Four-Year Trend: 2008 (12-1), 2009 (13-1), 2010 (5-7), 2011 (8-5)
Notable Player: Alex Okafor, Defensive End. I could have just blindly picked David Ash, who was just named the starter, but the Longhorns will be fine if Ash just shows moderate improvement. Let’s just put it this way, they wouldn’t be the first team to finish in the top ten with a “game manager” quarterback. (Nods at the SEC). Texas is ranked where they are because of the defensive potential and strength of the offensive line and running game. Okafor, the defensive end with the wide receiver number, had a breakout year last year and projects as a potential first round pick in 2013. He and Jackson Jeffcoat have the ability to dominate games from the end position, and if they do, we will all be talking about how awesome that David Ash is.
Top Newcomers: Johnathan Gray (RB), Malcom Brown (DT), Peter Jinkens (LB)
Circle This Game: Texas vs. Oklahoma (Oct. 13). If Texas wants to make the big leap back to national contender in 2012, it starts with the Red River Rivalry, which comes immediately after games against likely ranked opponents Oklahoma State and West Virginia.
Why We Like Them: Texas returned to its running roots and pounded teams in 2011 after an anemic effort the year before. Nine returning starters on offense (see here for the average improvement for teams like Texas), a big offensive line, plus the insertion of Gray into the RB mix means teams can expect to face a powerful running game.
Best-Case Scenario: All the young talent comes together, David Ash improves at quarterback, and Texas becomes a BCS bowl contender out of a tough conference, when they win 2 out of 3 tough early conference games against Oklahoma State, West Virginia and OU to begin a run.
Worst-Case Scenario: The offense remains inconsistent from game to game, the Longhorns finish in the middle of the Big XII, and those wondering if Mack Brown should retire wonder a little louder.
Projected Bowl: Sugar Bowl
[photo via US Presswire]
25. Kansas State 24. Virginia Tech 23. Clemson 22. Boise State 21. Stanford 20. Michigan State 19. Notre Dame 18. Nebraska 17. Oklahoma State 16. Wisconsin 15. TCU 14. Florida 13. West Virginia 12. Georgia