It's inevitable. The Texas Longhorns have to improve off of their 13-12 record in the past two seasons. The Horns have too much talent, resources and recruits to be stuck in neutral like have been since Colt McCoy and Shipley's last game with Texas.
The tables are set for Texas. They are returning many starters on their defense that was top in the Big 12 last season, and on the offensive side of the ball, the Longhorns also are returning nearly all of the starting 11.
Not to mention the top three recruiting class that Mack Brown and Co. managed to reel in again.
With the likes of Connor Brewer, Cayleb Jones, Malcom Brown and the most prolific high school running back in US history, Johnathan Gray, joining the Horns, 2012 should be a great year in Austin.
Here is a game-by-game prediction for the Longhorns' 2012 season.
Per usual amongst the big boys of college football, UT has scheduled a presumed cupcake game against Wyoming. Texas will dominate every aspect of this game except punts. Expect there to be some rust, but also expect a huge Horns victory against Wyoming.
New Mexico finished dead last in the Mountain West Conference. Much like the season opener against Wyoming, expect Texas to dominate all facets of this tilt.
By now, the two-headed monster of Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray should be getting into top form. Whichever QB is staring for Texas, whether it is David Ash, true freshman Connor Brewer or Case McCoy, albeit unlikely, will have an opportunity to stretch the Lobos defense in another UT rout.
New Mexico 6
SEC. SEC. SEC.
Although Mississippi may not be the cream of the crop of the Southeastern Conference, they still will be a tough road game for Texas.
This game will be a very good indicator for the rest of the season. Texas' offense should be running on all cylinders at this point, and the Horns will have to have a good showing to prove to the burnt orange faithful that this team is ready to fulfill the potential we all know they have.
Ole Miss will be battling with Texas A&M for last in the SEC West, so a victory against the Rebels is crucial, and it will happen.
Ole Miss 17
The Cowboys have beaten Texas in Austin two straight seasons. UT will get the chance to return the favor in Stillwater in Texas' first conference game of the 2012 season.
OSU is losing the two key cogs in their offense from last year in Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weeden to the NFL, and expect Oklahoma State to still be a force in the Big 12, but also in a mini-rebulding mode. No matter which quarterback is running the show in Stillwater, they will have huge passing numbers, so expect a game with high offensive numbers, and a close one until the end.
Don't expect Oklahoma State to repeat as champion of the Big 12, or this game against Texas.
Oklahoma State 31
After a long, drawn out process, the Mountaineers are finally an official member of the Big 12. WVU was the second of two schools to join the conference this season, with the other being Texas Christian.
Do not assume that just because West Virginia is coming from the ridiculously weak Big East, that they are going to be a pushover. The Mountaineers will almost certainly be ranked in the preseason top 10, and for good reason.
WVU is returning the leader of their offense, Geno Smith, who helped put up 70 points... in the Orange Bowl. Through Smith's leadership and extreme versatility as a QB, expect a fantastic game with a similar atmosphere to that of Kansas State last year.
In 2012, as well as with every team, the Horns will win games they should lose, and lose games that they seemingly should have won. This game could really go either way. I see the Horns dropping an extremely close game.
West Virginia 27
Even with Texas A&M on the schedule, nothing trumps the Red River Rivalry for Longhorns fans.
After the obliteration that the Sooners handed to Texas, most Horns fans remained optimistic by knowing that Landry Jones, Kenny Stills and Ryan Broyles would all be playing on Sundays next year, so OU would have to re-build a little.
Well, it didn't work out that way in Norman.
Of the three players mentioned above, only Ryan Broyles will not be touting the crimson and cream next season, only because he graduated, not by choice. Oklahoma's offense is stacked, once again, and there are national championship dreams once again in Norman for the upcoming season.
By no means will Oklahoma trounce Texas like they did in 2011, but expect a Sooner victory.
My, how one season of decent success has spurred such confidence in Waco.
Riding on the shoulders of Robert Griffin III, Baylor had a fantastic season last year. If the chips would have fallen right for the Bears, they would big legitimate Big 12 contenders for the first time in a long time, but they didn't.
Most hope was lost when RGIII announced his intent to enter the NFL after a Heisman-winning junior year. Not to mention, the Bears defense was atrocious, and RGIII and Kendall Wright were the reasons they won most of their games last year, including an upset over Oklahoma.
Baylor dominated Texas in the second half of last year's matchup, easily winning 48-24. But fear not, UT fans, this year will be different.
Expect frustration and two years worth of annoyance to be dished out to the Bears, by the Horns.
Be glad that the game is in Austin. Now all the fans who attend will not have to hear "Black Betty" pounded into their ears at 150 decibels from the tarped side of Baylor's stadium.
The final score from this game in 2011 was 43-0 Texas.
The Horns accrued 590 total yards, with 441 of them coming on the ground.
The Longhorns defense held the Kansas offense to negative-two rushing yards, and 46 yards total.
In terms of actual team skill, Texas will be much better in 2012, and Kansas will struggle to win a Big 12 game next season.
It's always basketball season at KU.
Stats gathered from here
The tortillas will be out in Lubbock on November 3rd.
Both teams should be better in Big 12 play next year, but much like in 2011, expect Texas to be able to dominate the Red Raiders' defense through the use of the run game, and (hopefully) a much-improved passing attack.
The Longhorns put up gaudy stats against Tech in Austin last season. Don't expect such a shellacking this year, but Texas will leave Lubbock with only one thing..
Texas Tech 20
Thanks to Kansas' recent struggles, Iowa State moved out of the Big 12 basement last season, even managing a berth in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Texas should win this game handily, but the Longhorns should never overlook the Cyclones. Otherwise 2010 happens all over again.
Iowa State 13
TCU has finally stepped up to the big show!
Year after year, TCU would pound away WAC and MWC inferior opponents, but never get their shot to play for a prestigious bowl, until two seasons ago against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
Now that the Horned Frogs are in the Big 12, they'll get their "crack" at a premier college football conference.
If TCU can pull off another great season, they will prove that smaller schools, such as themselves and Boise State, really do have great football at their schools.
This game may or may not be moved to Thanksgiving, but either way, don't count on Texas giving TCU a warm welcome to the Big 12, especially in Austin.
Texas Christian 17
If you ask any Texas fan, they will tell you that the Longhorns should have beaten Kansas State last season in Austin. There were more than a few questionable calls against Texas, but nevertheless, the Wildcats came away with a victory.
Kansas State, led by Heisman candidate Colin Klein, will be just as good, if not better than they were last season. Much like the WVU game, this will be a squeaker, but expect "Wabash Cannonball" to be the sound of victory in Manhattan, as the Wildcats should best the Longhorns, once again.
Kansas State 20
Texas 2012 Predicted Record:
9-3, (Third in Big 12 standings)
Bowl Game: Cotton Bowl vs. Arkansas