The Longhorns enter 2013 as one of the most experienced teams in the FBS — the opposite of the past two seasons in which Texas was made up of mostly freshman and sophomores — with 19 returning starters and a head coach with 16 years of coaching experience in Austin. Every game is imperative in college football, but these four matchups for Texas will most determine the direction of its season.
Saturday, Sept. 21
Texas has struggled against Kansas State in the last decade. The Longhorns have lost their last five meetings with the Wildcats, dating back to 2006. Whether Bill Snyder is a mad genius, or the Wildcats just have better personnel, Mack Brown hasn’t pieced together a way to beat the Wildcats in a decade.
Kansas State is entering an adjustment period as it rebounds from losing its Heisman Trophy finalist, quarterback Collin Klein. Kansas State returns only 10 starters, only three of whom are on defense. This could cause Kansas State to be shaky at times early in the season, but the Wildcats are too dangerous to overlook, as Snyder-led teams thrive as underachievers. In 2011, Kansas State was picked to finish eighth in the Big 12 and it finished second. Last season, it was expected to finish sixth and it finished first. The Longhorns open Big 12 play with the Wildcats, and how they perform will set the tone for the rest of the conference schedule.
Saturday, Oct. 12
Texas has lost its last three games to Oklahoma in embarrassing fashion, losing by a combined score of 146-58.
But the Sooners lost Landry Jones, their starting quarterback from last season, to the NFL. Jones had led the Sooners to three straight years of at least a share of the Big 12 title. The team recently named Trevor Knight, a redshirt freshman, the starting quarterback over sophomore Blake Bell, who was a strongly favored choice coming out of last season. Knight is a mobile quarterback and impressed many in fall camp.
While a loss to Oklahoma for a fourth-straight year wouldn’t be the end of Texas’ season, it would be a huge blow and could have large implications for the future of Mack Brown’s tenure in Austin. The Red River Rivalry game is more than a fan favorite; it determines the fortunes of both teams every season.
Saturday, Nov. 16
There are two early-season favorites to win the Big 12: Texas and Oklahoma State — the Oklahoma team from Stillwater, not Norman. Before 2010, Mack Brown was 12-0 at Texas against Oklahoma State. However, that changed when the duo of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon came together. The Cowboys blew out the Longhorns by 17 points in 2010, and won again in 2011. Even with that dynamic duo moved on to the NFL, Mike Gundy’s squad remains one of the Big 12’s best. The Cowboys return a talented roster, which includes a wide array of weapons on the outside for whatever high-caliber starting QB the Cowboys select. The team’s date in Austin will not be easy for Texas, and Oklahoma State is no longer a ‘W’ on the schedule.
Saturday, Dec. 7
Art Briles and his Bears have been exceeding expectations the past few seasons, and they have a good chance to beat Texas again at the end of the season. If Texas performs to its expectations, winning every contest, Baylor would have a chance to ruin the Longhorns’ perfect season and spoil their chance for a national championship spot. Even if that scenario fails to come to fruition, this game could still help determine the Big 12 champion.
The Bears have given Texas trouble over the past three years. This will be the third year the Bears feature a new starting quarterback; this time, it’s junior Bryce Petty under center. A new quarterback shouldn’t be an issue for the Bears’ pass-happy offense, as they will put up points either way. Texas could have a lot on the line when it travels to Waco and don’t expect the Bears to wave the Longhorns on through.