This is the last one. Absolutely the last.
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|10-3 (6-2 Big 12/2nd, South)|
|Past Five Years|
|55-9 (35-6 Big 12)|
|Returning Starters, Roughly|
|15 (8 Offense, 7 Defense)|
|The middle of Texas’ defensive line was the strongest point of the team, and the strongest point of the defensive line is the man mountain Frank Okam, a 320-pound force who doesn’t earn the pass rushing glory (just 2.5 sacks in two years, one of them on Matt Leinart in the Rose Bowl), but who does command double teams, close lanes and free up linebackers. He was in and out of the lineup in ‘06 with injuries and as part of the rotation with Roy Miller and Derek Lokey, but a healthy Okam is unanimously pegged as all-Big 12 – all-America by Phil Steele – and a first rounder in next spring’s draft. You can’t rewrite the team’s standard for run defense without this kind of body in the middle.|
|Texas hadn’t won at A&M in 18 years when a few desperate students took a very un-Christian visit to a fortune teller before facing the undefeated Aggies in 1941, a game Texas won 23-0 after burning red candles across campus all week. Coincidence? There are no coincidences in football, son. And so the vision of "Madame Augusta" blossomed into the annual "Hex Rally," where, occasionallly, the divine reveals his allegiances, and players lead a rather spirited roll call:
Maybe part of the problem against A&M last year was that the ‘Horns, as aggressively suggested here, got crunk.
|Bizarre Item of Dubious Interest|
|The first Bevo: tastefully memorialized in some quiet, beatific, dignified corner of campus, befitting his pioneering status? Not quite – he was enthusiastically barbecued for the 1920 football banquet to spare the expense (50 cents a day) of keeping and feeding him off-campus. That Bevo was worthless on-campus because a) he was untamed (he had tried to gore a photographer his first day on the job) and b) A&M students had broken into the stockyard where the steer was held after losing to UT in 1916 and branded him with the score "13-0," the 1915 final in TAMU’s favor. Aggie players were invited to attend the banquet a few years later and served the hide with the still-legible imprint.|
|2000||45.1||184.3 (17)||5.3||88.0 (1)||8||17|
|2001</>||50.7||146.7 (3)||4.8||88.0 (4)||6||15|
|2002||48.0||165.2 (8)||5.4||96.1 (7)||17||22|
|2003||47.2||177.3 (9)||6.5||106.5 (18)||14||15|
|2004||55.2||212.7 (58)||6.6||114.3 (31)||12||13|
|2005||51.2||172.0 (8)||5.1||96.7 (4)||10||11|
|2006||58.3||236.2 (99)||7.5||131.8 (75)||21||13|
Yes, what a stellar performance those award-winners delivered. 2005 seemed to interrupt the beginnings of a more generous trend, but the seal really broke on last year's secondary, whichallowed 29 passes longer than 25 yards (for point of reference, the '05 team allowed fourteen), at least of which I can attribute off the top of my head as touchdowns against the afore-lauded Ross.
Three of the four starters there are gone, and Marcus Griffin's hold on his safety spot is tenuous, and contrary to the handwringing over most wholesale departures in one area, this is probably good news - reversion-to-mean guessing tells us it's
virtually impossible extremely unlikely for UT to be as bad again against the pass as it was last year, and the culprits in that slide aren't around anymore, for good measure. The new, as yet unidentified corners are serious cause for concern; if they turn out to be Chykie Brown and Deon Beasley (as opposed to less-hyped, oft-burned Brandon Foster and/or Ryan Palmer), they're also blue chip kinds of guys - as is ex-linebacker Drew Kelson at safety - who should uphold mediocrity at the very least. And mediocrity, for the moment, is a step up, as long as it's occurring in front of them rather than over their head.
Overly Optimistic Post-Spring Chatter: In related news, Texas allowed halfback passes on consecutive plays to beat them for the touchdown that put Kansas State up for good, three weeks after Nebraska went ahead with five minutes to go on a halfback pass. So, thinks Mack Brown, how about we try us some of them halfback passes, or something like that:
And if Texas coach Mack Brown has much to do with it - the Longhorns will use more gadgetry next fall.
"We've worked really, really hard on running at least two trick plays each practice," Brown said. "We do want to run more trick plays, and we want our defense to see more trick plays, so they can defend them. The kids like it, the fans like it, and I like it."
Until recently, offensive coordinator Greg Davis didn't seem too keen on the thought. But Davis has promised there will be more trick plays next season.
And the player in charge of directing them, quarterback Colt McCoy, seemed excited about mixing in a flea-flicker or two next year.
"We've worked on a lot of trick plays," McCoy said with a smile. "We didn't throw many today."
Trick `em! With the flim flam! Your spring is going well when there's such emphasis on gadgetry, I think, though Greg Davis was careful to stress the fundamentals:
Texas on YouTube: Earl Campbell:
That is all.
