Texas 2012 Football Schedule: Keys to Each Game
Spring ball is finally over, which means that we can begin focusing on the regular season that kicks off in only a couple of months.
Texas returns a total of 17 starters and is hoping that this is the season that it's able to turn the program around. The Longhorns have a great backfield, one of the top defenses in the country and another loaded recruiting class arriving in the fall to help them out.
The Longhorns are looking to put two subpar seasons in the past and reach their first BCS bowl game since 2009.
Here is how the Texas Longhorns can defeat every opponent on the 2012 football schedule.
Key: Contain Brett Smith.
Smith is likely a player you never heard of last season, both because he plays for Wyoming and because he was a freshman last season.
But he is an exciting dual-threat quarterback who can make things interesting if he gets going.
Last season, he threw for more than 2,600 yards, rushed for 710 and scored 30 total touchdowns. He even gave his team a chance to upset TCU as he racked up nearly 300 total yards and threw for a pair of touchdowns.
He still needs to limit the mistakes he makes on the field, but that will come with more experience.
Smith is the type of player who can take over a game and pull off a shocking upset. The Texas defense must come to play.
Vs. New Mexico
Key: Play Texas football.
New Mexico was arguably the worst team in the country last season, and there are very few signs of the Lobos turning that around this year.
This is a team that won one game last year, was ranked dead last in scoring offense and 119th in scoring defense.
It doesn't matter how many questions this Longhorns team may have, they will win this game by at least four touchdowns.
Just show up is basically the key to this game. Texas wins easily.
At Ole Miss
Key: Hold them in the red zone.
Preventing teams from scoring is the key to winning football games, but against Mississippi, they may get some help in doing just that.
The Rebels are a team that struggled mightily to put points up on the board last year, averaging only 16 points per contest.
They only scored 76 percent of the times they reached the red zone, which was by far the worst in the SEC and 97th in the country. Only 52 percent of those scores went for touchdowns, which was tied with Syracuse for 99th in the country.
Last season, Texas was ranked 92nd in the country, allowing a score 86 percent of the time when an opponent reached the red zone, but only allowed a touchdown 50 percent of the time, which was tied for 19th.
Prevent this terrible offense from scoring touchdowns, and the Longhorns win.
At Oklahoma State
Key: Generate pressure.
Along with losing many of the key weapons on the offensive side of the ball, the Cowboys also lost three pieces to their offensive line.
Oklahoma State only allowed 13 sacks last year, but with a revamped offensive line, those numbers may be a little different this time around.
Although the Longhorns competed last season against the Cowboys, they only sacked the quarterback one time.
This season, Oklahoma State will start an 18-year-old freshman, Wes Lunt, at quarterback. Texas has to take advantage of this and force the first-time starter into a few mistakes.
If the Longhorns can get in the youngster's face, they should win the first game against Oklahoma State since 2009.
Vs. West Virginia
Key: Let Malcolm Brown run wild.
West Virginia has one of the top offenses in the country, and it will be a fantastic matchup to see it take on a great defense such as Texas.
Although one of the ways Texas can slow down that Mountaineers attack is by running the football well and keeping it on the sidelines.
The Mountaineers had the worst rush defense in the Big East last season, allowing 144 yards on the ground a game.
There were only three games in which they allowed fewer than 100 yards, and in eight games they gave up more than 150 rushing yards.
With West Virginia changing defensive schemes this year and the lack of depth at the linebacker position, this could be a game where the sophomore gets going.
Vs. Oklahoma (In Dallas, TX)
Key: Win the turnover battle.
Last season, Texas suffered one of the most embarrassing defeats in recent memory after losing to Oklahoma by a score of 55-17.
The Sooners would have likely still won the game, but it wouldn't have been so lopsided if Texas didn't turn the ball over five times.
Texas turned the ball over a total of 26 times last season, and just five of their losses included 17 of those turnovers.
