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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

The Times' college football countdown: No. 6 Texas

The Longhorns have gone only 13-12 the last two seasons, but Coach Mack Brown appears to be building another championship contender.

August 23, 2012|Chris Dufresne
  • Texas Coach Mack Brown announced Wednesday David Ash would be the starting quarterback, for now.
Texas Coach Mack Brown announced Wednesday David Ash would be the starting… (Eric Gay / Associated Press )

Texas has a record of 13-12 the last two years and enters this season with another quarterback controversy.

This isn't Chris Simms versus Major Applewhite, the debate that once divided Longhorns Nation. It's not even last year's four-man, musical-huddle battle that clogged up what you need most at the position: forward progress.

This time, it's David Ash or Case McCoy, and it might be the only annoying snag keeping Texas from a run back to the top.

Texas Coach Mack Brown, entering his 15th season, announced Wednesday it would be Ash, for now.

"It's obvious you have to have one to walk out there first," he said.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Brown thinks Texas is close to competing for another national title. He might be shooting for January 2014 at the Rose Bowl, in the last Bowl Championship Series title game ever played, at the site where Texas won in 2005 and 2006 and almost won in 2010.

Or, Texas might be ready now.

"I think if you didn't think that, Lord, you shouldn't be at Texas," Brown said.

At 60, Brown is focused again after the doldrums that followed the 2009 season and the January 2010 title-game loss to Alabama in which Colt McCoy, his star quarterback, was injured on the Longhorns' first drive.

Texas slumped to 5-7 in 2010 and finished only 8-5 last year. A report from Kansas late in the season speculated Brown would retire after the Baylor game.

"I promise you this," Brown shot back. "When I do retire, it won't come from a tweet in Topeka, Kansas."

Texas responded by defeating California in the Holiday Bowl, a launching point for previous Longhorn BCS resurrections.

Brown signed a contract extension — worth $5.2 million per year, through 2020 — and his team is starting to get that champions look. Texas is still young, with only four seniors on the two-deep, but unabashedly talented.

The hiring of Manny Diaz last year to run the defense produced a No. 11 national ranking in a throw-happy Big 12 Conference in which the champion won with a defense ranked No. 107.

Blue-chip running backs are lining up to take handoffs in the Texas backfield. The schedule almost screams 10 wins with Wyoming and New Mexico for starters followed by a trip to crummy Ole Miss. Texas opens league play at Oklahoma State against a team starting a true freshman at quarterback.

Texas is 28-1 all-time against Texas Christian, which joins the Big 12 this year. West Virginia, the other newcomer, has to come to Austin.

The difference makers, as always, will be Oklahoma and Kansas State. Bob Stoops' teams have knocked Brown's teams out of several carnival prizes, and Brown has lost four straight against Kansas State.

Brown doesn't expect Ash or McCoy to carry the team the way Vince Young and Colt McCoy did for eight seasons en route to two title-game appearances. His rebuilding has focused on making Texas tougher and more diverse.

"I don't want to have where the success of our football team is totally on one person's shoulders," he said this summer.

He needs somebody, Ash or McCoy, to provide enough leadership to guide the Longhorns to the next level.

Texas doesn't need another two-step here — it needs someone to step up.

The countdown so far: 25. Notre Dame; 24. Texas Christian; 23. Utah; 22. Kansas State; 21. Louisville; 20. Boise State; 19. Clemson; 18. Stanford; 17. Michigan State; 16. Oklahoma State; 15. Wisconsin; 14. Nebraska; 13. Arkansas; 12. West Virginia; 11. Florida State; 10. South Carolina; 9. Ohio State; 8. Georgia; 7. Michigan; 6. Texas.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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