Under a new staff and coaching regime, Texas is expected to make many changes this upcoming season. New head coach Charlie Strong looks to bring Texas back into national contention, putting pressure on the Longhorns to win big games during their 2014 campaign. Here are the top five Texas football games to watch this year as the Longhorns start a new era under Strong:
5. Texas @ No. 20 Kansas State (Manhattan, Kansas)
Snyder Family Stadium has always been a tough place for Texas to play, but, with a new coach and mentality, the Longhorns should keep this contest more competitive than their last two trips to Manhattan. Of Texas’ latter half of the schedule, this is the only meeting with a preseason ranked opponent. A win here would be program’s first in Manhattan since 2002 and could build momentum to help the Longhorns win all four November contests.
4. Texas vs. No. 7 UCLA (Arlington, Texas)
The Longhorns and Bruins will face off in a game with serious national implications at AT&T Stadium this September. With a win, the Bruins would be in great shape to make the College Football Playoff if they can emerge as Pac-12 champions. A victory on such a stage could also drastically boost UCLA junior quarterback Brett Hundley’s Heisman campaign. If Texas leaves Arlington undefeated, it would send a message to Big 12 opponents that the Longhorns are ready for the national spotlight once again and that they have come full circle from their loss to the Bruins in 2010 that started the tailspin to mediocrity.
3. Texas vs. BYU (Austin, Texas)
Although Texas’ game against UCLA should be its most hyped up non-conference game, BYU will be in the mind of all Longhorn fans after last season. Texas embarrassingly allowed 550 rushing yards against the Cougars in Provo, Utah, including more than 250 to quarterback Taysom Hill. Assuming Texas gets by North Texas in its season opener, a win against the Cougars could become a springboard for success for Texas’ 2014 campaign. If the Longhorns win convincingly and shut down the run, it could be a good season under Strong. However, if they fall, another mediocre season isn’t out of the question.
2. Texas vs. No. 10 Baylor (Austin, Texas)
The Longhorns will host the reigning Big 12 champion in a rematch of last year’s de facto Big 12 title game that ended poorly for Texas. Tensions should be high, as senior linebacker Steve Edmond’s comments calling Baylor “trash” will likely resonate in the contest. Texas will look to avoid its fourth loss to the Bears in five years, which hasn’t happened since 1992, and a win over Baylor would add even more intrigue to the AT&T Red River Showdown against Oklahoma. Baylor will also be Strong’s first Big 12 home game and should test the Longhorn defense more than any other contest.
1. Texas vs. No. 4 Oklahoma (Dallas, Texas)
Coming off last year’s convincing Sugar Bowl win, the Sooners seem poised to make college football’s inaugural playoff. Oklahoma will likely be a heavy favorite, but the Longhorns ran over the Sooners in similar circumstances last season, capturing a 36-20 win. Regardless of the result, this game could be an omen for what is to come from Strong against the Sooners. With a victory, he could grab the upper hand early over Sooner head coach Bob Stoops in the series.