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Man Crush on Kyle Guy
Texas Has Eyes Set On First Big 12 Title Since 2009

Regular Season Win Total

NCAAF Pick: Longhorns Over 9.5 Wins (+115) & Win Big 12 Title


Oddsmakers have set Texas' regular season win total at 9.5 games. The Longhorns went 10-4 last year, but have to face a tougher non-conference opponent in LSU. They are the second-most favored team (behind Oklahoma) to win the Big 12 at +300 and are a long-shot at +2200 to win it all.

Team Preview

Quarterback Sam Ehlinger has always been an absolute competitor. He can carry the team on his shoulders and is always willing to sacrifice his body. To start his career, he possessed a gunslinger mentality and was careless with the football. Last year, he became smarter and more efficient as a passer, throwing two fewer interceptions than in 2017, despite attempting 150 more passes, and converting 7.2% more of his pass attempts.

As a runner, his lack of caution makes him more of an injury risk. Throughout his career, he's had to miss time. Last year, it was the second half of Iowa State and nearly the entire Baylor game. Shane Buechele, who Ehlinger took the starting quarterback job from in 2017, was able to bail out Ehlinger. Buechele was a highly competent backup quarterback, who, most notably, went 10-for-10 in UT's win against Iowa State. It's possible that Texas will miss Buechele, who is now at SMU. Neither of Ehlinger's backups has thrown a pass in college. But Ehlinger is tough and can play through a lot of pain.

At running back, Texas returns last year's second-leading rusher in Keaontay Ingram. Ingram actually lead Texas with five yards per carry, despite carrying it only 38 fewer times than Tre Watson. Watson, though, was a vocal leader who came up with big runs at the right time.

Ingram is an able runner between the tackles who can be pretty dangerous in open space. He'll shoulder a bigger load with the departure of Watson. To prepare himself, he added 15 pounds of muscle. Behind him await Daniel Young, who only carried it 42 times last year, and former wide receiver Jordan Whittington. Whittington has received strong reviews for handling his position switch and promises to be a dynamic, big-play threat. The offensive line will be a positive, returning 55 starts from last year plus getting two-time All-ACC left guard from Georgia Tech, Parker Braun.

Texas likewise loses its leading wide receiver, Lil'Jordan Humphrey, but will reload at this position. Collin Johnson caught 65 passes last year for nearly 1,000 yards. He has always had a rare physical skill set with his size at 6'6, his vertical ability that allows him to grab contested balls in the air, and his speed. The key for him in his second year last year was to improve his route running, to free up more space for himself. Devin Duvernay was Texas' third-leading receiver. He was a top-flight sprinter in high school where he ran a 4.3 40-yard dash. His speed makes him a big-play threat and he had Texas' longest reception last year.

Regarding UT's defense, several outlets like Phil Steele proclaim that it returns only two or three starters. But this is inaccurate if you account for who received starting time towards the end of the season. In reality, Texas returns five starters plus frequent contributors.

The defensive line will reload. Malcolm Roach achieved three sacks and eight tackles for loss as a freshman in 2016. He looks primed to finally build off of those numbers after dealing with different defensive staffs and numerous position switches. He finally enjoys continuity in both respects and will provide an upgrade at defensive end over Breckyn Hager, who was generally outsized. Roach's counterpart, Ta'Quon Graham, is right behind him in terms of experience, having played in 26 games, eight fewer than Roach. Keondre Coburn returns at nose tackle after appearing in a couple games last year, while maintaining his redshirt.

Texas returns four linebackers with starting experience. The most intriguing one is Jeffrey McCulloch, who is most known for achieving a goal-line tackle for loss against TCU that kept it out of the end zone and for making a 65-yard interception return to finish off Kansas.

Five of UT's top eight defensive backs return. It's surest at safety with All-Big 12 first-teamer Caden Sterns and leading tackler (in the secondary) Brandon Jones. As a freshman, Sterns distinguished himself by making game-changing plays, including a blocked kick against USC and two momentous interceptions against TCU. His instinct and ball skill enabled him to lead Texas with four interceptions. Jones' ideal size and physicality allowed him to be the top-ranked safety in the 2016 recruiting class. He plays like he's everywhere with his speed and sideline-to-sideline pursuit. He's likewise reliable in the open field.

Cornerback will also be a position of strength. Jalen Green had signed as the sixth-best cornerback of his class and received strong reviews in the Sugar Bowl against Georgia and during the offseason. He's reportedly a hard hitter and makes up for less-than-impressive speed with his length and ball skill. His counterpart Anthony Cook started last year against Oklahoma State where he already showed good footwork. He played more as the season went on, most notably displaying downhill speed to achieve a timely sack against Kansas.


