Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Prelude to a Season... #11

#11.) Texas

What You Need to Know: The easy money says bet against Texas. Losing 7 defensive starters, their starting tight end, running back, and a bevy of wide receivers all makes people hesitant to predict success. Their conference? Killer. Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma State are all on the schedule and are all tough games.

What makes me rank Texas #11... a ranking that I believe is still a bit low? Several reasons...

1.) QB1, Colt McCoy. McCoy is a junior now. He's a leader by experience and personality rather than by default because of his position. After an underwhelming sophomore year plagued by injury, McCoy looks ready to step in and be a Texas QB after all. Added into his equation is a deep and experienced offensive line. That will work wonders for keeping the pressure down and the opportunities to make poor decisions to a minimum.

2.) Head coach, Mack Brown. The knock on Brown has always been that he underperforms with a roster loaded with talent. If underperforming is seven consecutive 10-win or more seasons, five straight bowl wins, and a BCS title in 05, then sure, I guess that claim can be made. Brown is simply one of the best in the business. And he'll prove it this year.

3.) New additions to the coaching staff. Auburn assistant Will Muschamp is now on staff. Muschamp will motivate the defense to perform better, and more importantly, with more passion. End Brian Orakpo characterized Mushamp as "very intense". That's sort of like saying Bill Clinton was "a bit of a ladies man". Orakpo will graduate with honors from the College of Understatement this spring.

4.) Texas is Texas. There's no such thing as a rebuilding year when you're the Longhorns. Injuries last season prompted game experience for players (especially the O Line) who wouldn't have gotten it otherwise. It bodes well this season, as the two-deep is loaded with talent (as it always is) but now has experience.

Who You Need to Know and Their 07 Stats:
QB Colt McCoy: 3308 yds, 22 TD
DE Brian Orakpo: 5.5 sacks
O Line: 9 players return with significant game experience

Game To Watch: October 11th. Oklahoma. Everything about this game screams "Winner a front-runner for the Big 12 and the national title".

They'll Do Well If...: The defense, their weak link in the chain last season, pulls it together and gels in the early games. McCoy keeps his decision making crisp and doesn't get unnerved while in the pocket under pressure. They stay healthy, a significant blow to last season's success.

Season Outlook: In the Big 12 this season, a team's ability to win the conference is directly proportionate to their defense. If a defense is talented enough to shut down the high powered offensive attacks in Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Missouri, then they'll be a contender for the conference. By sheer strength of schedule and conference prestige alone, a conference title in the Big 12 means you're at least in the mix for a national title. Conservatively, UT won't beat everyone. The Horns will be 5-0 heading to their showdown with Oklahoma. After that it's Missouri, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech.a 3-1 stretch will be good news for the Horns and leave them in the hunt. 11-1 in the regular season and an outside shot at the BCS title game even if they don't make the Big 12 conference championship are realistic expectations.

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