See Also: Cotton Bowl memories, courtesy of Jim
Nance Nantz ... Mack Brown handles 1920s reporter guy pretty well, or better than Vince Young, anyway ... Kind of a mismatch here ... James Brown rolls left, baby, in the `96 Big 12 Championship ... Stoney Clark saves the Red River Shootout ... And aliens! in Austin. What, no Independence Day-style, uh, fireworks over the watchtower?
Conventional Wisdom: The magazines are split on Oklahoma and Texas in the division, but they are unanimous about UT getting back to a BCS. Athlon, Lindy's and The Sporting News all like the Horns to win the South and the Big 12 at large, but interestingly (because I don't know who other other than the Sooners might be expected to knock them from it), only Athlon has them playing for the mythical championship (and losing this time, to USC, as if that had to be spelled out, or UT partisans cared about predictions in a championship with a No. 1 Trojan team). The highest ranking elsewhere is fifth, but it's top ten all around.
Best-Case: Texas ought to be the favorite in every game (see above and below), even if it has virtually no chance of repeating the absurd dominance of the `05 champions, and has to be an elite contender. They were close even after the loss last year to Ohio State, save two damning factors in the year-end losses: a) McCoy's shaky size/health and b) a tendency to lapse on defense, in the form of repeated big plays allowed at Kansas State (and Ohio State and Nebraska earlier in the year) and an inability to get Texas A&M off the field. McCoy has supposedly bulked up, etc., and dealing with injury is an inherent issue everywhere; but as much as it needs its quarterback in big games, Texas also needs its defense to make the elite leap the Ds at Oklahoma (2000), Ohio State ('02), LSU ('03), Auburn ('04) and Florida ('06) made in their recent championship runs. There's no way to predict that sort of surge, except to note the presence of the required talent (obviously) and circumstances (in this case, viable experience and a new coordinator), but all of the above teams won big with defense in lieu of a Heisman-quality offensive Hercules, and Texas will have to do that, too. Man for man, Texas has the drop on everyone it plays, so if the consistency is there under Akina, and the expected version of healthy Colt is there for clutch heroics when the time inevitably comes, the specific opponent won't matter until the mythical title game.
The schedule: It's Good!
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Non-Binding Forecast: Texas is used to the idea of a one-game season; this year, barring insurgency out of TCU and/or Oklahoma State, it should expect its fate to hinge on three games: one home (Nebraska), one road (Texas A&M) and one neutral (Oklahoma). Last year's respective close call and upset notwithstanding, UT is more talented and therefore the de facto favorite in the first two until Nebraska finally pulls out an elite win under Bill Callahan and A&M finally shows some staying power; both will have to be better on offense this year than they were last year to keep up with a healthy McCoy. I have to admit I'm a little baffled by the Oklahoma love in the division, too, given the Sooners' serious issues at quarterback and overhaul of its front seven. OU's offense seems destined to be even more one-dimensional than last year, and it only scored ten points against Texas last year.
So on one level, I'm hesitant about Texas' liabilities on the offensive line and in the secondary, one of which seems destined to blow up a championship run without the central, dominant lean-on-me figure the last champions had in Young. On another, though, McCoy apparently expects to assume that role, and might in more Heupel-like fashion (sorry - he's the most relevant recent championship doppelganger for Colt), and the front seven on defense and offensive skill talent is so well-positioned that if UT stops Oklahoma from running and doesn't snap a ball over the punter's head or something, I don't know where that loss will be. I tentatively like UT to beat Oklahoma here, and therefore win the division, and therefore win the conference, and therefore, with this schedule, to be one of the two or three best contenders to play USC for the mythical championship. But also, with no Ohio State-level pelts to bag outside of the conference, the Horns are much better off if the competition for that spot is with the West Virginia/Louisville winner than with LSU or Michigan, unless UT's trail of notable dead - TCU, Nebraska, Oklahoma State (or Texas Tech) and A&M - are all padding their resumes for the cause in the meantime. - - -
Previous assessments, absurd, reasonable and otherwise:
|March 12: Tulane||March 13: Baylor||March 16: UCLA||March 20: Kentucky|
|March 21: Oregon||March 22: Arizona State||March 23: BYU||March 27: Missouri|
|March 28: Troy||March 29: Iowa State||April 3: Alabama||April 4: Akron|
|April 5: Cincinnati||April 9: UL-Monroe||April 10: Army||April 11: Syracuse|
|April 18: Florida||April 20: Southern Miss||April 25: Southern Cal||May 1: North Texas|
|May 3: SMU||May 8: Nevada||May 14: Tennessee||May 21: TCU|
|May 24: Notre Dame||May 29: UAB||May 30: Georgia||May 31: Temple|
|June 1: Houston||June 12: Wyoming||June 14: Nebraska||June 25: Florida International|
|June 27: Oregon State||July 2: Michigan||July 6: Washington||July 9: Boise State|
|July 11: Georgia Tech||July 12: South Carolina||July 13: Ohio State|