Texas Football: Final Game-by-Game Schedule Predictions
How much difference can a year make? Looking at a schedule that could have as many as seven losses, Texas Longhorn fans are hoping it's a significant one.
Charlie Strong's goal in his first season as head coach at Texas is to take chronic underachievers and get them performing like the talented players they are. Achieving that alone should yield a much better product on the field, especially from a defense led by Cedric Reed, Quandre Diggs and Malcom Brown.
And with fall camp winding down, Strong seems to have done that. David Ash has had an "unbelievable camp," per the Austin American-Statesman's Cedric Golden, Johnathan Gray is tearing it up and there is even some surprising depth emerging in the secondary.
Texans assistant Tommie Robinson noted Gray's effort, via HornsDigest.com's Chip Brown (and Strong):
Charlie Strong said #Texas RB coach Tommie Robinson said today, "Why can't all our players practice like Johnathan Gray?"
So much of Texas' success this season will depend on Ash's health, but this entire team has been put through the meat grinder since Strong was hired. It will compete in every single game, putting a 9-3 record well within reach.
Aug. 30 vs. North Texas
Prediction: Texas 35, North Texas 10
Yes, the Mean Green went 9-3 in 2013 as one of the better non-BCS programs in the nation. That was last year, with one of the oldest rosters in the country.
This season, North Texas is down to just nine returning starters, who have no chance to slug it out with Texas. Reed had 10 tackles in last year's opener against New Mexico State and could do even more damage against a brand-new offensive line.
The most interesting part of the game will be Tyrone Swoopes and his grasp on the offense now that he has been named Ash's backup, per Strong.
Sept. 6 vs. BYU
Prediction: Texas 23, BYU 10
The Horns laid down when the Cougars crushed them 40-21 in Provo last season. They were disinterested, unmotivated and soft from start to finish.
For all of those reasons, Strong has refused to let his players put that game behind them. He's made them all watch the film and becomes "furious" whenever he views it himself, according to 247Sports' Jeff Howe.
"That's all we hear about is BYU," Reed told Howe. "We're ready to play BYU."
"Ready" will be putting it mildly, and the Longhorns will put on a performance that keeps fans satisfied through their most brutal stretch of the season.
Sept. 13 vs. UCLA (Arlington, Texas)
Prediction: UCLA 34, Texas 20
Strong's first real test as head coach of the Horns comes against the Bruins, their Heisman-candidate quarterback and one of the country's most experienced rosters. His team will be competitive, but the Bruins have too much in their favor.
QB Brett Hundley might be the most talented player Texas faces all season, and two-way star Myles Jack will be in the top five of that list as well. And we haven't even mentioned preseason All-Pac-12 linebacker Eric Kendricks and freshman All-American Alex Redmond.
The Bruins are just solid throughout and would be a tough matchup for just about every team in the country—much less a Texas team that will be playing just its third game under a new staff.
Sept. 27 at Kansas
Prediction: Texas 31, Kansas 14
For Texas, the UCLA matchup is the first of three against potential top-10 teams, all of which come within a span of four games. Smack dab in the middle is Kansas, a matchup that comes after a bye week, which will give the Horns some confidence leading up to contests with Baylor and Oklahoma.
Kansas will be better in 2014, even without Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox in the backfield, per The Kansas City Star. Montell Cozart is an exciting athlete at quarterback, and Tony Pierson remains one of the conference's most underrated offensive weapons.
Were this Jayhawks team and its 16 returning starters taking on last year's Longhorns, the upset potential would be there. As it is, head coach Charlie Weis is 4-20 here for a reason, and Strong has two weeks to fix whatever ails his team at this point.
Oct. 4 vs. Baylor
Prediction: Texas 45, Baylor 42
Strong has one upset in him during this stretch, and he will get it at home against Baylor in Texas' most thrilling game of the season.
Even without Tevin Reese and Lache Seastrunk, the Bears will continue to put up amazing offensive numbers in 2014. In fact, their leading trio of Bryce Petty (QB), Shock Linwood (RB) and Antwaan Goodley (WR) could each lead the conference in their respective offensive categories. They're that good.
The defense will be another story. The Bears lost seven defensive starters from last season, including do-it-all safety Ahmad Dixon and four others from the front seven. Shawn Oakman and Bryce Hager will have big years, then the rest is anyone's guess.
Add in the fact that the Bears must replace three offensive linemen, including All-Big 12 guard Cyril Richardson, and the opportunity is there for the Horns.
The Longhorns will be excellent up front with Reed and Malcom Brown playing in front of a deep, experienced linebacking corps. Petty may never face pressure like he will in Austin, and the Longhorn secondary is deeper than originally thought.
ESPN.com's Max Olson notes:
You can tell Strong and Bedford don't think Texas freshman S Jason Hall is a 3-star. He has a real chance to start.
On offense, running backs Malcolm Brown and Gray are ready to play like 5-star backs this year. Brown has been a horse since the Oklahoma game, while Gray continues to rage back from his Achilles injury. They will have their fun with that depleted Bears front, spearheading the keep-away effort throughout.
It's going to be close, but if Texas can steal any game from this early-season trail of tears, this is the one.
Oct. 11 vs. Oklahoma (Dallas, Texas)
Prediction: Oklahoma 24, Texas 14
Trevor Knight is probably not as good as the player who put up video game numbers on Alabama. The thing is, he doesn't have to be.
Aside from the fact that the Sooners are one of the most balanced teams in the country, head coach Bob Stoops has Ash's number. Through two games against the Sooners, Texas' starter is just 24-for-49 with one touchdown and four picks. This year, he'll have to overcome that with Charles Tapper and Eric Striker breathing down his neck.
