Texas Could Actually Win the Big 12, Here's How
The last time the Texas Longhorns won the Big 12, there was a McCoy at quarterback. The last time the Longhorns won the Big 12, they beat Oklahoma while riding a winning streak that lasted the rest of the season.
That was 2009.
Fast forward to 2013 and stunningly, the Longhorns (5-2, 4-0) are in that very same position.
Texas has Case McCoy at quarterback, in place of the injured David Ash, and the Longhorns are riding a four-game winning streak which included a physical beatdown of the Sooners at the Cotton Bowl.
Confidence is rising in Austin, and if the Longhorns continue to ride this wave of success, they could be peering down a triple-barreled matchup of ranked opponents to finish the season.
This is already turning into one of the wildest seasons for Texas is recent memory, and as long as the Longhorns continue to improve, the ride will only become more enjoyable for the fans.
But can Texas do the unthinkable, considering where this team was perceived to be heading after a 1-2 start? Is that in the cards?
According to Mack Brown, it definitely is.
Two Down, Two to Go
Texas had four goals set in the preseason, according to Mack Brown in a recent press conference.
Winning the first game of the season and beating Oklahoma were two. Those bridges have been crossed.
Win the Big 12 and win a bowl game are the other two objectives that are still very much intact despite the perplexing 1-2 start to the season that saw Texas' defensive coordinator get the boot just two games into the year.
The change at defensive coordinator has come with an apparent change in attitude with the team.
Texas is more physical, more purposeful and more confident than at any point this season, and it continues to produce on a weekly basis with a loose McCoy running the show.
At this point, the Longhorns seem to be focused on meeting their goals, as the slow start has not tarnished their hopes at achieving those marks.
The Next Five
With five games to go, Texas has the following matchups: Nov. 2 vs. Kansas, Nov. 9 at West Virginia, Nov. 16 vs. No. 18 Oklahoma State, Nov. 28 vs. No. 15 Texas Tech, Dec. 7 at No. 6 Baylor.
Given how Texas has been playing, wins over Kansas and West Virginia are expected.
The level of physical running the Longhorns have established in their last two games will be something that can carry them for the rest of the season. Will it always lead to huge plays? No, but it serves the passing game well, an area that has seen vast improvement with the emergence of Marcus Johnson, among others.
That would leave the Cowboys, the Red Raiders and the Bears still to come in what will be the toughest stretch of Texas' 2013 schedule by far.
The Longhorns fortunately draw Oklahoma State and Texas Tech at home, an aspect that could be critical considering what we have seen from the Texas defense this season.
But when considering the body of work over the course of Big 12 play, Baylor is the only team that can be considered a better favorite than Texas to win the conference.
Are the Pokes and Red Raiders better teams than Texas? Maybe. But if the Longhorns do manage to get to Nov. 16 with their winning streak unbroken, they have to like their chances with both on home turf given their positive developments thus far.
Texas found its identity, and it revolves around pounding the football up the middle.
The Longhorns ran for 255 yards on a Sooners defense that is allowing an average of 134.8 rushing yards per game. On a similarly successful note, Texas ripped off 187 yards on the ground against a TCU defense that is giving up 124.2 yards per game.
So Texas is getting it done against the league's best while still finding its feet in the passing game.
We are seeing this Texas offense evolve during the season, and it has started with its ability to run the football successfully and at will.
|vs. KSU, vs. ISU||vs. OU, vs. TCU|
|Avg. Rush Off.||173 yards||221 yards|
|Avg. Pass Off.||234.5 yards||209 yards|
|Yards per carry||4.6||3.9|
|Yards per catch||10.4||21.7|
During the 'Horns current four-game winning streak, there is an obvious bump in offensive proficiency during games three and four of that sequence, their most recent victories of Oklahoma and TCU, games they won in convincing fashion.
In the two wins over Kansas State and Iowa State, Texas is averaging 10.4 yards per reception. In its wins over the Sooners and the Horned Frogs, Texas is picking up more than twice that per catch at 21.7 yards per pick-up and on 23 less receptions.
So while the average yards per carry have taken a slight hit, Texas has ran the ball nearly 40 more times combined against Oklahoma and TCU. In exchange, the Longhorns have hit a great balance offensively, allowing them to explore their options down the field with an improving McCoy at quarterback.
One Order of the Greg Robinson Special
Number do not lie. The Longhorns are not only showing signs of an up-swing on offense, but they are improving significantly on the defensive side of the football as well.
In games 1-3, contests deemed more influenced by the Manny Diaz defensive lineup, Texas gave up an average of 491.3 yards on defense (308.7 yards on the ground), this coming against New Mexico State, BYU and Ole Miss.
In their next four games, which composes the 'Horns' four-game winning streak, they are allowing 340.5 yards per game (122.8) against Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma and TCU.
Whatever defensive coordinator Greg Robinson has been feeding his players, they will need more of it. The Texas defense is playing a different brand of football than we have seen at any point under Diaz.
The 'Horns are swarming. They are physical, in position and finishing their tackles.
Texas fans are going Oliver Twist. They want some more.
The Bottom Line
Winning football games need results from both sides of the football, and right now, Texas is getting that.
The emergence of guys like Marcus Johnson, Kendall Sanders, Cedric Reed, Chris Whaley and Malcom Brown have helped support the success of the team over the course of its winning streak.
Coupled with the steady production from the playmakers like Jordan Shipley, Mike Davis, Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown, Daje Johnson, Jackson Jeffcoat and Quandre Diggs, finally the pieces are starting to form together as Texas is getting hot at the right time to ride deep into Big 12 Title contention.
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