We interrupt the free agent football frenzy to go back to school for one afternoon as we continue our series of going through the schedules of college teams of particular interest to those in the Houston area — Texas A&M, Texas and Houston, among others. Today we look at the Texas Longhorns.
It would be easy to dismiss the Horns off last year’s abysmal 5-7 season, which really came out of nowhere. A year before, Texas was 13-1 and losing to Alabama in the national championship game.
But Garrett Gilbert struggled at quarterback, the offensive line was abysmal and the much-ballyhooed Will Muschamp defense was surprisingly mediocre.
So Mack Brown cleaned house on the coaching staff, brought in another stellar recruiting class and has geared up for another run.
Which Longhorns team will show up? The smart money is on one that is much better than last year’s team. The Longhorns won at least 10 games a year under Brown for nine straight seasons, and nine per year for three before that. It’s safe to assume the 5-7 was the abberration.
Gilbert remains a question mark, but there is other talent at the position if he doesn’t pan out. Expect Texas to be back in the mix for the Big 12 title, and if not, good enough to get back to the nine win plateau.
Here is how the schedule breaks down:
Sept. 3 vs. Rice. The Owls might be a better team this year and have it not show up in their record. They play a tough schedule and simply don’t have the horses to hang with Texas. The Longhorns did not play well and beat Rice last year; expect better play and a bigger win. Prediction: Easy win.
Sept. 10 vs. BYU. This one is a little more tricky. BYU is a solid program and has knocked off Big 12 powers before. (Just ask OU). Still, talentwise the Longhorns have a significant edge, and with a game under their belts, should be even better in Week 2. If not, this might be the game that forces at change at QB. Relatively easy win.
Sept. 17 at UCLA. Yes, the Bruins thrashed Texas last year, but they have questions at quarterback and lost their two best defensive players. The Longhorns will be looking for revenge and should get it in a big way. Easy win.
Oct. 1 at Iowa State. Yes, the Cyclones beat Texas last year, but…do you really expect that to happen again? Me neither. Iowa State figures to be near the bottom of the Big 12 and the Longhorns should get it done. Relatively easy win.
Oct. 8, Oklahoma. Always a great rivalry game, even when one of the teams isn’t very good. Oklahoma is very good. Texas is pretty good. This game often has national championship implications, and expect that to be the case again. The Sooners are better right now, but it won’t be easy. Close loss.
Oct. 15, Oklahoma State. The Longhorns have played some shootouts with OSU over the years, and usually come out on top. In a game that could determine who finishes third in the Big 12, this one could go either way. Playing in Austin gives the Horns a slight edge. Very close, but a win.
Oct. 29, Kansas. I like Turner Gill as a coach, but it’s going to take a while for Kansas to get going again. The two week break helps Texas, but the Longhorns don’t need it. Easy win.
Sept. 5, Texas Tech. The Red Raiders have been getting largely ignored, but this is a good football team. If the game were in Lubbock, we might go the other way. But Texas should win this at Austin. Close win.
Sept. 12 at Missouri. The Tigers are another under the radar team. In the old days, Texas would roll them. However, the Longhorns aren’t all the way back, and on the heels of a tough game against Tech, the Horns could stumble here. Could go either way, but close loss.
Sept. 19, Kansas State. There’s something about Bill Snyder that gives the Longhorns fits. K State isn’t very talented, but the Wildcats play hard and don’t beat themselves. They coulod easily throw a scare into the Horns here. Surprisingly close win.
Sept. 24, at A&M. Aggie fans basking in last year’s victory probably already have this one marked down as a W. But if the Longhorns are playing well at this stage, and Gilbert has his act together, this could be the game that officially marks the return of the Horns. Could go either way, but we will give the Aggies a slight edge. Close loss.
Dec. 3 at Baylor. The Big 12’s questionable decision to stick with 10 teams leaves no title game and a dead spot after the A&M game. So the Longhorns finish with a trip to Baylor. The Bears upset Texas last year, but everybody got a piece of the Horns in ’10. The redemption tour finishes here. Close, but a win.
Thus, if the Horns are indeed back, 8 or 9 wins would be the bottom. If they are the same group as last year? It could get ugly. Still, we think they bounce back and do what Brown has always done — win 9 or 10 games.