College football: Six September games will determine if Texas has CFP contender in 2016
Preseason college football magazines fill the local news stands but all offer the same bleak message about glass ceilings for teams from Texas: If you're looking for a College Football Playoff contender from the Lone Star State, you'd better set your sights on 2017, not this season.
Either that, or hope the Houston Cougars post a perfect regular-season record that provides them enough political clout, as champion of a non-Power 5 league (American Athletic Conference), to steal a spot in the CFP's four-team playoff bracket from the winner of a blue-blood conference like the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12, ACC or Big 12.
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It might happen if the Cougars finish 13-0. But the prevailing politics of big-time college football suggests otherwise. Also possible: a surprising run to a Power-5 conference title and a CFP playoff berth by Texas A&M (SEC) or one of four candidates from the Big 12: TCU, Texas, Texas Tech or Baylor.
Hey, it's June and all things remain possible because all teams remain undefeated until September. The only certainty is that, if a team from Texas is going to reach the playoffs, it will have to turn some heads with a significant September win. Here are six games that will tell us, very quickly, if the Lone Star State has a CFP title contender to track during the 2016 season:
Oklahoma at Houston, Sept. 3: The Cougars, who return QB Greg Ward and lots of other key pieces from a 13-1 team, face the defending Big 12 champs in a season-defining statement game on opening weekend.
UCLA at Texas A&M, Sept. 3: The Aggies have lots of nice individual pieces led by DE Myles Garrett, an Arlington Martin graduate who is a candidate for multiple national honors. But maximizing the win total behind transfer QB Trevor Knight could be a challenge.
Notre Dame at Texas, Sept. 4: The Longhorns left spring drills with optimism about their young nucleus, which could be led by freshman QB Shane Buechele, an Arlington Lamar graduate. They'll open with a stress test from the Irish, who won last year's meeting 38-3 in South Bend, Ind.
Arkansas at TCU, Sept. 10: The Horned Frogs should be in the Big 12 title chase. Taking down an SEC opponent would boost TCU's "body of work" if CFP committee members need to analyze it in November.
Texas Tech at Arizona State, Sept. 10: The Red Raiders could be a Big 12 contender if elite QB Patrick Mahomes stays healthy the defense improves. Taking things to a national level would require winning this game, however.
Oklahoma State at Baylor, Sept. 24: This is arguably the most intriguing game on the Big 12's September schedule because of the uncertainty surrounding the Bears, who have a talented roster but will be led by an interim coach (Jim Grobe). If Baylor wins this one, the team could carry a 7-0 record into the November stretch run despite the absence of Art Briles, the coach who cobbled together this roster but has been suspended with intent to terminate by Baylor regents.
This article was written by Jimmy Burch from Fort Worth Star-Telegram and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.