At this time last year and the year before, it would have been much easier to look at the season ahead than it is now.
Texas is 8-2 with hopes of a Cotton Bowl appearance and its first 10-win season since 2009. But with as many returning starters as the Longhorns will have next year, a strong finish to this season would set the Longhorns up for a run at a national title next season.
Texas last captured a national title in 2005, it was seven straight wins to end the 2004 season that spurred the Longhorns onto their championship chase the following year. A bowl victory would be crucial toward making Texas a legitimate national title contender in 2013. An upset over Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan. — where the Longhorns haven’t won since 2002 — would be monumental.
If Texas improves as much between now and the beginning of next season as it has over the last month, there’s no reason the Longhorns can’t run the table next year.
“The only thing that’s important when it comes to football is the product we put on the field,” head coach Mack Brown said. “For two weeks, the product wasn’t very good. It needed to get better. That’s what we did. Now we just have to finish strong.”
David Ash is no Vince Young, but he’ll be a junior next year like Young was in 2005. He’ll still have Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and Johnathan Gray in his backfield — although Malcolm Brown will have to make it through the season healthy for Texas to have a shot at going 13-0. Unless Mason Walters goes pro, wideout Marquise Goodwin will be the only starter Texas’ offense will lose.
“He plays as well as any other quarterback in the country,” Mack Brown said of Ash. “I look forward to him leading us forward.”
Texas will lose Alex Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro, likely first-round picks next April, to the NFL. But if Jackson Jeffcoat, recovering from a torn pectoral muscle, declines to join them, the Longhorns will be one of the nation’s best defenses.
Between Nick Jordan and Anthony Fera, the Longhorns may still not have a reliable placekicker. But with guys like Ash, Gray and linebacker Jordan Hicks — who may be asking for a medical redshirt by this year’s end — returning, Texas will have a chance to go all the way.
After facing TCU this Thanksgiving, Texas will have a chance to play spoiler to Kansas State’s national title aspirations when the Longhorns play the Wildcats in Manhattan, Kan. on Dec. 1.
Maybe next season it’ll be Texas’ hopes for a national championship that other teams will be trying to spoil.
Printed on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 as: Horns have potential for next season