In the last seven games in the Red River Rivalry, the winner has ended up with fewer turnovers.
Oklahoma may return a more talented team once again, but if they can hold onto the football, the Longhorns will certainly have a shot.
Key: Don't look ahead.
Sure, Baylor no longer has Robert Griffin at quarterback or wide receiver Kendall Wright on offense.
But it does return 14 starters and have several pieces in place to return to a bowl game this season.
Quarterback Nick Florence has done a great job throughout the spring and appears to have the traits to help fill that void that Griffin left.
The Bears also have an experienced group of talented receivers and return eight starters on the defensive side of the ball. Sure, the defense was atrocious last season, but a year under the belt should help improve that group.
The bottom line is that Texas has lost the last two meetings against Baylor, and it's important that they don't take this team for granted.
Key: Contain Dayne Crist.
Kansas didn't do much of anything right last season and had the worst defense in the country—although this is a program that may be on the rise, with head coach Charlie Weis taking over and 13 starters returning from last year.
Kansas also has Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist at quarterback, and he looked very sharp in the spring game a month ago.
Crist didn't experience much success for the Irish, but he was a starter for a D-1 program and has a lot of experience facing some tough defenses throughout his career. With a quarterback like this, it does give the Jayhawks a chance to win games they probably couldn't have won last year.
Now about that defense—defensive coordinator Dave Campo will have his work cut out for him.
At Texas Tech
Key: Prevent third-down conversions.
Texas has won eight of the last nine meetings against the Red Raiders, including a blowout last season with a score of 52-20.
Although the score may have been one-sided, Texas Tech isn't a team that should be slept on, as it returns 19 starters from last year.
One of the reasons it had one of the top offenses in the country last season (averaged 33 points per contest) was the fact that it was so great at converting on third downs.
Last season, the Red Raiders converted on 48.17 percent of their third downs, which was good for second in the Big 12 and 10th in the country (slightly ahead of USC).
Texas Tech has some nice offensive pieces heading into the 2012 season. One way to slow that attack down is to finish the drive off on third downs.
Vs. Iowa State
Key: Force turnovers.
Iowa State returns seven starters on offense, but if it coughs the football up as much as last season, the Cyclones will once again struggle to win football games.
Last year, the Cyclones turned the ball over 35 times, which was by far the worst in the conference and helped create a turnover margin of -11. Only eight teams in the country finished with a worse ratio.
There were only two games in which Iowa State failed to give the ball to the other team more than once, but they couldn't finish one game without turning the ball over one time.
Texas forced 26 turnovers last season and are 20-5 the last three seasons when they force at least two turnovers. If the sloppy play from the Cyclones continues, the Longhorns will improve to 9-1 against Iowa State all-time.
Key: Throw the ball downfield.
The Horned Frogs have been known for their defense over the years, but they struggled with that concept last season, particularly the secondary.
Now, TCU has to replace a few members of that unit, which doesn't look good early on.
The Horned Frogs only lost two games last season, but both times they allowed the most passing yards of the year.
This is a team that only allowed 21.5 points per game but led the MWC with 11 plays over 50 yards and four plays over 70 yards.
David Ash still has to prove he can be a consistent quarterback, but if there's any game for him to have a coming-out party, it's certainly this one.
The Longhorns will be searching for their 29th victory in their last 30 meetings against the Horned Frogs.
At Kansas State
Key: Pressure the quarterback.
Kansas State was one of the more surprising teams last season because of the emergence of quarterback Collin Klein and a physical offensive line—although that offensive line did manage to allow 43 sacks, which was dead last in the conference and 117th in the country.
Now the Wildcats are stuck trying to fill in the pieces, as three starters from that unit have all graduated.
That can't be great news going up against one of the better defenses in the country—a defense that had at least three sacks a total of five times last year.
The Wildcats turned some heads last year, but if they can't improve that offensive line it, may be a long year this time around. The Longhorns will be looking for their first victory over Kansas State since 2003.