Is Texas Still Big 12 Title Contender After Week 2 Flop vs. BYU?
If you're a top-tier college football school like Texas, there's rarely a middle ground in the court of public opinion about the state of your program.
Mack Brown demoted Manny Diaz from defensive coordinator to another role within the athletic department on Sunday after an embarrassing loss to BYU. But judging by the mass reaction today, you'd think Brown had less than a week himself to salvage his job.
Hyperbole aside, the move to demote Diaz was out of character for Brown and would indicate he knows he's approaching a crucial point in his career. Of course, Brown has to keep face and move this program forward in the meantime.
Mack said replacing Diaz doesn't mean he's feeling pressure: "You can look at it as panic. I'm just trying to fix it."— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) September 9, 2013
What's Brown going to say?
His job is to win games. Besides the obvious preparation, part of that is getting your players to buy in to the idea that they will be in a position to be successful even if the wheels are this close from flying off the wagon.
Is replacing Diaz with Greg Robinson less than a week before another big out-of-conference game ideal?
Absolutely not, but that's the situation for UT. And obviously it's a situation Brown feels is better for his team than if Diaz was still leading the defense. All this coaching staff and their players can do is move forward and game plan.
Still, Saturday's game against Ole Miss will be a challenge for a number of reasons. The Rebels, in addition to being off to a 2-0 start, catch the 'Horns at an opportune time. There's a major defensive adjustment being made and UT's offense could be without as many as two key starters.
Can Texas win a Big 12 title in 2013?
According to Brown on Monday, wide receiver Daje Johnson, arguably Texas' best offensive weapon, will miss the game with an ankle injury. Quarterback David Ash is questionable with head and shoulder injuries.
Yes, things appear to be getting difficult for Texas, and quickly. Conversely, a win Saturday would be a huge statement for a program that, from the outside looking in, appears to be in the midst of some turmoil.
But win or lose on Saturday, Texas still has an achievable goal: winning a Big 12 title.
The given here is that the Longhorns have to improve in a variety of ways to make this happen. Robinson was actually successful in his only year as Texas' defensive coordinator in 2004, but his disastrous stints as Syracuse's head coach (2005-08) and Michigan (2009-10) have already given plenty of fans the heebie-jeebies.
It doesn't matter who's coaching the defense or what schemes are (or aren't) being run if no one on the defense can tackle.
Not including moments when players were completely out of position, I counted 24 missed tackles for the Longhorn defense vs. BYU.— Geoff Ketchum (@gkketch) September 8, 2013
Does that get turned around in a season, let alone a week? And what about the offense?
The defenses Texas will face going forward are nothing like New Mexico State. Against BYU, Texas' biggest problem was converting on third downs and roughly half of those attempts came in long-distance situations. That was a result of not winning on first and second down, and failing to get the ground game going.
These are correctable problems, but by Brown's own admission, the team hasn't been executing like it needs to. That's a direct reflection of coaching.
If coaching is a concern, a Big 12 title for Texas may be too far out of reach.
It's certainly not going to happen if the Longhorns continue to play the way they did against BYU. So if the question is can the 'Horns compete for a Big 12 championship as of today, then the answer is no.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval.
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