Predicting the Longhorns' Stats vs. New Mexico State
It is finally here!
The opening week in college football marks the end of summer ball as it thrusts us into a four-month-long ride that can and will create the most polarizing storylines.
The Texas Longhorns will be no strangers to that polarity, as an up-and-down 2012 season and 19 returning starters have generated quite the buzz around the 40 Acres.
With the hours dwindling until the 'Horns kick-off their 2013 campaign against New Mexico State, the excitement is more palpable than ever.
The New Mexico State Aggies were one of the FBS' worst teams in 2012, and with the kind of returning talent that Texas will boast all season long, it appears that the road team will be in for a long night in Austin.
Let's dig into some predictions for Saturday's season-opener.
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The Longhorns return every starter on the offensive side of the football, and that figures to make for an efficient unit with a veteran quarterback running the system in junior David Ash.
Surrounded by a great deal of talent, as long as the offensive line holds up well, Ash and the Texas offense should thrive against New Mexico State's defense—a unit that gave up 39.4 points per game in 2012.
Remember, wide receiver Kendall Sanders will miss this game due to suspension.
Against one of the FBS' worst, the 'Horns offense should look productive. It will be far from a well-oiled machine, but Texas simply has too much talent and speed not to explode for big numbers.
Total Offense: 500 yards
Passing Yards: 290 yards
Rushing Yards: 210 yards
Points Scored: 52
Ash will have a productive night and will take advantage of all of his weapons. Sophomore running back Johnathan Gray will lead the charge in the backfield, but Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and Daje Johnson will all have significant impacts. In fact, Gray may be the least-favored of the four to score a touchdown.
Junior receiver Jaxon Shipley may sit out this weekend while he continues to recover from hip surgery, but Ash will have senior Mike Davis to throw to, a connection that can only get better as the season progresses.
Davis will be good for at least 100 yards and a score, if not two.
In the turnover game, the Longhorns were one of the better teams in protecting the football, and we will see that ball security come through again.
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The Texas defense will be under some spotlight this weekend, but we will have to be cautiously optimistic given the opposition.
New Mexico State scored 18.7 points per game last season, which ranked 117th in the FBS, but against a Texas defense that really struggled throughout 2012, who knows?
In reality, the Longhorns will boast a much more experienced defensive unit, although they will sorely miss the presences of defensive end Alex Okafor and safety Kenny Vaccaro.
Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is looking to have his guys play with more violence, and he claims they understand the defensive concepts more thoroughly this time around.
Fortunately for the 'Horns' defense, the Aggies' offense is far from the most challenging it will face this season.
Total Defense: 300 yards
Passing Defense: 240 yards
Rushing Defense: 60 yards
Points Allowed: 10
The Aggies favor the pass, and it could have the Longhorns give up some plays on the back-end. But on the ground, where New Mexico State managed just 97.6 yards per game in 2012, Texas will be able to put up a stiff front.
Look for defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed to create some pressure with more passing looks, which means the Texas secondary will have plenty of action on Saturday night.
Texas will be looking to create more turnovers this season, as it will feed what should turn into an offensive machine. Expect the Longhorns to score a couple of takeaways at the second and third levels.
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Senior Anthony Fera was recently named the starting kicker and punter on Texas' depth chart, and following a season where the Longhorns really struggled kicking field goals, this is a crucial season for the senior Fera. Fera worked both positions while he was at Penn State, and the Longhorns will be using him as a punter for the first time.
Sophomore Nick Jordan is firmly in the back-up role, while Nick Rose will continue his kickoff duties.
On return duty, Texas will brandish Daje Johnson as its home-run threat, and he very easily could take one to the house.
Texas should have no problem finding the end-zone on Saturday, but the eyes will be on Fera if the Longhorns opt for a field goal of any distance.
Field Goals Made/Attempted: 1/1
Punts: 1 for 43 yards
Fera will get his chip shot, but it will hardly put to rest the concerns about his inconsistency and range.
Johnson will make Texas forget all about D.J. Monroe as the sophomore will have a spotlight moment in his first season-opener with the Longhorns (Johnson was suspended for the first game in 2012).
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Ash will have a very comfortable game and will push for 300 yards passing and three touchdowns and will add another 20-30 yards on the ground.
Davis will be Ash's big connection in the passing game, and the senior wide out will pick up right where he left off last season and will start the season on a high note with at least 105 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
Gray will not topple the century mark on the ground, but his 90 yards effectively will have created so much else for the offense. Bergeron and Brown will each have a touchdown.
On defense, look for Carrington Byndom to record a strong outing as a senior. An interception and very limited receptions against him are definitely in play, but Quandre Diggs may have the louder night with more disruptive play from the nickelback position.