointing.
A similar thing can be said about North Texas. SMU’s social media team was embracing the rivalry aspect of the series this past week, referring to NT as “that team up in Denton” and that is fun. North Texas, for three quarters, looked like they were going to participate in a competitive game. The final score was not indicative of how well the defense played, but it was a fair representation. Seth Littrell’s powerful offense put up big yardage totals again (500+ yards) but managed only the 12 points. Finding Mason Fine in year one was a combination of good fortune and quality talent scouting. Since then, he has had up-and-down performances from his quarterbacks and overall the offense looks like it is a candy bar — lots of empty calories but doesn’t give you what you need when you need it.
That is to say that the short yardage troubles for SL are still there. NT has potential and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Mean Green put it to UAB for a while next week. I wouldn’t surprise me to see Littrell’s squad come out flat and show more inconsistency: a hallmark of his time in Denton.
For the league, it is a blow. Already teetering on the brink of collapse or at least a reconfiguration, the two in-town programs showed they were clearly second best. SMU and Houston both left this league and on Saturday we could see the pastures were greener in their new homes. Seeing Kansas get run off the field on Friday (with former NT QB Jason Bean) vs Coastal Carolina doesn’t have me thinking that the Big 12 is all that prestigious, but if you think so, well Houston is about to make a nice move onward if not quite upward.