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College football top 25 countdown: No. 11 Texas

The Longhorns, with an up-tempo offense and 19 returning starters, could make a run at the Bowl Championship Series title, but the defense needs work.

August 17, 2013|Chris Dufresne
  • Could Texas Coach Mack Brown lose his job if the Longhorns have another sub-par season in 2013?
Could Texas Coach Mack Brown lose his job if the Longhorns have another sub-par… (Ricardo B. Brazziell / Associated…)

This ranking may be more intuitive hunch than it is rooted in statistical study.

The way I see it, Halley's comet comes around every 75 or 76 years and Texas football comes around every four.

Texas has appeared in the Bowl Championship Series title game the last two times it has been hosted by the Rose Bowl, 2005 and 2009, so it seems feasible the Longhorns could ring out the BCS era with a return trip to Pasadena next Jan. 6.

Texas has a cozier recent relationship with the Rose Bowl than several Pac-12 and Big Ten schools. The Longhorns have played three postseason games in Pasadena since UCLA played its last.

Arizona has been a Pac-12 member since 1978 and has never appeared in a Rose Bowl, while Texas could give the Big Ten's Minnesota (last appearance 1962) a guided tour of the grounds.

None of this sentimental-journey sap would mean anything, though, if Texas didn't finally have the right stuff to get back.

We last left the Longhorns shellshocked after the 2009 season national title defeat to Alabama doomed by the early injury to quarterback Colt McCoy.

Texas has not been the same since, as a 22-16 record over the last three years would suggest.

They say Coach Mack Brown is on the hot seat and Austin seats get pretty hot in August.

Brown thought his team had to get more like Alabama after that loss. The epiphany came when McCoy got hurt and Texas lost its best running back. The Crimson Tide countered by pounding a double dose of Mark Ingram (116 rushing yards) and Trent Richardson (109).

"They had two backs run for 100 yards and we couldn't run the ball," Brown recently reflected.

Texas tried to go more pro style but it just didn't work, plus the defense just got progressively worse.

Flash forward to now: Brown has junked the power tools in favor of up-tempo gadgetry that will give talented David Ash the freedom and flexibility Vince Young and McCoy enjoyed.

Under new coordinator Major Applewhite, the offense will try to increase its plays-per-game average from 68 to somewhere in the 80s.

Ash made huge strides last season, completing 67% of his passes and he returns as the Big 12's most experienced quarterback.

Texas returns 19 starters, and is loaded at key positions. The backfield is three-deep and all five linemen are back.

"We are a faster team," Brown said. "We are an older team."

Ah, but is Texas a better team?

What needs to be fixed is a defense that last year couldn't stop a camel's hair through the eye of a needle.

Up-tempo offenses typically put even more pressure on defensive units because they tend to score fast and punt fast.

Texas finished No. 67 overall on defense last season and No. 73 in scoring at 29.2 points per game.

What gives? Two years ago, the defense led the Big 12 in the category of fewest missed tackles. Last season, they had the most missed tackles.

Brown thinks the defense will be in better shape practicing against his cranked-up offense, but that's certainly not a money-back guarantee.

Texas hasn't defeated Oklahoma since 2009, and was embarrassed last year, 63-21, yet the Longhorns appear to be catching the Sooners in a transition year.

Texas has difficult trips to Brigham Young and Texas Christian, which won in Austin last year. That said, this is a schedule that can get stretched to 12-0 with the right combination of execution and breaks.

See you Longhorns in Pasadena?

Top 25 so far: 25. Oklahoma; 24. Wisconsin; 23. Fresno State; 22. UCLA; 21. Texas A&M; 20. Notre Dame; 19. Oregon State; 18. Oklahoma State; 17. Arizona State; 16. Nebraska; 15. Louisiana State; 14. Florida State; 13. Michigan; 12. Boise State.

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