Hardly anyone outside of Fort Worth was talking about Texas Christian football during the summer.
Most of the Big 12 Conference buzz revolved around preseason darlings Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The Horned Frogs were, at best, an afterthought.
That should change this week after Texas Christian rose to No. 9 in the AP poll Sunday, elevated by a 44-31 victory over Oklahoma State.
“People can say what they want to say,” defensive end Ben Banogu said after the game. “But we know what we are.”
The Horned Frogs are a team that is getting solid play from quarterback Kenny Hill and showing the sort of defense that can give opposing passers a headache.
And they aren’t the only surprise in the top 25.
Georgia jumped four spots to No. 7 after beating Mississippi State 31-3 in a Southeastern Conference matchup. At the same time, several highly ranked teams struggled last weekend.
It all adds up to a muddier national picture — No. 1 Alabama followed by a jumble of potential contenders — heading into this weekend.
Clemson, Oklahoma, Penn State and USC — the four teams directly below Alabama — will probably spend the next few days licking their wounds. As Clemson coach Dabo Swinney put it: “We had our nose bloodied.”
The stakes are especially high for Swinney and his second-ranked Tigers, who needed a fourth-quarter surge to put away Boston College. They will hit the road for what could be Saturday’s most-entertaining matchup against a dangerous Virginia Tech that has risen to No. 12.
No. 5 USC also has it tough, taking an inconsistent offense and a banged-up defense to No. 16 Washington State. The Cougars are undefeated and scoring 43.8 points per game.
“We are going to look at the film, look at the mistakes we made and correct those and move on from here,” Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold said. “I think we can only get better as an offense.”
Now that Alabama has dispatched Vanderbilt, the SEC’s would-be Cinderella, the search continues for someone who can truly contend for the conference title.
Auburn, Louisiana State, Florida and Tennessee have fallen short of expectations through the early season. Georgia might be the best bet, but has been playing without injured quarterback Jacob Eason.
The situation could get clearer with Georgia traveling to Tennessee and No. 13 Auburn facing No. 24 Mississippi State.
Some coaches and conference leaders have grown uneasy about a marked increase in targeting penalties. There have been calls for immediate action.
One voice advising patience is Stanford coach David Shaw, whose team faced UCLA in a game in which players from each team were ejected for targeting.
“We should always operate with caution,” Shaw said. “We should always err on the side of, it is a penalty.”
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