Week 1 Preview: Texas vs. New Mexico State

Coaches are back. Players are back. Bevo is back. But is Texas football back?

Saturday kicks off the 16th season of Longhorn football under head coach Mack Brown, and the question on most every fan’s mind is ‘are we back?’ For years under Brown a 10-win season was commonplace. It was a given. It was the expectation. However, expectations have changed somewhat over the past three years as Texas has had to … <gulp> … rebuild. A tough pill to swallow for most fans, but a necessity that every team, even the most storied programs, goes through (see USC, Michigan). With 19 starters returning and a third-year quarterback in David Ash at the helm, expectations are that the rebuilding process for the Longhorns is over.

When asked if he wants the Texas fans to set their expectations as high as they are right now Brown said, “Yes. Expectations are always here and I want them to yell, have fun, and be loud.

“We have a better chance than we have had the last two years to be really good, and everything is in place now and we have to do it but we need the fans help and they will do a great job with that.”

Fans will certainly have plenty of reasons to cheer as football is finally back. Plus, beating the Aggies (albeit the New Mexico State version) is always welcome.

Opponent: New Mexico State Aggies (0-0)

When: Saturday, Aug. 31 // 7 PM CT

Where: Austin, TX (Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium)

Series: Texas leads 4-0-0

Last Meeting: Texas 66, NMSU 7 (Aug. 31, 2003; Austin)

Player to watch (New Mexico State): Senior safety Davis Cazares (#31) led the Aggies and the WAC in tackles last year with 116. His 9.7 tackles per game were tops in the WAC and ranked him 27th nationally. New Mexico State may not always stop the Longhorns, but when they do it’ll probably be Cazares.

Reasons to cheer: Star defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and linebacker Jordan Hicks are both healthy after sustaining season-ending injuries last year. They return to a defense that lost only two starters to the draft and improved from the start of the year. Since halftime of the Kansas game (final 22 quarters of the season), the Longhorns allowed just 121 points. In the 22 previous quarters, opponents scored 242 points.

Reasons to panic: Texas is 10-9 in home games since 2010. Not an encouraging stat. Plus, Brown said on Wednesday that wide receivers Jaxon Shipley and Marcus Johnson were limited some in practice this week and are questionable for Saturday. And defensive tackle Ashton Dosey has decided to transfer. Depth at those two positions could be a concern.

Stat that will make you look like a genius at the tailgate:  Last year, Texas State rushed for 446 yards on 40 carries blowing out New Mexico State 66-28 in the process. If Texas State can rush for that many yards on the Aggies, just imagine what the running back combo of Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron will do.

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Longhorns stay put in latest rankings after bye

Without a game this past weekend, the Longhorns didn’t expect to move much in the rankings as they stood pat at No. 12 in the AP Poll. A couple of teams lost, Oklahoma and Clemson, and moved behind Texas while Kansas State and Florida jumped ahead with wins against conference opponents. The biggest jumps forward and backward were results of the same game as Kansas State (No. 15 to No. 7) and the Sooners (from No. 6 to No. 16) essentially just swapped spots in the rankings. Michigan, UCLA and Arizona all fell out of the top 25 with losses.

AP Top 25
RK TEAM RECORD PTS
1 Alabama (59) 4-0 1499
2 Oregon 4-0 1414
3 LSU (1) 4-0 1346
4 Florida State 4-0 1340
5 Georgia 4-0 1245
6 South Carolina 4-0 1147
7 Kansas State 4-0 1067
8 Stanford 3-0 1055
9 West Virginia 3-0 1045
10 Notre Dame 4-0 1003
11 Florida 4-0 864
12 Texas 3-0 856
13 USC 3-1 801
14 Ohio State 4-0 633
15 TCU 3-0 616
16 Oklahoma 2-1 611
17 Clemson 3-1 588
18 Oregon State 2-0 451
19 Louisville 4-0 414
20 Michigan State 3-1 348
21 Mississippi State 4-0 246
22 Nebraska 3-1 179
23 Rutgers 4-0 128
24 Boise State 2-1 114
25 Baylor 3-0 92

The Longhorns also didn’t budge in the USA Today Coaches Poll as they hung tight at No. 10.

USA Today Poll
RK TEAM RECORD PTS
1 Alabama (57) 4-0 1473
2 Oregon 4-0 1371
3 LSU (1) 4-0 1361
4 Florida State (1) 4-0 1306
5 Georgia 4-0 1224
6 South Carolina 4-0 1149
7 West Virginia 3-0 1137
8 Kansas State 4-0 1000
9 Stanford 3-0 949
10 Texas 3-0 924
11 Notre Dame 4-0 836
12 Florida 4-0 817
13 USC 3-1 813
14 TCU 3-0 705
15 Oklahoma 2-1 699
16 Clemson 3-1 560
17 Louisville 4-0 493
18 Michigan State 3-1 404
19 Mississippi State 4-0 349
20 Nebraska 3-1 327
21 Oregon State 2-0 220
22 Oklahoma State 2-1 154
23 Wisconsin 3-1 102
24 Baylor 3-0 101
25 Rutgers 4-0 98
25 Virginia Tech 3-1 98
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Bye Week Blues? What to Watch this Weekend

