Texas Football: 5 Toughest Games Remaining for the 'Horns
The Texas Longhorns are halfway through their 2013 season and the year has hardly panned out as expected.
Nineteen returning starters and some mildly celebrated depth on the roster had the whole "Burnt Orange Nation" transfixed on a near-perfect season with a Big 12 title and a BCS appearance.
Currently sitting at 4-2 and coming off of a win over Oklahoma, which snapped a horrendous three-game losing streak, the Longhorns are very far from near-perfect, but their hopes of a conference championship and a big-time bowl game are still alive.
Texas has the weekend off before tripping up Interstate 35 to Fort Worth to battle TCU; a matchup that will continue to test the resolve and determination of this Texas team.
With six games to go, only one can be considered a gimme—Kansas. So with Baylor, TCU, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and West Virginia still on the horizon, where should Texas worry the most?
Dec. 7 at Baylor
This game was pinned as a potential barn-burner before the season even began, and it looks like it will still uphold that standard at the end of the year.
The Longhorns will finish their 2013 regular season against the FBS' best offense in No. 12 Baylor (5-0, 2-0), and with the Bears averaging 714 yards on offense per game (Oregon is No. 2 with 630 ypg), Texas' defense could be in for a world of hurt if it does not continue to improve throughout the week.
If Texas does not show up with the right mindset and levels of execution, it would not be out of the realm of possibility for Baylor to hang 70-plus points on the Longhorns.
This game could have all of the following attached to it—Baylor's final game at Floyd Casey Stadium, Mack Brown's final game as Texas' head coach and Texas' season a train wreck after huge games against Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.
Baylor is, without a doubt, the class of the Big 12, at least on offense, and Texas will have its hands full with Art Briles' explosive team.
Oct. 26 at TCU
Texas is off this weekend, but it will not be resting in preparation for TCU (3-3, 1-2) next Saturday.
The Horned Frogs spoiled Texas' Thanksgiving last season when Gary Patterson's team marched into Austin and came away with a win in its first year in the Big 12.
TCU is not an offensive juggernaut, but its No. 15-ranked defense is good enough to keep the Horned Frogs in contention late in games. Their three losses have all come by 10 points or fewer, two of which came on the road.
A Patterson-coached team is never lacking in effort and energy, and the Longhorns will have to be dialed in to pick up another crucial, momentous win this season.
Nov. 16 vs. Oklahoma State
Recent history has always had No. 21 Oklahoma State's (4-1, 1-1) offense as the better performer than Texas.
But this year has been a little different. Texas comes in this week as the FBS' 39th-ranked offense, with the Pokes slotted at No. 48.
The more blatant difference has been the marked improvement of OSU's defense, which ranks 38th in the FBS, but is good for fifth in the Big 12.
Texas was very fortunate to steal a win in Stillwater last season, and it will be fortunate to host the Cowboys this year in Austin, where, if the cards fall correctly, the Longhorns could be riding a six-game winning streak before the final three games of the season.
In terms of perspective, OSU's best game has come against Mississippi State in its 21-3 season-opening win. But against the likes of UTSA, Lamar, West Virginia (30-21 loss) and Kansas State, the competition has not been entirely stellar.
Nov. 28 vs. Texas Tech
The Longhorns hosted the Horned Frogs on Thanksgiving last season.
This year, No. 16 Texas Tech (6-0, 3-0) will make the trip down to Austin on a Thursday night in what figures to be a critical game for Texas down the stretch.
The Red Raiders' defense is also markedly improved, coming in as the No. 21-ranked unit in the FBS, a far cry away from what Mike Leach and Tommy Tuberville's teams were able to accomplish.
Offense, however, is still held to a good standard under first-year head coach and former Tech standout Kliff Kingsbury. The Red Raiders' 544 yards of offense per game is good for sixth in the FBS, but is dwarfed by Baylor's explosive unit.
Nov. 9 at West Virginia
A season ago, West Virginia looked a proper fit in the offensively capable Big 12.
Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey led the charge as the Mountaineers were one of the top offensive units in the Big 12, until their season turned a bit sour.
With a No. 78th-ranked offense, WVU looks more pedestrian than ever before under, and that could prove disastrous for a Mountaineers team that is still looking for answers. Coming in at No. 93 on defense is worse for the wear.
Make no mistake, however. The Mountaineers bested Oklahoma State in late September with a surprising 30-21 win over Mike Gundy's team, which was ranked No. 11 at the time.
So even though the personnel is no longer a top threat in the conference, the Mountaineers can still perform at home. Do not forget how well WVU ran the ball against Texas last season.