Big 12 Preview: Texas

30 Aug

Still just a sophomore, David Ash carries the weight of one of the country’s proudest football programs this season. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images North America).

Overview: Here’s the thing about Texas. Everyone expects the Longhorns to be good every single year because , well, they’re Texas. The Longhorns might clean up this year, but here is a fact to keep in mind: Texas is 13-12 in the last two seasons. If it were any other team, expectations would not be so lofty.

This year the Longhorns return six starters on offense – four linemen and two receivers – and six starters on defense – two lineman, a linebacker and three defensive backs. The 2011 offense ranked 54th in the country, while the defense finished 11th.

Offensively, Texas should benefit from an offensive line that struggled last season but presumably learned a significant amount in the sometimes-painful process. The quarterback spot is still wobbly. Sophomore David Ash is the expected starter, after he and Case McCoy took turns last year and produced some unsightly numbers: 11 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. If the line clicks, though, being a productive quarterback could be much easier for Ash.

The Longhorns are expected to again have one of the best defenses in the nation. Though they lose linebackers Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson as well as defensive tackle Kheeston Randall, they have plenty of depth. At least numerically, Texas’ defense dominated in the Big 12, holding teams to 22.2 points per game, 96.2 rushing yards per game and 209.9 passing yards per game.

Schedule: The Longhorns encounter some of the league’s best teams in bunches at the beginning and end of their season. After starting Big 12 play at Oklahoma State, the Longhorns play a home game against Oklahoma before going on the road against West Virginia. In the last two weeks of the season, Texas plays in Austin against TCU and finishes up at Manhattan.

Last year against Kansas State: Speaking of that Texas defense … the Longhorns held the Wildcats to just 121 yards of offense on Nov. 19, 2011, allowing a mere 38 rushing yards and 83 passing yards. Despite that outstanding performance and racking up 310 yards of its own, Texas lost to Kansas State, 17-13, in front a record-breaking 100,705 fans in Austin. The Wildcats held off a late surge from the Longhorns, who scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter after Kansas State took a 17-3 lead in the third.

Projection: The Longhorns should be solid, but mainly on the merit of their defense. While Texas has its wondrous reputation for a reason – significant recruiting power is a big part of it – the offense does not live up to that standard this year. The team should be able to force some refreshingly low-scoring, defense-oriented contests, but over the length of the season the Longhorns’ lack of firepower will be too much for it to overcome and contend for the league title. Still, Texas should get between seven and nine wins.

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