Texas fans with a deep belief in the powers of statistical trends could logically have three words in mind: national championship game.
Since 2005, when the Longhorns won the national championship with Vince Young’s last-second touchdown against USC, Texas has appeared in one other championship game, four years later in 2009. Now it’s 2013, and Texas is primed for its best season since the Colt McCoy era. Is it that crazy to think the Longhorns will continue this four-year pattern and make it to the big game this year?
To get a better feel for this pattern, let’s compare Texas’ seasons from 2004 and 2008 with 2012, since those are the years prior to the Longhorns’ national championship appearances.
As expected, last year’s defense, which was among the worst in school history in several categories, does not stack up to the stout units in 2004 and 2008. While those squads yielded 18 and 19.5 points per game, respectively, the 2012 team gave up a staggering 29. But this year, Texas will field its most experienced defense in four years featuring nine returning starters and will not face an elite quarterback in Big 12 play. If these factors contribute to a decrease in points allowed per game, then it would align with the four-year pattern as both the 2005 and 2009 squads surrendered fewer points than their predecessors.
Things are more promising when comparing those teams on the offensive side of the ball. The 2012 team put up nearly 36 points a game. Considering quarterback David Ash’s maturation and the team’s talented skill-position players, Texas could average more than 45 points a game this season — a feat only three FBS teams achieved in 2012.
The 2013 squad finds itself in a similar position as the 2005 and 2009 teams in three additional areas. First, the Longhorns will play only three ranked opponents this year. Secondly, only one of those games will be played away from Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. And finally, Oklahoma is not ranked in the top 10, weakening a major roadblock in Texas’ schedule.
For the statistically minded, these comparisons send a subtle but important message: A national championship appearance is not merely a whisper in Austin, but a real possibility.