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The Week Ahead: The end seems near in Austin

The five biggest stories that the CBR staff will be watching this week:

1. What to do about targeting?

Last weekend featured crucial officiating decisions regarding the new targeting rules in three games that I watched: Oklahoma-Tulsa, Texas A&M-Alabama and Texas-Ole Miss. Each case involved a key defensive contributor (OU’s Gabe Lynn, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of ‘Bama and the Longhorns’ Adrian Phillips).

All three saw the ejections overturned, but the penalties still enforced. You don’t need me to explain the contortions in logic required to make sense of this.

Of course, I doubt that we’ll see much in the way of reform in the short term. Honestly, I’m not sure if the targeting rules need to be changed. I do expect that the debate surrounding them will pick up as the season wears on.

2. Fresno State gets a shot at the king.

Fresno St. once made a name for itself as a thorny mid-major that relished playing anyone, anytime. The Boise State program now represents the standard of success for college football upstarts.

The Bulldogs can take some steps towards reclaiming the throne with a win Friday night against the Broncos – as well as control of the Mountain West. Maybe Fresno St. can even get one of those BCS bids that Boise St. has enjoyed in the past.

3. Texas in the tank.

Trading Manny Diaz for Greg Robinson on the sidelines didn’t make much difference for the Texas defense, which got trampled, again, in a blowout loss to Ole Miss. It was asking a lot to expect a major turnaround in one week, but the Longhorns showed zero signs of improvement.

Everything about this program smells of befuddled desperation.

Humiliating losses to BYU and Ole Miss on consecutive weekends almost certainly mean we’re witnessing the end of the Mack Brown era in Austin. How bad will the end be? Brown’s press conference on Monday should be interesting.

4. Making history for futility?

It was one of the more bizarre moments of the offseason when the news of the termination of Mario Cristobal at Florida International came across the college football transom. It only got more bizarre when FIU opted to replace Cristobal with Ron Turner. The step down in cool-sounding coach names was surpassed only by the loss in coaching acumen.

The Golden Panthers have lost their first three games by a combined score of 115-23. That included a 21-point defeat at the hands of Bethune-Cookman on Saturday. If this keeps up, we’ll be talking about one of the worst teams in the history of FBS football.

5. Cardinal, Sun Devils lock horns in early Pac-12 interdivisional battle.

Usually, Stanford-Arizona State doesn’t exactly jump off the page as a big game. In a slate bereft of meaningful match-ups, though, it stands out as one of the best that this weekend has to offer.

The Pac-12 zebras treated Arizona State to some home cooking over weekend in a controversial win over non-conference foe Wisconsin. The Sun Devils shouldn’t expect the same good fortune this weekend in Palo Alto.

The winner will have survived a tough test early in the season, but both these teams will still have plenty of heavy lifting left to do.

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