Texas Longhorns Odds to Win the 2015 College Football National Championship
by Alan Matthews - 7/31/2014
Here's all you need to know about how bad the talent level had gotten at powerhouse Texas under former coach Mack Brown: UT, a school that prints money and has access to some of the best high school talent in the nation, didn't have a single player taken in the 2014 NFL Draft. It's the first time a University of Texas player hasn't been picked since 1937, and the draft has only been around since 1936. I mean, SMU had two players, including QB Garrett Gilbert, once considered the heir apparent at Texas behind Colt McCoy, whom he replaced in the 2010 BCS title game when McCoy went down injured. Marist had a player drafted. So did Concordia College. Unbelievable.
Texas finished last season 8-5, which isn't too bad considering how lousy the team looked in embarrassing back-to-back losses to BYU and Ole Miss to start the year at 1-2. Texas played Baylor in the regular-season finale for the Big 12 title and Fiesta Bowl berth, but the Horns were thumped 30-10. Then they were again in the Alamo Bowl by Oregon. It was the fourth straight year Texas lost at least four games.
Brown resigned Dec. 14, finishing his Texas career with a record of 158-48. UT swung for the fences and reportedly offered Alabama's Nick Saban a $100 million package, including a $15 million signing bonus, but Saban said he was too old to start over again. So Texas settled for Louisville's Charlie Strong, a pretty big hire from a social impact in the state as he's an African-American. Big-time booster Red McCombs, former owner of the Vikings, ripped the hiring. But it's hard to argue with Strong's resume. He won two national titles under Urban Meyer as the defensive coordinator at Florida and then turned U of L into a very good program.
Texas Odds to Win the 2015 National Championship Story Lines
Let's start with the big question first: Who is the quarterback? If you are looking for a reason why this team has struggled the past few years, it's because of uneven QB play -- to think Brown didn't even recruit Johnny Manziel. Just last week, Strong announced incumbent David Ash will be his starter heading into fall camp. This was mostly expected. Ash played pretty well in 2012, throwing for 19 touchdowns in 2,699 yards but played in only three games last year after suffering a serious concussion. His main competition in camp will be sophomore dual-threat Tyrone Swoopes. He got into five games last year in mop-up duty, going 5-for-13 for 26 yards. Assuming Ash stays healthy, he'll be the guy on Aug. 30 against North Texas.
Expect the Horns to be a very run-heavy offense as they have a nice stable of backs even with the recent dismissal of Joe Bergeron. He had 16 touchdowns in 2012 as the team's short-yardage back but dropped to four in 2013. UT still has Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown in the backfield, so it should be fine. Solid receiver Jaxon Shipley (56 catches, 589 yards) is back, but that position also took a hit depth-wise with the indefinite suspensions of Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander. They are accused of a sexual assault. Sanders started seven games last year. Meander is a redshirt freshman who did not play in 2013. The offensive line must replace three starters.
The defense welcomes seven starters back, and the front four should be among the best in the Big 12, led by Cedric Reed and Malcom Brown. Reed finished with 10 sacks and 19 tackles for loss as a junior. Linebacker Jordan Hicks could be a star if the former five-star recruit can stay on the field. He has missed 19 games the past two seasons.
As for the schedule , Texas will only leave the state for three games: at Kansas, at Kansas State and at Oklahoma State. So that's nice. UT will blast North Texas in the opener but then has back-to-back-tough home games vs. BYU and UCLA. Last year the Cougars punked Texas 40-21 in Provo, rushing for an obscene 550 yards. The Horns will be favored there but probably not against a very good UCLA team, even in Austin. The key Big 12 games are Oct. 4 at home vs. Baylor and the next week against Oklahoma in Dallas. Win those two, and Texas could win the Big 12. I don't see UT beating the Sooners, however. The Horns also probably lose Nov. 1 at Texas Tech and Nov. 15 at Oklahoma State.
Texas 2015 National Championship Odds and Trends
The Horns are 66/1 to win the national title and have a wins total of 7.5, with the "under" a -125 favorite. They are not currently a betting option on making the College Football Playoff. UT is 7/1 to win the Big 12 title, which may or may not be enough to get it into the playoff. The Big 12 Champion is likely going to be hurt a bit with no conference championship game. There is no Heisman candidate on the squad. Texas was 6-7-0 against the spread last season (4-4 at home) and 5-8-0 "over/under" (2-6 at home).
Texas Odds to Win the 2015 National Championship Picks and Predictions
Let's put it this way: If Strong doesn't believe his team can compete for a national title this season, why would I? "We will not be in the National Championship Game," he said back in April, trying to temper expectations as he reworks the program. Right now UT is no better than third in Texas alone behind A&M (which has to rankle UT fans the most) and Baylor. I would recommend over the 7.5 wins, however, as this looks like an 8-4 team to me.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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