First-year Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn led perhaps the most dramatic turnaround in college football in 2013. Coming off a 3-9 season with a winless SEC record last year, Malzahn took the Tigers to the BCS National Championship and came within a minute of beating Florida State.
That type of instant success raises the bar for other programs where the term "championship or bust" is not only a mentality, but a realistic goal.
Texas, with its infinite resources and money, is one of those programs. Former head coach Mack Brown "resigned" last month after 16 years with the program because, as great as he was handling the political and media obligations, he simply wasn't producing a championship product on the field.
The pressure will be on new coach Charlie Strong, who comes from Louisville, to get things turned around quickly. Strong is already seeing the pressures of the job before coaching a single down. On Monday and Tuesday, prominent Texas booster Red McCombs shared some less-than-flattering opinions about Strong, calling the hire a "kick in the face."
It's understandable that there are questions about how Strong will handle the off-the-field obligations of his new gig, or how he'll recruit the State of Texas. However, questioning his coaching credentials is ridiculous.
Strong's background is in defense, so expect the 'Horns to show a significant improvement on that side of the ball in 2014. Greg Robinson did a nice job stepping up as defensive coordinator when Brown fired Manny Diaz two weeks into the 2013 season.
Still, the report, according to Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman, is that Louisville defensive coordinator Vance Bedford will join Strong in Austin—provided Bedford doesn't get the Cardinals' coaching job.
Don't expect Texas to give up 550 yards rushing under Strong like it did against BYU in September. Louisville was No. 1 in the country in rush defense, allowing 80.7 yards per game on the ground. The Cardinals also finished the year ranked No. 2 in scoring defense at 12.2 points per game allowed.
While there's no guarantee Texas will post those kind of numbers in Year One, defense should be a strength. How Big 12 offenses develop next season will be an interesting factor to watch as well. Only three Big 12 teams—Baylor (No. 1), Oklahoma State (No. 14) and Texas Tech (No. 23)—finished in the top 25 in scoring.
Another area that should improve under Strong is competitiveness. All five of the 'Horns losses in '13 came by an average of 21 points. In his four seasons in Louisville, Strong only lost by double digits twice: a 17-point loss to Pitt in 2010 and a 19-point loss to Syracuse in 2012. Strong's teams always play with an edge, even if the talent wasn't there to begin with.
Some excellent players are returning to Texas' defense too, including defensive tackle Malcom Brown. If juniors Cedric Reed and Desmond Jackson return, the 'Horns' defensive line could be beastly. The question will be whether draft-eligible juniors like Reed, Jackson and defensive back Quandre Diggs turn pro or not.
There should be changes coming to strength and conditioning too with Pat Moorer likely coming over from Louisville, according to Strong's comments in his Monday press conference. Injuries were a major issue for Texas, especially on defense.
Another big question will be what will Texas do on offense? Like defense, there are some nice pieces in place. It just hasn't come together.
The backfield will once again feature running backs Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron. There's no reason why the Longhorns can't have a successful running game. The right side of the offensive line will be a bit inexperienced, but right tackle Kent Perkins has promise.
The fascinating development will be in the passing game. Quarterback David Ash is coming back from a concussion that knocked him out for most of the season. With Jaxon Shipley, Daje Johnson, Marcus Johnson and Kendall Sanders, there's a ton of potential at the wide receiver spot.
Strong's most important hire will be his offensive coordinator. It's not clear if he'll bring Cardinals offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, another candidate for the Louisville head job, or someone else. Either way, points will matter if Texas wants to compete against Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and the like.
As will recruiting. Strong said in presser that he planned to "close off the borders" of Texas.
"We will recruit with fire and we'll recruit with passion," Strong said via the USA Today. "We're devoted to making Austin the capital of college football, as well as the state capital."
How long it takes Strong to fulfill that promise remains to be seen. What Longhorns fans should expect, though, is to see a new, edgier football team in September.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. You can follow him on Twitter @BenKercheval.