The 2009 Texas Longhorns control their own destiny heading into this college football season. Certainly, the pressure will fall squarely upon the shoulders of Mack Brown, who at first had to prove that he could win the Big One. Now, Brown must prove that he can win the Big One without Vince Young.
Today, the Stars are aligned perfectly for Texas to win out and place their claim to the2009-2010 BCS National Championship Game in Pasadena.
Last season, the burnt orange faithful cringed at the sight of the hated Sooners locking up against the Florida Gators in the title game. Austin took little consolation in the fact that the Horns came from behind to beat Ohio State in dramatic fashion, while OU was unable to match Tim Tebow and company big play for big play.
Texas outgunned Oklahoma 45-35 at the Red River Shootout in Dallas, yet was left on the outside looking in per the Big 12 Title mix per the November 1, 2008 thriller at Lubbock. The Horns lost 33-39 to the Red Raiders upon the Graham Harrell to Michael Crabtree bomb and sideline acrobatics into the end zone as the clock struck :00.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma regrouped to destroy the Big 12 and win the hearts of the BCS voters and computers to steal the ticket to Miami that Texans believed was rightfully theirs.
This year, the Texas Longhorns are in pole position to receive the benefit of the doubt. Oklahoma is old news, the Big 10 is a media joke, and USC will be tossing a green quarterback into the fire of Pac 10 football. The Horns enter the 2009 college football season as the consensus #2 team in the Nation, and the only club that is capable of derailing defending champion Florida.
Texas will gain entry to the Championship Game at the Rose Bowl if they handle business on the field and win out. Of course, running roughshod over the Big 12 Conference will be easier said than done.
2009 – 2010 Texas Longhorns College Football Season Preview: Key Personnel Losses from 2008 – 2009
OG Cedric Dockery
WR Quan Cosby – 92 Receptions for 1,123 Yards and 10 Touchdowns
DE Brian Orakpo – 40 Tackles and 11 Sacks
Starting Defensive Line: DE Henry Melton, DT Roy Miller, DT Aaron Lewis
The Texas Longhorns will miss Brian Orakpo. Orakpo was a stud defensive end – linebacker hybrid that wreaked complete havoc within the opposing backfield. Although Orakpo faced constant double teams and targeted game planning, the defensive maven still collected 11 sacks during the 2008 – 2009 season.
Orakpo led the charge of an experienced and cat quick d-line group that combined with linebacker Sergio Kindle to harass opposing quarterbacks into quick throws and mistakes last season. Will Muschamp, Defensive Coordinator and pressure madman, was at liberty to dial up the blitz from any point on the field and force mismatches at the line of scrimmage for a defense that led the country in sacks.
Of course, the bad luck of the draw had every starting player from the 2008-2009 defensive line leave the program at the very same year.
The 2009-2010 group is raw and untested as a cohesive unit. Interior linemen Kheeston Randall and Lamarr Houston must occupy blockers at the point of attack to allow Sergio Kindle and the linebackers to make plays. The sophomore Randall is a bit undersized for tackle at 285 pounds and must prove that he is not a liability.
The secondary, which represents the weak link of the Texas Longhorns will be exposed if the front seven is unable to pressure the quarterback. Texas’ “depth” at corner is illusory, while safeties Earl Thomas and Blake Gideon love to peek into the backfield and are prone to be taken advantage of over the top.
2009 – 2010 Texas Longhorns College Football Season Preview: Key Contributors, Strengths, and Weaknesses
QB Colt McCoy – Passing: 332 / 433 (77%), 3,859 yards, and 34 passing TDs. Rushing: 561 yards and 11 TDs.
RB Vondrell McGee – 376 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns.
WR Jordan Shipley – 89 receptions, 1060 yards, and 11 touchdowns.
WR Malcolm Williams – 17 receptions, 304 yards, and 3 touchdowns.
DE Sergio Kindle – 10 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, and 36 tackles.
LB Roddrick Muckelroy – 102 total tackles in 2008.
Everything begins with Colt McCoy for the Texas Longhorns. McCoy is putting up video game – like numbers in the Big 12. More importantly, the man’s 32 wins remain within legitimate striking distance of the 42-win record for a starting quarterback in college football. The gunslinger always remains firmly in command of the shotgun-spread offense and torches hapless defenses for chunks of yardage.
Although Quan Cosby graduated at 26 (Cosby played farm league baseball before UT) and is no longer an option, expect both Jordan Shipley and rising talent Malcolm Williams to rack up 1,000+ yards receiving behind the precision arm of their Heisman contending quarterback.
