Texas Football: The Longhorns' 5 Most Important Games in 2013
Summer workouts are in full swing as programs across the country are laying the foundation for the 2013 college football season.
The Texas Longhorns enter the year as one of the most experienced teams in the FBS. With 19 returning starters and the hype surrounding a conference title, the 'Horns are going into a huge season that figures to produce quite the wild ride.
But with all of the chatter, both good and bad, around Texas' 2013 season, the Longhorns will have to bury the talk and simply win football games.
Winning solves virtually everything in the college football world, and if Texas is to return to the upper echelons of the sport, it will have to do just that.
But between now and December, 12 challenges stand in its way, some with more kick than others.
Here are the five that will kick the hardest.
12/7 at Baylor
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The season-ending face-off with Baylor in Waco gets the nod as the fifth most important game for the Longhorns in 2013, barely inching out the early-season matchup against BYU.
Art Briles' Bears posted the No. 4 ranked scoring and passing offense last season. And like Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State, Briles has seemingly been able to plug-and-play his guys with ease, and the results have been telling.
Baylor will introduce a new starting quarterback to its program, but if the last two are any indication of Briles' eye for a signal-caller, the Bears will be in good hands. Besides, by the time Texas makes the trip up to Waco in December, Baylor's new starting quarterback will effectively have had nearly a season's worth of experience.
Will Texas be able to finish strong on the road and potentially with a Big 12 Title on the line? Or will Baylor successfully defend its home field and possibly deny Texas' shot at glory?
10/26 at TCU
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Gary Patterson's TCU had its ups and downs in its inaugural season in the Big 12, and one of the biggest ups had to have been marching into Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, Thanksgiving Night, no less, and leaving with an enthralling 20-13 victory over the Longhorns.
The Horned Frogs will be just one of three teams (Texas, Oklahoma State) in the conference who will return starting experience at quarterback. Between senior Casey Pachall, who returns from suspension, and sophomore Trevone Boykin, Patterson will have some tough decisions ahead of him.
For Texas to lose to TCU for the second year in a row--especially in a season where Texas is expected to finish somewhere in the Top 10--it would serve as a huge slap to the face for the title-seeking 'Horns.
There is no secret about it. The Horned Frogs will not be an easy out in the Big 12.
9/21 vs. Kansas State
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The 2013 season for Texas will be about getting over the hump.
The Longhorns have plenty on their plates, but no Big 12 team has given Texas more to chew on than Bill Snyder's Wildcats.
It is hard to believe, but Texas has lost five-straight to KSU dating back to 2003. Check that. The Wildcats have been owing the 'Horns since 2003.
With Collin Klein out of the picture at quarterback, KSU appears to be entering a transition period that will challenge its offense to score points, especially in a Big 12 conference that figures to be all about high-scoring affairs.
Texas hosts the Wildcats to open its Big 12 schedule, and it will be a game that sets the tone early in conference play. Can it get over the hump and build some momentum leading up to Oklahoma?
11/16 vs. Oklahoma State
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After losing to the visiting Longhorns a season ago in Stillwater, Okla., the Cowboys will be the guests in 2013 when they head down to Austin in mid-November.
The late-season game figures to produce the outright favorite to claim the Big 12 and a place in the BCS, so there will be plenty on the line for a couple of teams that may field two of the best offenses in the conference.
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has built himself quite the offensive machine as it ranked No. 3 and No. 7 in scoring offense and passing offense, respectively, in 2013.
As the Pokes are the co-favorites, along with the 'Horns, to win the conference, the matchup of mighty offenses should be quite the spectacle late in the year.
10/12 vs. Oklahoma (in Dallas)
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By some accounts, a loss to Oklahoma for the fourth year in a row is reason enough to call for the end of Mack Brown's tenure in Austin. But in a more pragmatic world, another defeat to the Sooners is hardly the end-all, be-all of Texas' 2013 season.
Even if the Longhorns lose in Dallas, again, a perfect record everywhere else puts Texas at 11-1 with a very solid case for a Big 12 Title and a BCS appearance, obviously a best-case scenario.
There has been plenty of talk about the Texas-Oklahoma State game serving as the tipping point towards naming a conference champion. In fact, beating the Cowboys may be the biggest key for Texas' championship hopes.
But in the grand scheme of it all, which extends well-beyond the boundaries of the 2013 season, a win over Oklahoma would satisfy every proponent of the Texas program, even more so if it comes en route to a Big 12 Title.
Oklahoma State is the game to win, but make no mistake. The Red River Rivalry -- like it is every year -- is the game of utmost importance.