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Chris Dufresne's preseason college football top 25: No. 8 Texas

Sophomore Garrett Gilbert is more a pro-style quarterback, so Texas is junking the spread offense that led it to two Bowl Championship Series title games.

August 25, 2010|Chris Dufresne

The Times' Chris Dufresne unveils his preseason college football top 25, one day (and team) at a time.

No. 8 Texas

The decision last year to visit Austin to anoint Texas as preseason No. 1 was based on two crucial factors: senior quarterback Colt McCoy and Mexican food.

Darn if Texas didn't nearly win the whole enchilada.

The Longhorns had a few close scrapes along the way — if you call close needing one second put back on the clock in the Big 12 Conference title game to kick the game-winning field goal against Nebraska — but made it all the way to the Bowl Championship Series title game at the Rose Bowl.

Texas was playing Alabama off its feet early when McCoy was forced from the game because of a numb throwing arm after he was nailed in the back near the Crimson Tide goal line.

Freshman Garrett Gilbert had to be summoned from a stupor.

Texas Coach Mack Brown recounted the story at Big 12 media day this summer: "I said, 'Garrett, get your helmet.' His eyes were as big as silver dollars. He looked at me like, 'You got to be kidding.' And he couldn't find his helmet."

Despite having four of his passes intercepted, Gilbert finally settled down and nearly rallied Texas to victory.

The bad news for Longhorns fans was Texas lost the title game.

The good news was Gilbert got a head start in the heir-apparent business.

McCoy, four years before, had no experience when he took over from Vince Young.

Gilbert assumes control having faced more pressure in one night than he might the rest of his career.

"I think his presence in the national championship game gave him instant credibility with the older kids," Brown said.

That doesn't mean Texas is going to win it all this year, as the departures of McCoy and receiver Jordan Shipley represent huge production and leadership losses.

Texas has to rethink the way it operated under Young and McCoy, two prolific running quarterbacks.

The problem with McCoy being Texas' best runner was that when he was injured against Alabama, the Longhorns were down a star quarterback and a tailback.

Gilbert, at 6 feet 4, is more a pro-style quarterback, so Texas is junking the spread offense that led it to two BCS title games.

The Longhorns will put Gilbert under center more and try to revitalize a running game that ranked fifth last year in the Big 12. It's going to be up to sophomore Tre' Newton and junior Foswhitt Whittaker to pick up the slack if the Longhorns are going to contend with Oklahoma in the South Division.

Texas also has to replace five starters on defense, but it doesn't recruit hand-me-downs. If Alabama can be ranked preseason No. 1 despite losing nine starters on defense, Texas can be ranked No. 8 even with its key losses.

Texas' schedule starts with a home appetizer, Rice, and then Wyoming, which gave the Longhorns a first-half scare last year in Laramie.

The money games are Oct. 2 against Oklahoma and Oct. 16 at Nebraska — maybe the most talked-about regular-season game in recent Big 12 history. This is Nebraska's last year in the conference before joining the Big Ten Conference, and this showdown in Lincoln is about politics and revenge. Nebraska clearly got tired of Texas calling the shots in the Big 12 and still hasn't recovered from the clock management in last year's conference title loss.

The countdown so far: 25. Washington; 24. Navy; 23. Utah; 22. Houston; 21. Pittsburgh; 20. USC; 19. Stanford; 18. Auburn; 17. Arkansas; 16. Oregon State; 15. Florida State; 14. Georgia Tech; 13. Wisconsin; 12. Oklahoma; 11. Miami; 10. Iowa; 9. Oregon; 8. Texas.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

twitter.com/dufresnelatimes

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