It will be a tall task, as SoonerScoop.com's R.J. Young notes:
Zach Sanchez, Eric Striker and Charles Tapper make the Nagurski Trophy watch list. Given to the nation's top defensive player. #Sooners
This is a rivalry game, so anything can happen. The Sooners just have more talent right now, and that gives them the distinctive edge.
Oct. 18 vs. Iowa State
Prediction: Texas 38, Iowa State 13
The home matchup against Iowa State will be another rebound for the Horns, who get to start off the second half of their season on a high note.
Iowa State has some offensive firepower courtesy of Quenton Bundrage and Aaron Wimberly. That's about it for the Cyclones, who return six starters from the Big 12's worst defense and have little reason to believe QB Sam Richardson will find some week-to-week consistency.
This was a close matchup last season when Texas had no identity and refused to trot out runner Malcolm Brown. In 2014, Brown and Gray will each cruise past 100 yards to help the 'Horns physically outclass Paul Rhoads' squad.
Oct. 25 at Kansas State
Prediction: Kansas State 28, Texas 24
Texas' third and final loss of the regular season will come at the hands of Bill Snyder and the Kansas State Wildcats, who are always a tough out at home.
Following a 2-3 start to the season, Snyder's team got things going late in 2013 to finish 8-5. The Wildcats were one of the most dangerous teams in the country during that 6-2 finish, due in large part to the chemistry between quarterback Jake Waters and top receiver Tyler Lockett.
Both players return in 2014 to provide the foundation while Snyder works his magic once again. By this point in the season, he will have figured things out to the degree that his Wildcats will be a miserable matchup at home.
On pure talent, this is a game that Texas should win in rather comfortable fashion. There's just something about Manhattan, Kansas, where the Horns haven't won since 2002.
Nov. 1 at Texas Tech
Prediction: Texas 37, Texas Tech 24
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury is doing all of the right things at Texas Tech, attracting big-time recruits like Elite 11 participant Jarrett Stidham to bring the Red Raiders back to their prolific offensive ways.
He also has a chance to finally inject some all-purpose explosiveness to his backfield in the form of Northwestern transfer Venric Mark, per CBS Sports' Jeremy Fowler.
That said, the Longhorns still have the blueprint for taking them down. Their defensive line can still physically dominate the line of scrimmage, so it's hard to imagine QB Davis Webb having any more success than Baker Mayfield had in last season's matchup.
The Horns also enter this matchup with a decided advantage on the other side of the line of scrimmage, where running backs Brown and Gray will continue to do the heavy lifting. Both Brown and the now-dismissed Joe Bergeron eclipsed 100 yards last season, and Joe Wickline's group will have jelled by this point.
As a side note, Brown updates us on Bergeron's status:
Texas A&M Commerce official says former #Longhorns' RB Joe Bergeron has begun enrollment process, will be eligible for the Lions this fall.
@ChipBrownHD, 6 Aug 2014
Tech needed a lot of work when Kingsbury arrived, and it's going to take some more time before this team becomes lethal on its 2008 level.
Nov. 8 vs. West Virginia
Prediction: Texas 30, West Virginia 21
Another week, another team that Texas should beat up on in the trenches. That's the story of the second half of the season for Texas, and it should make the difference in all six of these losable games.
Through two seasons of Big 12 play, head coach Dana Holgorsen's Mountaineers have limped to a 6-12 record. One of the hottest names in coaching prior to that, he is now fighting for a job as hard as anyone in the conference.
Clint Trickett returns to provide some continuity at quarterback, but losing Charles Sims from the backfield is going to hurt. On defense, preseason All-Big 12 safety Karl Joseph will anchor one of the better secondaries in the conference, which should keep the Mountaineers in some games against the better passing offenses.
Still, Texas' ultimate advantage up front will continue to be the difference. Remember, Gray had 56 yards on just eight carries before he went down with his Achilles injury during last season's matchup. Expect a big game out of him.
Nov. 15 at Oklahoma State
Prediction: Texas 27, Oklahoma State 24
This season will have to be one of coach Mike Gundy's finest efforts, as he is replacing 13 starters, including include steady quarterback Clint Chelf and stud corner Justin Gilbert.
Even with those guys gone, this is a game Texas will have to play well in to win. The Cowboys will still be dangerous on offense, where newcomer Tyreek Hill is set for a big season. If QB J.W. Walsh can avoid turnovers as an effective dual-threat, the coaching is good enough that this group should finish strong.
As ESPN.com's Jake Trotter notes:
Mike Gundy very bullish on RB Tyreek Hill. Wants to get him 15-20 touches a game
To this point, we have taken Ash's health for granted because the timing of injuries is so difficult to predict. Even though the defensive line should have another big game, the Horns need Ash to take care of business in a hostile environment.
Nov. 27 vs. TCU
Prediction: Texas 26, TCU 10
Defensive lineman Devonte Fields has been dismissed, and Trevone Boykin is once again set to play quarterback for TCU. What else do you need to know about TCU this season?
In the aftermath of an alleged domestic incident with a girlfriend, Fields is done playing football for TCU. It's sad to watch, because Fields is one of the best pure pass-rushing talents in the country and was unblockable as a freshman (10 sacks, 18.5 tackles for loss).
Without him, TCU loses a majority of its sex appeal. Shutdown corner Jason Verrett is gone, and Boykin seems destined to continue his masquerade at quarterback as 1350 KMAN's John Kurtz points out:
Our TCU PGD reporter John Denton tells us that he hasn’t seen Trevone Boykin take any snaps at WR this fall. QB or bust right now.
The defense will still be good, but will it really be much better than the unit that gave up 35 to the Case McCoy-led Horns last season? That was in Fort Worth, and this Thanksgiving matchup is senior night for Malcolm Brown, Reed and Diggs.
Texas will close the regular season in impressive fashion.