Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Big 12 [Print without images]

Friday, August 3, 2012
Assessing the contenders: Texas

By David Ubben

To begin the season, I see six teams with a legitimate chance to win the Big 12. Today we'll continue our series looking at why each team will or will not win the league. Next up: The boys in burnt orange on the up and up: Texas.

More contenders:
Why Texas will win the Big 12

1. Defense wins championships, or so they tell me. It might not be completely true in the Big 12, but Texas might be in a completely different league than the rest of the Big 12 when it comes to defense. Its secondary should be the best, and its defensive line will undoubtedly be the best. The linebackers are inexperienced and led by Jordan Hicks, but should still be solid at worst. That alone should keep Texas in every game. It's up to the offense to push the Horns over the top. Great offenses win games in the Big 12, but if you pair a good offense with an elite defense, a Big 12 title is a very realistic possibility.

Joe Bergeron
Joe Bergeron is a key piece of what should be a powerful Texas rushing attack.
2. The running game will dominate. Texas' offensive line is back, and got an offseason upgrade in juco transfer Donald Hawkins at tackle. Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown were monsters in the backfield when they were healthy last season, and get even more help in Johnathan Gray, the nation's top running back. Even with injuries, that part of Texas' offense should be productive and difficult to stop for a set of Big 12 defenses not used to matching up against offenses with that kind of physicality.

3. One of the biggest question marks has been closed. Texas had Justin Tucker last season, a rock at kicker, and never more valuable than in the final chapter of the Lone Star Showdown. Freshman Nick Jordan, the nation's No. 4 kicker, sounded confident in his arrival in Texas, but he's still completely new. Instead, Texas will likely turn to another newcomer, Penn State transfer Anthony Fera. He's got experience and played really well for Penn State, but brings that talent to Texas. The Longhorns are going to be in plenty of tight games. Fera might be the difference.

Why Texas won't win the Big 12

1. The elephant in the room. Oh, those quarterbacks. Texas' leave a lot to be desired, though the potential for David Ash's offseason growth offers reason for hope. Can Ash prove he's capable of producing enough to give the Longhorns a chance at the title? That means no turnovers, too. Ash struggled in that area last season, and must improve, but the biggest advantage for Ash is throwing against defenses that must respect the running game.

2. Texas can't score enough points consistently. Yes, Texas' defense is going to be salty. But this is the Big 12. The Longhorns can't expect to keep every team they play under 20 points. It's simply not realistic, especially with the amount of turnovers the offense may be susceptible to. Just look at last season's Red River Rivalry. Oklahoma scored three defensive touchdowns and hung 55 points on the board. Oklahoma State scored 38 and Baylor put up 48. At some point, the offense is going to need to put up a ton of points to win. Will it answer the call?

3. They're older, but still too young. The defense has a lot of experience, but last year's freshman-heavy offense is now just a sophomore-heavy offense. Additionally, not enough seniors on this team have real game experience in major showdowns. The Longhorns won five games in 2010 and eight last year. This team has only really experienced close games a few times, and never against well-coached, elite teams like they'll face in the Big 12. Texas A&M and BYU just don't count. When the moment arrives this season, will Texas look like the more experienced team?