2012 Recap: Texas entered the season with hype and returning starters. They ended up 9-4. After finishing in the Top 10 in yards allowed per play three consecutive years, the Longhorns fell to 85th, while losing Jackson Jeffcoat and Jordan Hicks. They could not handle very good to elite offenses. They gave up big plays. It was just a mess. The second-straight blowout against Oklahoma left a sour taste.
The Offense: The Longhorns have everything they need. They return the country’s most experienced offensive line. They are loaded with depth and talent at running back. Their top two receivers come back. They also have the versatile Daje Johnson who averaged more than 10 yards per touch as a freshman. David Ash is oft-maligned. But, at least statistically, he was a Top 20 passer last year and should improve heading into his junior year. Texas plans to join the 21st century by raising the tempo. If this unit even approaches its potential, it will be elite.
The Defense: The Longhorns should have everything they need. They lose Alex Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro, but return pretty much the entire two-deep beyond them. They have top-shelf starters, including Jeffcoat, Hicks and cornerback Quandre Diggs. Manny Diaz did not just forget how to coach defense. This unit should progress significantly, though the Top 10 yards allowed per play range might be pushing it.
The Mack Factor: Sure, there are tangible explanations for every one of the team’s failings the past three seasons, though the broader impression is the team has been in a funk since Colt McCoy went down in the BCS Title Game and Mack Brown may not be the one to eradicate it. Mack has done some great things for the program. But there is too much riding on Texas being good at football to see him lasting after a sub-par season. If Mack does get Texas “back,” that may be the time to back away with dignity.
Credit Card Hook Em: The dip on the field has not diminished Texas fans’ enthusiasm for buying burnt orange crap. The school made the most money on licensed merchandise for the 8th straight year.
Longhorn Network Update: Still not on Time Warner, Comcast or DirecTV.
Ceiling: 12-0. The Longhorns’ luck flips. Their offense is explosive. Their defense is good to very good. They close the power vacuum at the top of a good, but not great Big 12.
Floor: 6-6. Quarterback is a lingering issue. The defense does not solidify. The team gets riddled with injuries again. All four of Texas’ road games are potential trouble points. The Longhorns fall to 4-5 in the Big 12.
Prediction: 10-2. Texas may be “back” and even be the best team in the Big 12. Everything lines up on paper for a title run, but, after going horns up last year and getting burned, we’ll hedge until proven otherwise. This team has not shown a pulse in years and there are too many pitfalls on the schedule.
[Photos via USA Today Sports]