A bye couldn’t have come at a better time for the Longhorns as injured LB Jordan Hicks and RB Joe Bergeron need time to heal with the start of Big 12 play coming up. Of course it couldn’t come at a worse time for Longhorns fans as they have to endure a weekend of no UT football. What is a college football fan to do? Fret not, because there is a slate of great Top 25 games going on this weekend. A quick preview of the best:

No. 18 Michigan at No. 11 Notre Dame

Notre Dame is off to its first 3-0 start since 2002 and is coming off a big win against another ranked Big 10 opponent in Michigan State. Michigan’s only loss was in the season opener to probably the best team in the country, Alabama. Big Blue QB Denard Robinson has carried the ball 40 times in three games but with Notre Dame’s Mantei Te’o patrolling the middle of the field, Robinson may be better served pitching the ball more times than not. Regardless, Michigan will likely have a hard time finding the end zone against a team that is only giving up 10 points per game.

Where to Watch: NBC @7:30 PM

No. 10 Clemson at No. 4 Florida State

Florida State has given up a grand total of three points all season. Yes, you heard that right. Three. As in one point per game. Granted that was against the likes of Murray State, Savannah State and Wake Forest, but still impressive nonetheless. They will get their first taste of a real offense this Saturday against junior QB Tajh Boyd and his dynamic, playmaking WR Sammy Watkins. Clemson is averaging 39.7 points per game so something is going to have to give.

Where to Watch: ABC @8 PM

No. 15 Kansas State at No. 6 Oklahoma

The best Big 12 matchup of the week will be in Norman with the Wildcats trying to avenge last year’s 41-point stomping at the hands of the Sooners. It’ll be mostly the same cast of characters from a year ago with KSU’s Collin Klein facing off against OU’s Landry Jones. Both are seniors and both don’t want to see their seasons end after the first conference game. OU is proficient through the air while K-State lives by the run. It will be interesting to see which prevails.

Where to Watch: FOX @7:50 PM

Maryland at No. 8 West Virginia

If you are looking for an early game to watch, I propose you check out the Longhorn’s next home opponent, West Virginia. Senior QB Geno Smith is getting more and more hype as the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy. ESPN’s Heisman Watch currently has him in the top spot right above a pair of running backs in De’Anthony Thomas of Oregon and Johnathan Franklin of UCLA. In two games, Smith has thrown for 734 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions. Couple that with an 88% completion percentage and you have one of the most efficient and dangerous quarterbacks in the country. Longhorn players shouldn’t overlook next week’s opponent Oklahoma State, but that doesn’t mean Longhorn fans can’t.

Where to Watch: FX @12 Noon

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AT&T U-Verse gets LHN

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LHN on AT&T U-Verse

As I live and breathe, the rumors are true! The Longhorn Network is now available on AT&T U-Verse. For confirmed proof, the picture is of my own TV and I’m a U-Verse customer. AT&T joins Grande Communications as the only providers of LHN in Central Texas. If you have U-Verse, check channel 1609. If it’s not there, reset your modem (unplug, then plug back in) and look it up. The season opener, UT v. Wyoming, will be on LHN so now maybe more Longhorn fans in Austin can catch the game.

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SEC Country? Not so much …

SEC Country?

The defectors from College Station won’t be playing tonight due to Hurricane Isaac (which is seriously no laughing matter) so for all those who were excited to see what “SEC Country” looked like on the field, I guess you’ll have to settle for Vanderbilt. If you haven’t seen the billboard in North Austin, take a look at the picture to the left and let us know what you think about it in the comments section.

The problem with this billboard is that, yes you are in the SEC Texas A&M, but that doesn’t make you an SEC football team. Right now A&M is as much of an SEC football team as Kentucky or the aforementioned Vandy. A&M will struggle to separate themselves from the middle of the pack in the SEC because at this moment they can’t compete with an SEC-style team. This could have been addressed when they cleaned house with Mike Sherman and were in the market for a new coach. Did they go out and pursue anyone from the SEC since it’s the “best conference in the country?” Nope, they hired their head coach from C-USA. I thought this was SEC Country, right? The SEC is all about defense and running the football, two things A&M’s head coach isn’t necessarily known for. And I’m not exactly sure he deserves to be known for what he is known for, offense. Kevin Sumlin inherited a University of Houston team from Art Briles that was already prolific on offense and he pretty much only had one QB his entire time there (although Case Keenum was hurt in 2010. their record in 2010? It was 5-7 if you were wondering). Right now, A&M’s football staff has one coach with SEC experience (defensive line coach Terry Price).

Now, how do we bring this back to UT (other than the billboard, of course)? After the loss in the national championship game in 2010, Mack decided that to win a national championship in today’s college football he needed to play tough defense and have an offense that could run the ball consistently (both characteristics that made Alabama the better team in 2010). Yes, there was some growing pains. But with coaches (which were pillaged from SEC teams) like Manny Diaz, Stacy Searels, Bo Davis and Bennie Wylie in their second year at Texas, UT should resemble a team from the SEC much more than A&M. Texas is trying to become an SEC team playing in the Big 12 while A&M is still a Big 12 team that just happens to play in the SEC. I’ll let the season play out and see which team’s philosophy equates to a better record.

One of those SEC coaches that UT stole, Bo Davis, shows what he brings to the table in this LHN video on YouTube. Check it out.

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