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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Texas Football: The North Texas Game 

Week One: Texas (0-0) v. North Texas (0-0)
Last Meeting: 2004 -- Texas 65, North Texas 0
All-Time Series: Texas leads, 8-0

Welcome to another season of Texas Longhorns Football! That's the defending national champion Texas Longhorns, by the way, in case you forgot.

The last time Texas opened a season as the defending title holder, teams ran the wishbone with mostly white players. ESPN couldn't overhype games that year involving USC or Notre Dame, because it didn't even yet exist. And Joe Paterno... actually I don't think Joe Paterno's changed one bit in that 35-year span, so nevermind.

Fortunately Texas fans won't have to wait another three-and-a-half decades to experience their next national title. That will come in about five months.

Okay, maybe not. But despte what the talking heads may tell you, it's not that far-fetched. And forget that stat about a freshman QB not winning the national title since OU in 1985, because show me a team in that span that mirrors the Texas Longhorns of 2006. Quarterback is the only position in which they aren't at least as strong as 2005, and almost every other area of the team should be better than the one that walked out of the Rose Bowl as BCS champions, including the offensive and defensive lines, which may be the best repective units in the country.
If I'm not making a convincing enough argument, then perhaps my good friend Matt can do better:

Your defending national champions (man does that feel good to type) return running backs Jamaal Charles and Selvin Young. They return receivers Limas Sweed and Billy Pittman. The line that anchored the national championship run returns 3 starters. The defensive line returns 3 starters. The linebackers return 2 starters. The secondary is stacked as ever, with Michael Griffin a Thorpe candidate and Tarrell Brown/Aaron Ross among the best corner duos in the nation.

But there is one missing piece.

He was huge. No doubt about it.

But Limas Sweed and Jamaal Charles moved that offense up and down that field in Columbus last season as much as anyone. Billy Pittman stretched the field in Columbus and in Dallas among other locales. Brian Robison made Rhett Bomar’s life a living hell before he had a chance to do it to himself on the Cotton Bowl turf. The national championship is a pipe dream if the defense doesn’t stop the greatest offense in the history of the game on 4th and 2 late in the ballgame. The offensive line should again be one of the best in the nation after opening holes the size of tanks for the nation’s 3rd best rushing attack last season and has made sure everyone remembers that this team hasn’t won jack.

Jordan Shipley, whose high school highlights are longer than The Godfather, is finally healthy and ready to contribute. Quan Cosby has the speed to stretch defenses the length of a Canadian football field. Jermichael Finley is poised to become the next great Texas tight end. Can’t handle the speed of Charles and Young? Don’t worry, Henry Melton is much slower. But I should mention that he’s 260 pounds.

Lose Rod Wright in the middle of the defensive line? Texas loses guys and plugs in two potential All-Americans in their spot and coaches quietly tell you that they expect the position to be better this year. Name another linebacker in the country that ran stride for stride with Reggie Bush last year besides Drew Kelson. The secondary is as deep as ever with the speed of Ryan Palmer and the size of Erick Jackson.

And like Mark Cuban winning the lottery, the national championship brought arguably the nation’s number one recruiting class to Austin, with several freshmen expected to contribute this season.

Mack Brown lost 30 pounds in the off-season and he looks great and has the swagger of a national champion. His coaching staff holds that same confidence.

We’re bigger. We’re faster. We’re in better condition.

One thing this team is not?


Come and take it.

(courtesy of The Week That Will Be, by Matt Craig)
Damn. Now I'm fired up, and kickoff is still more than 28 hours away.

This Wek's Game in a Nutshell

It's hard to get too fired about North Texas, but it's amazing what nine months without football can do in terms of anticipation. The Mean Green don't pose a strong threat to the Horns, but that's not to say they're devoid of talent.

Their main stength should be the running game, which features Jamario Thomas, a talented junior that topped 1800 yards as a freshman, before struggling with injuries in 2005. Of course they could probably put Walter Payton (when he was alive; not the current corpse) in the backfield for this game and it still might not matter against the Texas defense.

North Texas will struggle to move the ball and score points. Texas may do the same early on, as Colt McCoy gets his feel for full-speed game action. But I suspect that Greg Davis will ease him into the flow of the game with a heavy dose of Selvin Young and Jamaal Charles. In fact I expect both backs to top 100 yards. That should help create a comfort zone for McCoy, who needs to do nothing except work out the kinks for next week.

The Greg Brown Memorial Pre-Game Premonition

Selvin Young will score a touchdown off of a zone read hand-off on Texas' first play from scrimmage.

(note: this category gets its name from my friend Paul, who the night before the 2000 Texas-Texas A&M game eerily, and more importantly correctly, predicted that Texas DB Greg Brown would intercept the first pass of the game and return it for a touchdown.)

Personal Anecdote Involving This Week's Opponent

My first Texas home game came in 1988, when Texas hosted North Texas State (before they became UNT). The Eagles led 24-7 late before Texas came back to win. On the field after the game I overheard Ken Hackemack tell a friend, "we kicked their ass." No, Ken, you didn't. It's hard to believe, 18 years later, that a Texas team would need three second half touchdowns to beat North Texas.

Semi-Relevant quote from The Big Lebowski

"Life does not stop and start at your convenience, you miserable piece of s---."

Unfortunately, when you're a television network, college football does start and stop at your convenience. That's why the defending national champions will bake in the afternoon Texas sun, while the team they beat in Pasadena opens in the cooler evening temperatures.

"The Facts"

(note: some of you may remember this section from the two previews I wrote in 2005. Well, it's back.)

- Texas is a very good football team.
- North Texas is not.
- Texas is going to win. By a bunch.

Prediction: Texas 48, North Texas 6


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