Heading into the dead of summer, we will be taking a look at each team's schedule in the Big 12 and start talking about some early predictions. Today's third installment: Texas.
There is no shortage of opinions floating around this offseason regarding what's in store for Texas heading into the 2012 season. Some think the Longhorns are on the verge of returning to the top of the Big 12. Others are taking a "I'll believe it when I see it approach."
There's no question that how Texas' quarterbacks perform is the biggest variable on what type of success we'll see this season, but here's a look at how the Longhorns' schedule will affect the results on the field.
The Nonconference Schedule: Wyoming, New Mexico, Ole Miss
While there aren't any heavy hitters among the group, the Longhorns three nonconference games should provide a decent indicator of what to expect once the Big 12 schedule gets underway.
Wyoming is coming off an eight win season and while Texas shouldn't have much problems disposing of the Cowboys, don't expect Wyoming to roll over and play dead, either.
New Mexico figures to be the easiest of the three games. Bob Davies is now running the Lobos program but he as a huge mess on his hands to clean up before they reach any sort of respectability. This is a team that scored 10 or less points in eight games last season including getting shutout by TCU, Air Force, and Boise State. A decent prop bet for September 8th would be "Will New Mexico Score?" I'll say no.
Texas' biggest test will come against Ole Miss if for no other reason it's against a team from the SEC and is on the road. The Rebels won only two games in 2011 beating Southern Illinois and Fresno State. While the 'Horns shouldn't have much trouble leaving Oxford with a win, it'll still be a good building block getting Texas out of their comfort zone in Austin.
The Conference Slate
Is Texas going to compete for a Big 12 title? We will likely have that answer, or at least a solid idea, by the middle of October.
The Longhorns open Big 12 play by going to Oklahoma State, then hosting West Virginia, before their annual rivalry game with Oklahoma in Dallas. If Texas drops two of those three to open conference play, a Big 12 title run is going to be an uphill climb and may even require for Texas to win out over their final six games to have a chance at winning the conference crown.
The good news for Texas, however, is that after that opening three game stretch in Big 12 play, the schedule gets ratcheted down a few notches, at least until the final weeks of the season. If Texas finds themselves with two or three conference wins after their first three Big 12 games, they might even be considered the favorites the rest of the way.
Baylor will travel to Austin on October 20th to begin a four game stretch where Texas should be solid favorites to win all four matchups. While Baylor has beaten Texas each of the past two seasons, scoring points against Manny Diaz's defense won't be quite as easy for the Bears minus Robert Griffin.
Texas then travels to Kansas and Texas Tech in consecutive weeks. While winning on the road should never be considered a slam dunk, anything short of winning both games would be a big disappointment and put a gigantic dent in whatever postseason plans Texas may be considering.
Iowa State at home the following week should allow Texas to ride a four game (maybe more?) winning streak into its final bye week of the season.
The off week will give Texas time to get healthy before hitting the homestretch with two huge games to end the year. Let's say Texas is 6-1 or 5-2 in Big 12 play at this point, the Big 12 title could very well be up for grabs.
Texas will get TCU at home before traveling Kansas State which is a game the likely scares any Longhorn fan. Kansas State has racked up four straight wins against Texas including last year's 17-13 win when the Wildcats pulled out a victory despite gaining only 121 total yards of offense.
What Does it all Mean?
Phil Steele has Texas ranked as the #1 surprise team heading into the 2012 season. The potential is obviously there to have the type of the season that'll make the mediocre results of the past two years a distant memory.
The schedule won't be easy but Longhorns should enter Big 12 play with a 3-0 record. How they fare over the next three games will be the tell-all on what type of season is ahead. Win all three (Ok. State, WV, OU) and a Big 12 title is a distinct possibility. Lose two or three and another middle of the pack finish is a distinct possibility.
The officials predictions will come out later this summer, but Texas is going to be better in 2012, maybe much better. Does that mean a Big 12 title? The first hunch here says they'll fall short of that goal, but this will likely look much more like the Longhorns we were accustomed to seeing under Mack Brown prior to 2010.