We're breaking down 20 teams' chances this year, and the Longhorns are first on the list.
The knee-jerk reaction to the Longhorns' chances is no, but I recall a team all the way back in 1999 that went 7-5 and all of a sudden, racked up a 13-0 record the following year to win a national title.
Texans, you may have heard of them. Most refer to them as the "Sooners."
But what about Texas? Let's dig in.
The first reason Texas could win it: A defense that could be "truly elite."
Seven of 11 starters are back on what was the No. 11 defense nationally in 2011. In fact, for a five-game stretch of the schedule from Kansas through Texas A&M, only Alabama and LSU proved to be tougher when it came to yielding yards than Texas. The Horns were by many metrics the best defense in the Big 12 over the course of the season, and they ranked second in Football Outsiders' defensive efficiency numbers, behind only Oklahoma State.
Like the Tide and the Tigers, only twice did the Longhorns allow a touchdown pass of 20 or more yards. For Texas, both came against Baylor in the final regular-season game, with defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat playing sparingly due to a shoulder injury that would eventually require surgery.
The other reason? The running game could be one of the nation's best.
There's no escaping the biggest reason why Texas may not win the title: quarterback play.
For Texas to win in 2012, the quarterback play has to provide at least a modicum of production. Game management has become the catch phrase among the coaches, especially given the potential of the team's running game (for more on that, see above). Similar to 2011, they will run the ball on at least 65 percent of their plays in order to showcase this talent and hide the aforementioned deficiency.
Here's the good news: While still not having the confidence to name Ash the starter, the coaching staff has praised the rising sophomore's understanding of the offense as well as his increased maturity in the pocket. Ash no longer throws the ball just for the purpose of throwing it, but instead throws it with purpose. Couple that with an increased awareness of when to throw the ball away and Texas believes it might have a quarterback who can manage the game.
The piece from Carter Strickland and Football Outsiders' Brian Fremeau takes a long look at some advanced statistics, and I'd encourage you all to give it a read.
Do that before you answer the question I pose to you: Is Texas a BCS title contender?
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Kirk Herbstreit joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Bob Stoops' recent comments about the SEC and the pending college football playoff, what appears to be an unpredictable Big 12 in 2013, how the Aggies will handle expectations and more.
Play Podcast Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin talks about the improvements being made to Kyle Field, what those improvements will to for the program, the success of last year, Johnny Manziel's offseason and the expectations for the Aggies in 2013.
Play Podcast Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo talk about Texas A&M's decision to expand its stadium and say although the Aggies had a fantastic year, the school must also be careful not to overextend its resources based on a single hot stretch.
Play Podcast Baylor head coach Art Briles joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss what kind of player the Cowboys are getting in Terrance Williams.
Play Podcast Arlington and Texas A&M product Luke Joeckel, the potential No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, joins Ian Fitzsimmons and Richard Durrett to discuss the draft, coaches and advice from his dad.
Play Podcast Florida Gulf Coast athletic director Ken Kavanagh joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss his school's Cinderella story and playing in the Sweet 16 at Cowboys Stadium.
Play Podcast Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby joins Fizsimmons & Durrett to discuss Cowboys Stadium as a venue, the state of Big 12 basketball, the new 2014 college football format, why there's no hurry to have a Big 12 football championship and much more.
Play Podcast Jay Bilas joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the remaining 16 teams in the NCAA tournament, the intrigue surrounding the Northwest Region and the excitement over FGCU, even though a similar story happens every year.