- TCU (11-3): Gary Patterson is not just the best coach in Texas, but after his performance in the Coach’s Film Room on ESPN, he may very well be the most popular. GP showcased his incredible knowledge of the game of football, especially on the defensive side, as well as his insane recall. Having played both teams over the course of the last three years, he was able to diagnose plays with ease and knew fact after fact about each guy on the roster. But that’s not why the Frogs sit atop the final power poll of the season - that is a credit to what he’s done for his own team. TCU returned the majority of a 6-7 team and nearly doubled their win total, relying on a defense that was once again at the top of the conference and one of the best in the country, and maximizing a limited, though talented, offense. The Frogs got whipped by Oklahoma twice, including in the Big 12 Championship, but ended the year on a high note with another stunning comeback victory in the Alamo Bowl. On top of all that, they signed their highest rated class in history, and have some big time pieces returning in 2018. The Frogs dominated the Lone Star State by earning wins over SMU, Texas, Texas Tech, and Baylor, and in all likelihood, will be the only team in the state to finish ranked in the top 25.
- Texas (7-6): The Horns get the second spot on this list by virtue of being the other team in Texas not wearing purple to win their bowl game. It’s a battle of attrition after the top spot, and though they choked away their last regular season game to Texas Tech, they looked downright dominant against THE MIGHTY SEC in absolutely slaughtering the Missouri Tigers - despite missing several key members of the starting lineup on both sides of the ball due to draft decisions. Texas fans will certainly use a winning season and a bowl victory to claim there is positive momentum around the program and that Tom Herman is the answer. But the news coming out of Austin isn’t all good, as rumors of unhappiness in the locker room and a lack of chemistry with the head coach have been rampart since mid-season. With another stellar recruiting class on board though, Herman will be in win now mode come 2018. The question is, can he actually bring Texas BACK?
- UNT (9-5): A disappointing end to an impressive season shouldn’t take too much of the shine off of the Mean Green and Seth Littrell, who played for a league title and won ten games. Though they couldn’t get the magical tenth win in a bowl game, there is plenty to be excited about going forward, and reason for enthusiasm around football in Denton for the first time in a long time.
- Texas A&M (7-6): Kevin Sumlin is gone, Jimbo Fisher is in, but little has changed in his first month on the job. Of course, you can’t really blame Jimbo for the Aggies embarrassing bowl loss to Wake Forest, but he absolutely will be judged on if he can keep this recruiting class together - one currently ranked 22nd. The Aggies lose a lot ot graduation and the draft, and still are without a reliable option at QB, as it remains to be seen whether Kellen Mond or Nick Starkel can play at an elite level. All eyes will be on College Station come the fall of 2018, as Jimbo bears the weight of a ridiculous contract - which could end up being a bargain if he can actually win meaningful games for the first time in a long time at Kyle Field.
- Texas Tech (6-7): Kliff is still there, mostly based off of beating Texas, even though the Red Raiders got exposed by a really good USF team in the bowl game. There are plenty of questions around a program that was supposed to take a big step forward in 2017, but failed to do more than get bowl eligible. And while the questions start with Kliff, they don’t end there, as assistant coaches are fleeing the plains at a surprising rate and recruiting is lagging behind the rest of the conference at a concerning rate (8th in the Big 12, 60th in the nation). On top of all that, the Red Raiders will have big time question marks behind center throughout the spring and likely into the fall, as they hunt of the guy after the guy after the guy - and the options aren’t great. Is it win now or say goodbye for Kingsbury in 2018? Very likely yes.
- SMU (7-6): Chad Morris - he gone. It was only a matter of time before SMU’s impressive young coach left for the greener grass - and bigger salary - of the Power Five, but seeing him bolt for Arkansas was a little surprising. Taking his place is Sonny Dykes, a Lone Star Legend who has had mixed results in his time as the lead dog. Dykes arrives in a good situation in Highland Park though, with plenty of talent left of the roster, positive recruiting momentum, and impending upgrades to the Ponies waning facilities. And best news of all, maybe, is Dykes could be a long-termer on the Hilltop.
- Houston (7-5): If Gary Patterson won the film room, Major Applewhite might have lost it. The young coach had little to add to the conversation, and seemed overmatched when it came to X’s and O’s. Applewhite got thrust
- Baylor (1-11): I don’t know how Matt Rhule did it, but he’s going to end up signing a top 25 recruiting class coming off of a one-win season. The chance to play early certainly helps, but man, you can’t help but be impressed with how quickly he is building Texas roots. Smart hires, including several former high school coaches from across the state, helped, but it’s Rhule’s personality and trustworthiness that seal the deal. The Bears will be bowl eligible in 2018, just you watch, and in a few more years might be reaching back towards 9 or 10 wins. I hate saying that, by the way, but I think Rhule is the real deal, and with the skill talent he has coming back, Baylor is going to get turned around, and quickly.
- UTSA (6-5): The Roadrunners were a six win team without a bowl invite, and with how they played down the stretch, that’s no surprise. Frank Wilson is already working on rebuilding his staff, bringing in a veteran high school coach and elevating a GA to put some youth in the mix. UTSA has had talent, that’s not ben a problem, now they have to continue to develop it and get their young team to close games. The Roadrunners could be primed for a bounce-back campaign, and if they don’t, the seat in San Antonio might get warmer than Bret Bielema’s in the film room.
- Texas State (2-10): It feels like the Bobcats are in for more of the same in 2018, as Withers will return as head coach after a two win campaign. It’s as tough a job as there is in the state, as there doesn’t seem to be a ton of support around the program from administration or fans. With Rice and UTEP looking like they are on the come up, Texas State might be plummeting down the rankings.
- Rice (1-11): Mike Bloomgren is a home-run hire for the Owls, as he brings a resume full of success on the offensive side of the ball to Houston, as well as experience working within the confines of extraordinarily high academic standards from his time as Stanford’s OC. Bloomgren oversaw guys like Bryce Love and Christian McCaffrey while leading the Card’s offense, and should be an ace recruiter for the Owls. Rice has had football success before and they can have it again, and I have a feeling it will happen sooner rather than later with Bloomgren at the helm.
- UTEP (0-12): UTEP finishes a winless campaign, but the hiring of Dana Dimel brings hope for the future. Dimel, who most recently served as the offensive coordinator at Kansas State after stints as a head coach at Wyoming and Houston, is a great recruiter whose teams can run the ball and score in the red zone, and should have success with the Miners almost immediately. The program has no where to go but up, and Dimel can take them there.
There is absolutely no doubt who the best team in Texas is.