Ever since Vince Young led Texas to the BCS Championship, it seems as if the Longhorns have been looking for a leader. Sure Colt McCoy put up big stats as a freshmen, but he certainly regressed last year and doesn't impose his will on the team as much as VY did. Now for the first time in many years, Texas will probably not begin the season in the top 10. While they have a ton of talent on the squad, there are huge holes to fill at running back and a shaky defense that needs to be filled. Can the Horns bounce back and make a statement in the tough Big 12, or will it be another Holiday Bowl come bowl season?
Offense: It seems as is Colt McCoy has been around forever, but in fact he's only going to be a junior this season. As a freshman, he was a revelation who led Texas to a better year than expected and caused announcers to gush about his baby blue eyes (No homo Musberger). Last season he became mistake-prone though, and turned the ball more than Young Swole's main girl Alicia Sacramone fell during the gymnastics competition. For Texas to be really good on offense, McCoy is going to have to be more responsible with the ball. Last year he had Jamaal Charles to give the ball to, but now he will be turning around to a group of talent yet inexperienced running back options. It looks like either Vondrell McGee or the greatly named Foswhitt Whitaker will replace Charles, but it's going to hard to match his explosivness. Texas also lost playmaker Limas Sweed to the draft, but look for Quan Cosby to have a great season now that he is the number 1 option for McCoy. As always, Texas should have strong line play and be able to control the line of scrimmage against its opponents.
Defense: Texas struggled immensely last year on defense, both failing to generate much of a pass rush or stop opposing recievers from burning an inexperienced secondary. For Texas to have any chance to win the Big 12 South, both these problems will have to be fixed because there are too many good quarterbacks and offenses in this league to try and survive with a subpar defense. The Horns have a ton of talent on this side of the ball, it just hasn't performed to the expected level yet. This is why it was so important that Texas hired Will Muschamp as defensive coordinator. Any observer who has watched Auburn's defenses over the past few years will know that Muschamp demands effort and intensity, as well as expecting his players to be fundamentally solid. With the talent at his disposal, and Muschamp's own coaching ability, I expect Texas to have the best defense in the Big 12 in a very short time. It may be too much to ask this year though, especially with the schedule loaded with great passing offenses.
Coaching: Mack Brown is still the man in Austin, but if his team continues to play undisciplined and underachieve, his same old criticisms are going to start to be whispered again about how he can't coach talent or get his players to win big games. Many people already think he lucked into a title thanks to the extroardinary ability of Vince Young, and quite honestly he's done nothing to disprove that since VY moved onto Tennessee. His hiring of Muschamp was an excellent move, and no one argues that Mack gets that 'cruitin done every year. He may need to overachieve this year more than ones in years past if he wants to avoid criticism, because there ain't much grace time between accomplishments in Texas, and he's used up about all he's had already.
Predicted Schedule and Outcomes:
Florida Atlantic - W
@ UTEP - W
Arkansas - W
Rice - W
@ Colorado - L
Oklahoma - L
Missouri - L
Oklahoma State - W
@ Texas Tech - L
Baylor - W
@ Kansas - W
Texas A&M - W
With 7 home games, and only 3 true road games, the schedule sets up nicely for the Horns. The problem is that they face arguably the toughest 3 opponents from the Big 12 North besides the South mainstays. The early out of conference games will be tougher than expected, and any complancency could mean that either Florida Atlantic or UTEP could pull a big upset. The game at Colorado starts a rough 3 game stretch that Texas may be underdogs in each. Its also going to be tough for Texas to win in Lubbock, because that Red Raider offense will be licking its chops to get at Texas' weak secondary. 4 losses isn't going to make the natives happy in Austin, but this squad doesn't seem to have the vintage Texas explosivness and athleticism, and they are playing a very difficult schedule. This team is going to have to get mentally tough really quick if they are going to survive this year and make it any further than the Alamo Bowl. At least the cheerleaders are still hot as f*ck though, which is always appreciated.