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Monday, August 25, 2008

The 2008 Texas Longhorns Season Preview 

2007 Record: 10-3 (Won Holiday Bowl)
2008 Preseason Rank: 10 (USA Today/Coaches Poll); 11 (Associated Press)

2007 In Review

A few hours before Texas kicked off its 2007 season against Arkansas State, lowly Appalachian State waltzed into the Big House and upset the Michigan Wolverines. Sure, App State had won the Football Championship Subdivision (nee Division I-AA) the year before, but Michigan had played in the Rose Bowl the previous season, and had come within a hair of reaching the BCS Championship game. None of that mattered when the Mountaineers blocked a potential game-winning field goal to seal an improbable victory.

So when Texas fans breathed a collective sigh of relief that evening, which came only after their Horns recovered an onside kick to squelch a late comeback bid, they could at least rest easy in the knowledge that an eight-point win against an opening weekend cupcake didn't make their team the laughingstock of major college football. Instead it served as a precursor to what ended up as perhaps the craziest season in college football's BCS era.

In a manner reminiscent of 2001, it seemed that no team wanted to play for a national title (see: USC v. Stanford, LSU v. Arkansas, Oklahoma v. Texas Tech, Ohio State v. Illinois, Oregon v. Dennis Dixon's ACL, West Virginia v. Pitt, South Florida v. the second half of the season). And when the season mercifully ended - amidst a storm of controversy - a team with two losses won college football's ultimate prize against a team whose uninspired play gave credence to their detractors' claims that they didn't deserve the shot in the first place.

Texas' chances for a national title ended on a rain-soaked field in late September; their conference title hopes disappeared a week later in the Cotton Bowl. And to add further insult, a Texas A&M squad with a lame duck coach out-everythinged the Horns for three quarters, until a late rally made an eight-point defeat as respectable as possible. In between, the Horns needed thrilling comebacks to down Oklahoma State and Nebraska, and Jamaal Charles' home run threat just slightly edged out the special teams "hands squad" as the Horns' biggest difference-maker.

Despite all of the negatives, Texas managed to re-group and thump Arizona State, co-champions from the Pac-10, the way they weren't able to against titans like Central Florida. Pre-dawn practices and open competition for positions paved the way for the kind of mauling Texas fans expect, right or wrong, every time the Horns step on the field. And when Mack Brown's 10th season at the helm of the Burnt Orange empire concluded, his team had once again won 10 games, yet they also once again fell short of a conference title or BCS berth.

2008 in a Nutshell

Without delving into the tired "re-build v. re-load" discussion, it's safe to say that Texas begins 2008 a year or two away from national title contention. It's certainly possible that a running back emerges to replace Jamaal Charles, one or more of a young stable of wide receivers emerges as a gamebreaker, and the green secondary matures faster than the Westbrook-Thomas-Carter or Griffin-Huff groups that eventually earned well-deserved accolades, but history suggests that one of those happening is tough enough, much less all three.

Then there's the schedule, which removes a cupcake (Iowa State) and two once-stout programs now floundering in mediocrity (Kansas State, who have won two straight against the Horns, and Nebraska) and replaces them with two potential powers (Kansas and Missouri) and one up-and-comer (Colorado, with former-almost-Longhorn Darrel Scott). Throw in Arkansas and a trip to Lubbock and Mack's 10-win mantra becomes a significant accomplishment, as opposed to the eye-roll-inducing byproduct of expanded schedules and watered-down non-conference slates that some Texas fans contend.

With an offensive line that will return all but one starter, and young talent developing in a number of positions, Texas fans can legitimately look at 2008 as the season that builds toward a return to national prominence.

What to Expect in 2008?

For one thing, I promise to finish the season. I also promise to lay off of the political commentary, which should be easy considering I find our two presidential candidates as inspiring as a home game against Baylor, which as it turns out, occurs just a few days after we go to the polls. And in the true political sense, I promise that my promise will be honored just as much as any one that you'll hear from Barack "I promise to give the American people 'hope' and 'change' on everything but my VP selection" Obama, and John" I promise I'm different from George W. Bush on everything but the things I'm exactly the same as him on" McCain.

Expect the same shtick as always, though maybe with a few new sections. I'll even try to make it somewhat interesting and/or funny.

I promise.

The Best Preseason Texas Video I Could Find on Youtube

Hook'Em Horns!


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