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Tramel: Texas State & UTEP have played 3 games; TCU & Baylor none

The Texas State Bobcats already have played three games, plus have another scheduled at 5 p.m. Saturday against Boston College. The Texas-El Paso Miners have played three games, and now UTEP plays at Louisiana-Monroe at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Meanwhile, Baylor and TCU still haven’t played, with their season openers, along with the entire Southeastern Conference, scheduled for Saturday.

It all makes for one more wacky piece to the pandemic-stricken college football season. 

Remember the old adage about teams making their biggest improvement from Week 1 to Week 2? How about teams entering Week 3 playing against teams entering Week 1?

That’s what we’ve got Saturday with 1-1 South Florida playing at 0-0 Florida Atlantic, and 1-1 North Texas playing at 0-0 Houston.

But not all gameless teams are created equal. Baylor hosts Kansas at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, and the Bears are breaking in a new coach, Dave Aranda, who had an abbreviated spring practice, a late-starting summer workout period and a coronavirus-laden preseason camp.

Compare that to TCU, which hasn’t played, either, but the Horned Frogs are led by the same coach who took over in December 2000 and has made Fort Worth a college football hotspot. TCU hosts Iowa State at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

“I think it’s so different,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said of having a game on which to build, as the Cyclones enter conference play. “You’ve got a coach like coach Patterson. Even though this year is unique, who they are, what they stand for, there’s a great foundation. That’s certainly one advantage. They know who they are. Have understood what they’re doing. I think they’ve got great confidence.”

Campbell’s message was clear. In a program like TCU, continuity and scheme prepares the Horned Frogs, no matter of a scheduling advantage an opponent might have.

Campbell also brought up this point: With TCU playing a September 26 opener, the Frogs have been able to pound away with a traditional fall camp, depending, of course, on COVID-19 situations. “I don’t think that’s as big of a difference as other places,” Campbell said. “From aTCU standpoint, their kids understand what game day looks like, feels like.”

Meanwhile, Baylor is ready to play. Kansas is the fourth season-opening for which the Bears have prepared -- they had Ole Miss scheduled before the pandemic torpedoed the season schedule. Baylor added Louisiana Tech for the opener, but when the Bulldogs had to cancel because of COVID, Baylor quickly found Houston as a replacement. Then Houston had to cancel.

Aranda said he and his staff joked around the other day after seeing another game in which a coach had to make a fourth-down decision.

“We forgot that we got judged by that,” Aranda said. “I thought it was all COVID-19, keeping the team together through social injustice. That can lend yourself to a closer, tighter-knit team. We feel confident you’ve got all those pieces in place.”

But then he remembered that fourth downs, clock management, closing out games, two-minute drives, all those mundane football things determine winning and losing. Baylor hasn’t experienced that yet. Two fellow Texas schools have experienced it three times. It’s a strange year.

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Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›