CFB Insider

Texas-Sized Games to Kick Off the Season

HOUSTON – This week marks the official start of college football, and football fans throughout the nation are ecstatic.

Fans in the Lone Star State are gearing up for two exciting matchups. Sam Houston will play Texas A&M on the road at Kyle Field on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. central on the SEC the first game. Then at 2:30 p.m., the University of Houston will take on the University of Texas at San Antonio in the Alamodome. 

All teams have fascinating storylines, such as returning quarterbacks attempting to reclaim their thrones, powerful offensive weapons, and high expectations for a successful season opener; thus, fans can anticipate a spectacular Saturday filled with college football.

No. 7 Texas A & M vs. SHSU

The Aggies and their 12th man will host the Bearkats, one of the most formidable FCS teams winning the FCS Championship during the 2020 season, on the first Saturday of college football action.

Sam Houston State finished the 2021 season with an 11-1 record; their only loss came in the quarterfinals of the playoffs against Montana State. The rising Bearkats, coached by Sam Houston State's longtime head coach K.C. Keeler, are aiming for a rise to FBS while joining Conference USA in 2023.

However, with the return of redshirt sophomore quarterback Haynes King, the Aggies' 2022 season is one of the most intriguing of the year. King hopes to retake his reign after suffering a devastating injury in the 2021 season opener against Kent State, where he threw for 292 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions.

The Aggie's Wrecking Crew have their job cut out as they try to stop the explosive Yates, despite having one of the most profound and talented defensive line rotations in the nation, anchored by junior tackle McKinnley Jackson and sophomore EDGE Fadil Diggs.

Yates, the Bearkats' starting QB, is expected to make a splash on Saturday. Sports Reference reports that the Georgia Tech transfer completed 91 of 153 throws for 908 yards, six touchdowns, and three interceptions in seven games last season, making him a threat to rush and pick up yards at any moment like the Aggies' Haynes King.

Furthermore, the rising Bearkats have had a busy offseason. Adding nine FBS players via the transfer portal this season, including former 5-Star safety B.J. Foster and 2018 recruiting class wide receiver Al'vonte Woodard, both from the University of Texas.

To stop Bearkats’ QB Yates, Aggies’ head coach Jimbo Fisher and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin must apply relentless pressure, squeeze the pocket, and rotate as many players as possible from their deep 2022 recruiting class.

The Aggies hope to get off to a solid start for the season thanks to the return of the King and the play of their talented defensive line, led by Walter Nolan, Shemar Stewart, and Gabriel Brownlow-Dindy.

An intriguing fact is that the Aggies have never lost to the Bearkats in their history, holding a perfect 12-0 record against them. The two teams last played in 2013, with the Aggies winning 65-28 behind an offensive explosion spearheaded by Johnny Manziel. 

No. 24 UH vs. UTSA

Houston’s head coach, Dana Holgorsen, hopes to repeat last year's tremendous success as the team prepares to join the Big 12 and enters this game with high expectations.

Last season, the Cougars won 12 games and came within one conference championship game. 

The Cougars' primary ambition this season is to win the conference crown, and their roster depth has sports commentators favoring them over the Roadrunners. 

In addition, the Roadrunners face one of the station's most explosive receivers and a potent passing game, which presents a formidable obstacle due to the disparity in their returning productivity.

Compared to their 13th-ranked returning offense, UTSA's 69th-ranked returning defense leaves a lot to be desired, and it's not apparent who will be defending against UH wide receiver Nathaniel “Tank” Dell and the other key matchups.

With 3,546 passing yards and 1,329 receiving yards between them in 2021, Houston senior QB Clayton Tune and junior WR Dell are one of two quarterback-wide receiver duos returning for the next season, hoping to build on the momentum of the previous season.

“Last year gave us a lot of confidence in what we can do and how we can play and win as a team, and I think that energy’s even higher this year,” Tune said. “We’re just scratching the surface.” 

He continued, “The one goal me and everybody on this team should have is to win a conference championship – get back there and win.” 

A recent recipient of the Herbie Award for Most Exciting Player, WR Dell accounted for about one-third of UH's catches while being a threat downfield with an average of 14.3 yards per reception and a target depth of 12 yards.

Despite this, No. 24 Houston is not entirely out of the woods.

In conjunction with the Cougars' struggle to produce on the road, the rising Roadrunners have lately performed well in the red zone.

In particular, they've scored 61% of the time in the red zone. Equally, UTSA's offensive front boasts four returning starters, and their defensive line should be active against the run, even if they cannot penetrate the backfield.

Last season, UTSA also finished 12-2 after a perfect 11-0 start, helping the team ascend to No. 22 in the rankings. However, after beating the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in the Conference USA title game, the Roadrunners lost the Frisco Bowl and ultimately fell to No. 24 San Diego State.

The Roadrunners are led by record-setting quarterback Frank Harris, who established UTSA single-season records for passing yards (3,177), completions (398), touchdowns (27), attempts (263), completion percentage (.661), passing efficiency (152.5), total offense (3,741), and touchdowns responsible (33), as well as the team's leading tackler over the past two seasons, Rashad Wisdom. Both have been selected as their respective conferences' preseason offensive and defensive players.

Sports commentators and analysts are predicting that the final score will be higher than the point spread, making this one of the most exciting games of the weekend.