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Last year, Texas quarterbacks threw 15 interceptions against just 12 touchdowns (Jaxon Shipley threw three touchdowns from the wide receiver position). Those numbers must improve in 2012 for the Longhorns to win the Big 12.
The 2012 edition of the Longhorns will focus on ball control, with the offense using the rushing attack to grind out yards as well as the clock, throwing only when necessary and to keep the defense honest. This style of play will often yield low-scoring affairs where the field-position battle is everything, making turnovers that much more crucial to the outcome.
With the running game doing the heavy lifting, the quarterback's job will basically be to minimize mistakes. The heavy load the running backs have to shoulder will undoubtedly lead to more fumbles, so the quarterback does not have the luxury of throwing drives away in the times he is asked to throw. This offense is simply not explosive enough to make up for those kinds of mistakes on a constant basis.
Interceptions can also serve to derail Manny Diaz's efforts to keep his guys fresh because of their nasty knack for giving the opponent a short field and/or preventing defensive players from resting. And make no mistake, this defense is markedly better when it has its rest and does not have to start off in its own territory.
So why is eight the magic number?
Last season, the only two teams in the Big 12 that ran as much or more than the Longhorns were Kansas State (606 attempts) and Missouri (589 attempts). Kansas State threw six interceptions and finished 10-3, good for second place in the Big 12. Missouri threw 11 interceptions and finished 8-5, good for fifth place. Not to say interceptions were the sole difference between the two teams, but both teams threw fewer interceptions than Texas and finished higher in the conference.
Since Texas is expected to attempt roughly the same amount of passes as these two teams did last season, it is fair to say eight interceptions will allow the Longhorns to have fewer than 20 total turnovers for the year. Even if they are only able to duplicate the 12 passing touchdowns from last season, they will have done their job in keeping their mistakes to a minimum, and that is good enough from this group.