Daniel “Colt” McCoy unceremoniously arrived to Austin as a scrawny freshman kid with cool name and Texas twang to run the scout team in 2005. 4 years later and 30 pounds of muscle later, McCoy is arguably the best signal caller in the game and is also a force to bring down as a ball carrier. Yes, Colt McCoy is the leading rusher of a program renowned for big backs, which lords over a Lone Star State that manufactures top rushers like clockwork.
Texas’ ruuning back by committee of Vondrell McGee, Cody Johnson, and Fozzy Whittaker must step up to control the clock and spare McCoy from injury. The Longhorns cannot afford to play shoot out football week in and week out, particularly against elite competition such as Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and hopefully, Florida.
Pass defense will emerge as the bane of this group. Again, reengineered front four calls for natural linebacker Sergio Kindle to drop down into a 3-point stance at end forge his best Brian Orakpo imitation.
Meanwhile the talented, yet potentially overworked linebacking corps of Muckelroy, Jared Norton, and Keenan Robinson must play the angles to both rush the quarterback and patrol the middle zone to shield a weak secondary.
The Texas secondary is burnt orange toast and was torched repeatedly by big arm quarterbacks last season. Sam Bradford, Zach Robinson, and Graham Harrell all toyed with the Longhorn defensive backs in the pass happy Big 12. Harrell and the Red Raiders blitzed the Longhorns for a ridiculous 474 yards passing in Lubbock.
This glaring weakness is not exactly what dreams and championship football are made of.
2009 – 2010 Texas Longhorns Schedule Key Games, Dates, and Predictions:
October 17: Texas vs. Oklahoma Sooners in Dallas @ 12 p.m. EST
October 24: Texas at Missouri TBA
October 31: Texas at Oklahoma State TBA
December 5: Big 12 Championship Game – Arlington, TX
December 5: SEC Championship Game – Atlanta, GA
January 4, 2010: BCS Fiesta Bowl – Glendale @ 8 p.m.
January 7, 2010: BCS National Championship Game – Pasadena @ 8:30 p.m.
All eyes are dead set upon the October 17 Texas – Oklahoma showdown at the Texas State Fair. This national semifinal will swing the BCS balance of power in favor of the victor.
Various pundits feature the easy breezy scenario where Texas outplays Oklahoma and runs the table to challenge Florida for all the marbles at Pasadena. But, what is the BCS without sheer controversy?
How does Texas match up against Oklahoma?
Have the Texas Longhorns and Mack Brown actually won a Big Game in which they were favored to win?
History does not bode well for Texas. Oklahoma features the personnel to gas the Longhorns front-7, riddle the UT secondary behind the precision passing of Sam Bradford, and occupy Texas linebackers with a load of TE Jermaine Gresham for good measure.
Remember, the special teams heroics of Jordan Shipley swung the momentum of last year’s Red River Rivalry, in which UT had been decidedly outmatched prior to the punt return score.
OU will beat Texas at the Cotton Bowl in 2009. The loss will be even more devastating than the 2001 and 2002 defeats, which were highlighted by a brazen Roy Williams launching himself into a shell shocked Chris Simms and forcing a TD – INT in the back of the end zone for Oklahoma.
Irrespective of the Red River Shootout, Texas must combat a death trap sandwich game at Missouri, before marching into rabid Stillwater to confront a dangerous Oklahoma State team.
Texas will lose one of the three, and the defeat will come at the hands of the hated Oklahoma Sooners.
Austin will view the Big 12 Championship, SEC Championship, and BCS National Championship Game with equal parts heartache, confusion, disinterest, and outright anger. I would suggest that the Texas student body begins to book return travel to Phoenix, Arizona per the Fiesta Bowl at this very moment.
2009 – 2010 Texas Longhorns College Football Season Preview and Predictions
Colt McCoy’s imminent Heisman Trophy will serve as a bitter consolation prize for coming up short per the BCS National Championship Game this season. Oklahoma matches up very well against Texas and the one-loss Longhorns will be on the outside looking in per the BCS.
Oklahoma and Texas may very well run the Big 12 table outside of the Red Rivalry shootout. USC and the Ohio State – Penn State Big 10 Matrix will also do damage to title hopes in Austin. These three powers are linked by USC vs. Ohio State and Penn State vs. Ohio State during the 2009 college football season. The team that emerges unscathed from these pairings will add further confusion to the BCS computer algorithm mix as a legitimate opponent for the Florida Gators.
The 11-1 2009 Texas Longhorns are set to punch a return ticket to the Fiesta Bowl.
2009 Texas Longhorns College Football Season Preview, Sources:
Texas Longhorns Football, http://www.mackbrown-texasfootball.com/
ESPN, College Football, http://espn.go.com/college-football/
The Bowl Championship Series, http://www.bcsfootball.org/bcsfootball