Texas Football: 3 Must-Win Games of 2012

Cole Dolan@@ColeDolanCorrespondent IIIApril 30, 2012

Texas Football: 3 Must-Win Games of 2012

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    The Texas Longhorns are on the up and up.  After an extremely disappointing 2010 season and the unimpressive performance last year, the Longhorns appear to be within striking distance of retaking the Big 12.

    Mack Brown and his squad return 16 starters from last year, seven on defense and nine on offense.

    It is still evident that the holes left by Colt McCoy, Jordan Shipley and the other key players that took the Longhorns to the 2009 BCS National Championship Game have not been filled.  However, with some talented new faces and the continued development of the returning starters, 2012 looks promising.

    For the Longhorns to rebound as high as the fanbase expects, they will have to start by winning these three key games.

Ole Miss

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    Ole Miss has been the bottom feeder of the SEC over the last couple years, but a trip to Oxford still may be a bit worrisome for Longhorn fans so early in the season.

    The Rebels return their starting quarterback and 17 other starters, including 10 on defense alone.

    By no means will a win in Oxford be unachievable for the 'Horns, but this is their first real game of the season after facing Wyoming and New Mexico.

    This is bigger than SEC vs. Big 12.

    A loss here and it will be long and painful season for Longhorn fans.  A win, and Texas will be set up nicely heading into its bye week before three challenging back-to-back games against Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Oklahoma.

West Virginia

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    The West Virginia Mountaineers will be the new kids on the block, but that won't stop them from making plenty of noise in their first year.

    West Virginia returns eight starters on offense, including quarterback Geno Smith and electrifying wide receiver Tavon Austin.  It is virtually the same unit that had a record-setting 70-point performance in last year's Orange Bowl.

    Not only do the Horns need to flex their muscles to the new guy, this game falls the week before the critical Red River Rivalry game with Oklahoma.

    This will be the defense's first stiff test.  Keep the West Virginia offense in check, and the 'Horns may just have a shot at the Sooners.

Kansas State

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    A trip to visit Bill Snyder and the Kansas State Wildcats is the final regular-season game for the Longhorns in 2012.

    Winning on the road in Manhattan has been a tall task for the 'Horns in recent years, and being that it is final game of the year, it could carry several implications.

    While there are other games on Texas' schedule that are gathering more of the spotlight, this one has the possibility to make or break the return to the top of the Big 12.

    A Big 12 Championship is what Longhorn fans are hoping for, but the game will more likely serve as the chance to finish the season on a high note and begin preparing for a bowl game.