Texas Football: Power Ranking the Longhorns' Toughest Games of 2013
Following a come-from-behind Alamo Bowl win, the Texas Longhorns were able to create some momentum and confidence before spring football and the 2013 season.
The win realized some marked progress, as it gave Texas a nine-win season even though it fielded the worst defense in the program's history, statistically.
The Longhorns appear to be improving nonetheless, and the 2013 campaign could present the right set of circumstances for a return to the BCS. Texas returns a vast majority of its playmakers, especially on offense, while many of the Big 12's best from last season will undergo big changes across the board.
Oklahoma State, which boasted the FBS's third-ranked scoring offense last season, figures to be Texas' toughest opponent, but how does the rest of the schedule pan out?
11/16 vs. Oklahoma State
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The Cowboys and their third-ranked scoring offense from last season return a hefty number of starters, and they are definitely in the conversation for a Big 12 championship this year.
The Longhorns managed to go into Stillwater early last season and come away with a win before a young Oklahoma State team began clicking on offense.
Defensively, the Cowboys possess nowhere near the confidence and strength that they do on offense, and fortunately for the Longhorns, they get to host the Pokes in Austin.
Mike Gundy's team could be the class of the Big 12 this season, and it will not be an easy out for anyone.
10/12 vs. Oklahoma (in Dallas)
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The annual showdown with Oklahoma has consistently been one of the biggest spectacles in all of college football, but the Sooners have gotten the better of the Longhorns over the last three seasons.
Although Oklahoma lost big pieces like quarterback Landry Jones, receiver Kenny Stills, safety Tony Jefferson and linebacker Tom Wort, the Sooners will always be competitive, especially in Dallas where bragging rights, pride and the stakes are extremely high.
Despite those departures, Oklahoma will always be a tough matchup for Texas, and the 2013 version should prove to be no different.
10/26 at TCU
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Do not blink at TCU.
Once a strength of the Mountain West Conference, TCU had its struggles in its first season in the Big 12, finishing 4-5 in the conference and 7-6 overall with wins over Baylor, West Virginia and Texas in Austin on Thanksgiving.
That loss should have left a sour taste for the Longhorns, and when they travel to Fort Worth in late October, they should be seeking revenge. But under Gary Patterson, the Horned Frogs have always fielded strong-willed, competitive teams.
TCU looks to get quarterback Casey Pachall back from suspension, but Trevone Boykin performed magically at times in his freshman campaign.
Make no mistake, Patterson's boys come to play.
9/7 at BYU
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Texas escaped with a 17-16 win against BYU in Austin two season ago, but a trip to Provo could be an early challenge for the Longhorns.
The Cougars posted the FBS's third-best scoring defense last year, allowing just 14 points per contest. And for a Texas offense looking to establish some early momentum with a newly installed spread offense, bumps are expected along the way.
Four of BYU's five losses last season were by six points or less, so it is no pushover.
The early road test could easily be more than what Texas bargained for.
9/21 vs. Kansas State
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Never underestimate a Bill Snyder team.
That is the lesson that many Texas fans have come to realize, although it may be more appropriate to label Kansas State as the team never to be underestimated, regardless of the sport.
Even without quarterback Collin Klein, the Wildcats' biggest offensive catalyst last year, Kansas State constantly fields a team with seemingly bigger fight and heart than it might record on paper.
Luckily, the Longhorns draw the Wildcats in Austin, where the crowd will hopefully be on their side.
Running back John Hubert will test Texas' run defense, an area where the 'Horns struggled tremendously a season ago.
12/7 at Baylor
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Baylor does lose quarterback Nick Florence, as well as top receiver Terrance Williams, but Art Briles seems to have a nice plug-and-play system working for him in Waco, as the Bears hardly lost a beat on offense after Robert Griffin III jumped to the NFL.
When playing the Bears, points are a must, especially with the low-caliber defense that they field.
Against the fourth-ranked scoring and passing offense, most will match up poorly against this high-octane offense, and the Longhorns will be in for a tough go-around if their offense cannot show up in Waco.
9/14 vs. Ole Miss
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Jumping into the "easier" six opponents on the schedule, the Longhorns will entertain Ole Miss as part of the second half of the home-and-home series with the Rebels.
Texas poured on the points in Oxford last season, winning 66-31. But the victory was not without its defensive shortcomings, something that the 'Horns proved to have in spades last year.
The Rebels did manage to secure some high, last-minute commitments on national signing day, but one can only wonder how much it will help them this season.
Ole Miss will have had to improve tremendously to be able to come into Austin and get a win, especially considering how lopsided of a victory Texas reeled off in Oxford.
10/3 at Iowa State
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Texas peeled off a page from Darrell K Royal's playbook when Iowa State came to town last year, completing a huge play out of the Wishbone formation, Royal's go-to look.
The Cyclones, too, will be ushering in a new quarterback era after Steele Jantz finished his career in Ames.
Iowa State can be competitive but more often than not figures to be in the bottom tier of the Big 12. Nevertheless, road games are always challenging, and any sort of scenario where Texas begins to overlook its opponents could spell danger.
11/28 vs. Texas Tech
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Texas Tech has undergone a regime change in Lubbock, with former Tech quarterback legend Kliff Kingsbury taking the head coaching reins following the departure of Tommy Tuberville.
Accordingly, expect the Red Raiders hardly to miss a beat in their passing game, which ranked second in the FBS last season with 356 yards per game.
The Red Raiders will be starting a new quarterback now that the Seth Doege era has ended, but one can only expect that likely starter Michael Brewer will pick up exactly where Doege left off.
The Tech offense is always a sight to be seen, but with the Longhorns having Tech's number in recent years, they will welcome the Red Raiders to Austin in hopes of getting a convincing, late-November win.
11/9 at West Virginia
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There may not be a team with as big of a turnover as West Virginia, which loses quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey to the NFL.
Still, head coach Dana Holgorsen is considered one of the top offensive minds in the game, and he could very well piece together an offense with some great potential, although a new quarterback could curtail those developments.
The Mountaineers will play host to Texas for the first time as members of the Big 12, and surely they will be fired up. But with so much change, can West Virginia be competitive in its second year in the conference?
8/31 vs. New Mexico State
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The Longhorns will open their 2013 campaign with a home matchup against New Mexico State.
It is what it is—a win 99 times out of 100, a confidence builder for Texas and a warm-up before the grittier games on the schedule begin.
Texas will unveil its new spread offense, which will be under the microscope. But under an even bigger spotlight will be Texas' defense, which statistically rated the worst in the program's history last year.
Of the 12 games on the schedule, this might be the closest to a sure thing as one can get.
11/2 vs. Kansas
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Speaking of sure things, a win over Kansas is almost guaranteed.
If history is any indication, Texas should steamroll the Jayhawks when they come to Austin in early November.
Kansas has won just six games in the past three seasons, with just one of those victories coming against a Big 12 opponent in Colorado, which is no longer in the conference.
October 10, 2009 was the last time that Kansas beat a current Big 12 team. That came in a 41-36 triumph against Iowa State.