Man Crush on Kyle Guy

In two years under coach Herman, Texas has struggled in its season opener and in its first road game. Neither trend seems likely to continue as it opens (on August 31) against a cupcake in Louisiana Tech and its first road game (on October 5) is against West Virginia. WVU loses quarterback Will Grier and its three best wide receivers, each of whom accrued between 690 and 1,000 yards. WVU looks to rebuild under a new coaching staff. Rice on September 14 and Kansas at home on October 19 likewise promise to be easy wins.

Oklahoma State will be Texas' first conference opponent on September 21. After losing its playoff hopes last year in Stillwater, the Longhorns have revenge in mind. While starting a quarterback with zero collegiate experience, the Pokes need to make huge strides forward on defense after allowing 32.5 points per game. Their strength was in their pass rush, where they ranked 34th in sack rate. But now they have to replace their top five defensive linemen. Linebacker is also a question mark with only one returning starter. Texas should enjoy a balanced offensive attack behind Ingram's running and Ehlinger having all day to find his receivers.

On October 12, Texas will beat Oklahoma. The Sooners return most of a defense that ranked outside the top 100 in several different categories and deal with a new defensive coordinator. Oklahoma remained competitive in last year's regular season loss to Texas behind 379 passing yards, but will show a significant downgrade in passing ability with run-first quarterback Jalen Hurts and the departure of top receiver Marquise Brown.

As for the rest of the schedule, TCU (October 26) and Iowa State (November 16) will be UT's toughest opponents. The strength of TCU's offense is in the big-play potential in its passing game. Last year, despite enduring a mess of subpar quarterback play, its brightest statistic was to rank 66th in passing explosiveness. The key player for Texas to contain will be wide receiver Jalen Reagor. UT will rely on help from its safeties and it benefits from being able to focus on one playmaker at receiver since KaVontae Turpin departed. Of course, TCU will only be competitive if it can find a positive resolution to its question at quarterback that exists because of perpetually mediocre personnel like the run-first Alex Delton and the persistent drop foot condition that Justin Rogers is suffering.

Kansas State is Texas' next victim on November 9. KSU features a mix of statistically poor and unproven quarterbacks. It loses two of its top three receivers and endures a new coaching staff. Its biggest loss is running back Alex Barnes, who was a huge part of the offense, averaging 5.3 YPC on 256 carries.

Texas has owned Iowa State, winning 14 times in their last 16 meetings. For all the hype surrounding Brock Purdy, he had by far his worst passing performance of the season in last year's 24-10 loss against Texas. What separates Texas is its top returning talent at skill positions. Iowa State does not have nearly the same level of playmaking ability thanks to the departures of 1,200 yard rusher David Montgomery and leading receiver Hakeem Butler. The drop-off is steep after both players--Purdy was ISU's second-leading rusher last year. Their top returning receiver accrued only 417 yards.

Baylor has been the recipient of modest hype after improving to 7-6 last year. Still, it lost all four games last year against ranked opponents. Three of those losses by at least two touchdowns. The one exception was actually Texas. But Texas was also missing its starting quarterback. Baylor's offense was too often anemic last year and its defense ranked towards the bottom of the conference in several different categories. The Bears lose their top wide receiver and don't really threaten with any individual game-changers on offense and the defense still has a long way to go. Texas has won four in a row in the series.

Texas Tech is starting over with a new coaching staff, an offensive coordinator that will emphasize the running game more and a defensive coordinator who will introduce various conceptual changes like the switch from a 4-2-5 to a 3-3-5 and the instillment of different coverages. The emphasis on running is worrisome given Texas Tech's huge question mark at the position, which was underemphasized in the team's pass-happy offense. No running back eclipsed 4.7 YPC. Mostly inexperienced quarterback Alan Bowman will have to develop chemistry with those replacing TT's two leading receivers. Moreover, Texas Tech's defense has a ways to improve after ranking third-to-last in the Big 12 in yards per game allowed.

The hardest game on Texas' schedule will be LSU on September 7. It will be a slugfest that our bet won't depend on. Texas can lose against LSU and one more opponent and our play will still hit.


Man Crush on Kyle Guy
My prose can seem mechanical I think. One editor once compared it to a textbook and I think my education (training to write in grad school) shows. Its very often claim and then evidence, claim then evidence. I think thats a very clear way to write, though. Readability must be top priority. I waste too much time looking up debates on Texas‘ or Texas‘s. Those grammatical fineries have to take a backseat to clarity, which serves the main aim of communication
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