Fans, rejoice! The Texas Longhorns' quest to place themselves back amongst the college football elite is only two short weeks away. But first, we have yet another formality to endure before that happens: the Associated Press preseason poll.
Say what you will about the preseason polls being overblown and meaningless and whatever else, but they are a necessary evil. We have already seen how the coaches feel about the Longhorns in the USA Today preseason poll, where the 'Horns were ranked 15th. Now, let's see how the writers feel about them after some OU injuries and the Tyrann Mathieu mess seem likely to shake things up.
Here's where you can expect to find the Longhorns in Saturday's AP poll and why they will be there (for now).
Following two consecutive sub-par seasons from the 'Horns, the writers are no longer going to give this team a higher ranking because of name. And that is just fine.
Any other season, this Longhorns team gets an easy top-10 ranking out of the writers and coaches alike. It has possibly an all-time great defense, three starting-caliber running backs and one of the most creative offensive minds in the game. But this is now, and this 2012 team has a lot to prove on the field before it can get the ranking it deserves.
This is not a problem or any kind of knock on this team. This way, Mack Brown and his players can ease into the national expectations, which will work wonders for the confidence of whoever is deemed the starting quarterback.
After all, it could not have helped the beginning of Garrett Gilbert's career as a starter when the Longhorns were ranked in the top five of every preseason poll in 2010.
While there are still serious doubts about how productive the offense will be this season, there is no question about the Longhorns' defensive prowess heading into this season. The pollsters know that as well.
Defense is making a big comeback in college football after being an afterthought to outscoring opponents for much of the decade. After all, defense got both Alabama and LSU into the national championship this season and has gotten them the two top rankings in the USA Today poll, respectively, heading into this season.
Manny Diaz's defense could be better than the past and present versions of both the LSU and Alabama defenses this season with national award contenders like Alex Okafor and Carrington Byndom in the fold. The writers know that, and they will give Texas credit where credit is due in this department.
Another reason the Longhorns can only dream of a top-10 ranking in this preseason poll is that nobody has any clue who the starting quarterback will be.
You know the adage, "If you have a quarterback competition, you don't have a quarterback."
Well, Texas has itself a quarterback competition, and the writers are going to look at that in a very negative light.
While the coaches insist that the competition is close because both David Ash and Case McCoy have improved so significantly, the fact is, this team still does not have a starting quarterback. This is probably less of a problem than it would be in other years because neither of these two have to be great for this team to be great, but the rankings will not see it that way.
All things considered, the Longhorns will likely find themselves in the No. 15 slot when the poll comes out Saturday.
There were certainly be some changes with where teams like LSU and OU sit, but it will not make an impact on Texas' national standing. West Virginia will not move much in these rankings either, so Texas will be ranked as the third-best team in the conference based on its strengths on defense and in the running game.
Based on that alone, I do not see 15 teams that should be ranked higher than the Longhorns.
You will see a lot of prediction polls that rank Texas as low as the bottom five and as the fifth- or even sixth-best team in the Big 12, but that is ridiculous. TCU is not going to get a warm welcome in this deep conference, Oklahoma State is starting a freshman at quarterback without Justin Blackmon to make him look good and Kansas State will not be as fortunate in close games as they were last season.
And to be honest, West Virginia and Oklahoma are not exactly locks to be better than Texas this season either.
If Texas had named its starting quarterback a week or more ago, I would say this team could come out as high as No. 12. But in the absence of a starting quarterback, Texas should be ranked as the third-best team in the Big 12 and will not overtake any of the over-ranked teams like Michigan or South Carolina until they win some games.
I put this team as No. 15 right now, but I still believe this team has serious top-10 potential. Only time will tell.