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Second-half outlook: Texas

10/21/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Texas Longhorns

Record: 6-0

Remaining schedule: at Missouri, at Oklahoma State, UCF, at Baylor, Kansas, at Texas A&M

The Longhorns have started the season about as well as they could have asked. They’ve already taken care of Oklahoma and appear to have smooth sailing towards their first Big 12 title since 2005. The biggest reason for the success is the defense's improvement in its second season under Will Muschamp. It appears its the best defensive group around the Forty Acres since the 2005 national title team. The Longhorns lead the nation in rushing defense and are sixth in total defense with a solid rotation of veteran players. Earl Thomas is playing like the best safety in the Big 12. And Sergio Kindle doesn’t have the flashy statistics some might have expected, but he still has provided an important role in a solid pass rush. Jordan Shipley has helped keep the Longhorns’ passing game afloat, even through some uncharacteristic struggles with interceptions by Colt McCoy. And the running game is starting to show some championship flashes, particularly in the second half of the Oklahoma game with the emergence of Fozzy Whittaker. If the Longhorns can beat Oklahoma State in two weeks, they should have a clear path to the title game in Arlington, Texas. The last time a Big 12 title game was played in an NFL stadium in Texas, the Longhorns won and headed to the national championship. The same could happen again this season.

Best-case scenario: The Longhorns beat Oklahoma State and build confidence during the last month of the season with resounding victories capped by a win over Texas A&M at Kyle Field on Thanksgiving night. The biggest hope has to be that either Alabama or Florida emerges as the convincing SEC championship without the other team having any serious national title claims. If that occurs, the Longhorns should be in good shape for a title run.

Worst-case scenario: The Longhorns stumble at Oklahoma State on Halloween night while the Cowboys win the rest of their games to win the Big 12 South title. Texas likely would still go to a BCS bowl, but after the trauma of last season BCS woes, another late-season loss knocking them out of the national title picture would be a kick in the stomach to the Longhorns.

My prediction: BCS title game. With so much hanging on the Oklahoma State game, Mack Brown will have the Longhorns ready. While it would seem like the Cowboys are due for an upset after 11 straight losses to Brown, the Longhorns’ superior defensive talent will win this game. That victory will boost them into a relatively easy November. A convincing victory over Nebraska in the Big 12 title game should have them pointed for Pasadena and a shot at their first national championship since 2005.