By Brian Jones, Photo by Cody Hamilton
You know how the saying goes: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. The Texas Longhorns sure fooled the hell out of me a season ago. In the second year with fresh faces throughout the coaching staff and a number of returning starters, surely this portended a breakout year for the Horns. I actually predicted they would contend for the conference title. I could not have been more wrong. After a strong win north of the boar der at Oklahoma State, everything headed south. West Virginia won a shootout at DKR. Then, inexcusably, Oklahoma once again thoroughly embarrassed Mack Brown 66-13 (5-10 record versus OU, and ownership of the most lopsided defeat in the history of the rivalry).
As my grandma would often remark, “It’s a sin and a shame.”
Shortly after the Red River Rivalry, Big Tex, a staple at the Texas State Fair, went up in flames. Rumor spread that he committed suicide because the stress of watching Texas get neutered was too much to bear. However, as usual, the Horns did manage to rebound after such a deflating defeat to their archrivals. They reeled off four consecutive victories before being outplayed at home on Thanks giving night versus TCU. Kansas State continued its reign over UT the following week. The Alamo Bowl win against Oregon State concluded a 9-4 season for Texas.
Now, if you know anything about the great history of Texas football, you know 9-4 won’t cut it around these parts. Looking forward, the 2013 season holds a lot of promise. The Horns return 18 starters, a well-seasoned quarterback in David Ash, one of the bes t stables of running backs in the nation, a health y stud linebacker in Jordan Hicks, big-time defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and veterans manning the cornerback positions. Therefore, the motto for this team should be: NO MORE EXCUSES!
To his credit, Mack Brown in his pre-camp press conference essentially agreed when he quipped, “It’s time to stop talking and do something!” The Horns will have a chance to impress and do something during early games at B YU and home versus Ole Miss. These matchups should bring significant competition while simultaneously providing an initial assessment as to whether this is a team and coaching staff Longhorn loyalists can believe in. While Oklahoma State and TCU may sit atop my Big 12 rankings, there’s no reason why the Longhorns shouldn’t contend for the title. Oh yeah, it’s still “shame on you Texas” if I get fooled again!
Five Under the Radar
- Michigan State. Fifteen returning starters and QB Andrew Maxwell has a year under his belt. Hopefully, receivers have been cured of the dropsies. This team may have the nation’s best linebacker tandem in Denico Allen and Max Bullough.
- TCU. Seventy percent of players on the roster a year ago were freshman, redshirt freshman or sophomores. No worries; they led the Big 12 in defense their first year in the league. They return very good QB Casey Paschall. He was suspended during the season last year. CB Jason Verrett may be the best cover man in the game.
- Miami. My 1990 Texas teammates may hate to read this: “The U” is back! Like Texas, almost everyone returns from a season ago. QB Stephen Morris and exceptional RB Duke Johnson lead an explosive offense. I’ll have them favored in the big matchup versus Florida in week two.
- Washington. QB Keith Price may not be well known outside of the Pacific Northwest and Pac 12. If he can find the magic and protection he enjoyed two seasons back, everyone will be aware of this young man. This may be the best team the Huskies have fielded in a long time. Plus, they move back to the newly renovated Husky Stadium, which provides legitimate home-field advantage.
- Fresno State. QB Derek Carr and WR Devante Adams adjusted nicely to their new no-huddle spread offense last year. Both were Mountain West players of the year. After sharing the 2012 league title with San Diego State and Boise State, the Bulldogs, I predict, will sit alone atop the Mountain West this season.
National Top 5
- Alabama. The manner in which they reload from year to year is unrivaled. QB A.J. Mc- Carron deserves more praise than he receives. There are holes to fill on the offensive/ defensive line and secondary.
- Ohio State. Sensational QB Braxton Miller returns, as does most of the offense. There are plenty of stud recruits to fill voids on defense.
- Oregon. So what if Chip Kelly left? The high-powered offense will still be a juggernaut. Surprisingly, recruiting violations only led to a slap on the wrist.
- Georgia. Offense will be loaded, with QB Aaron Murray returning for his fourth year as starter, and dynamite RB Todd Gurley. The offense will have to carry the day early, and the team lost a lot on defense.
- USC. This team has much more depth this year, in addition to possessing the best wide receiver in college football, Marquise Lee. I’m believing in the Trojans again.
- Braxton Miller. A dynamic QB that just keeps getting better. Led Ohio State to an undefeated 2012 season. Will be the key to a title shot this year.
- Todd Gurley. The only RB to run for 100 versus Bama’s No. 1 defense last year. He’s smooth, big and tough.
- Jadeveon Clowney. Yeah, I know he’s on defense and the Heisman is an offensive award. But this man-child has a serious appetite for destruction (13 sacks last year).
- Johnny Manziel. After a tumultuous offseason, the Loose Deuce has to be more than ecstatic to be back on the field. It will be extremely difficult to dazzle his way back to New York the way he did last season. But, you never know. He’s the best improviser in the game.
- Teddy Bridgewater. A 2102 Big East Title and a Sugar Bowl win versus Florida have Bridgewater and his Louisville team on everyone’s radar.
- QB Jameis Winston. Florida State has a new potential star under center. Redshirt frosh Winston is a viable dual threat quarterback and dual threat athlete (pitcher, 1.80 ERA).
- DE Robert Nkemdiche. This No. 1 2013 recruit has Ole Miss fans salivating. The same could be said for his would-be suitors on the recruiting trail. The 6-foot-5, 270-pound frosh is already penciled in as a starter.
- RB Derrick Green. While proven backs like Fitzgerald Touissant and Thomas Rawls return, Green has many intrigued by his ability.
- QB Max Browne. USC seems to always have a steady supply of QBs. There’s no difference this year, as they add 6-foot-5-inch Browne. He will definitely push returnees Max Wittek and Cody Kessler.
- WR Marquez North. It was a delight to watch Tennessee wide receivers Cordarelle Patterson and Justin Hunter during their careers. They are now in the NFL, and North brings his 6-foot-4-inch frame to fill the void.