2014 Texas Longhorns Odds to Win the Big 12 with Picks & Predictions
by Aaron Smith - 8/14/2014
Mack Brown was the top man at Texas for 16 seasons. Brown took the team to 15 bowls, 158 wins, and a BCS National Championship in his time with the team. After a disappointing four-year stretch, Brown was pushed out as head coach. Enter Charlie Strong, who was an assistant at Florida under Urban Meyer, and more recently he led Louisville to a 37-15 record in four seasons.
Strong is known as a terrific recruiter and a guy who commands the respect of his players right away, but he'll have to win over some hearts in Texas. This is a fan base that expects a ton from the team every year, and some portions of the base haven't been wild about this hire. Some Longhorns fans believed this program should have gone for an even "bigger" name.
Strong steps into a situation where this team certainly isn't short on talent, but they have seemed short on team chemistry many times in the last few seasons. Can Strong and the new coaching staff help create a more united front in Texas? That's the biggest task he needs to accomplish early in his tenure.
Texas returns seven starters on the offensive side of the ball and eight on the defensive side. The Longhorns had lots of injury issues last year, and if they can stay healthy in 2014 that will be a major boost to their chances.
2014 Texas Offense
David Ash will start the season as the Longhorns starting quarterback. The jury is still out on Ash. He is clearly a good runner, and he gives the team another running threat when he's in the game. Can he effectively test the defense with this throwing arm? Ash looked pretty solid throwing it last year in limited time, but that was largely against poor competition. The other concern for him is how prone he is to injuries. Tyrone Swoopes and Jerrod Heard are both highly-touted youngsters who could see time if Ash struggles.
The strength of this Texas offense is clearly the running game. Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray may be the best tailback tandem in the nation if both can stay healthy, but that has been a major issue in the past couple years. These guys are a nice change of pace from each other, and that keeps the defense on its heels at all times. In order for Texas' running game to reach the heights they truly should, the offensive line will need to be better. They return only 49 career starts on the offensive front, and they'll be learning a new scheme. Can the line hold its own this year?
Texas has a very good No. 1 receiver in Jaxon Shipley. Shipley is a senior leader who is both a playmaker and a sure-handed receiver. The tight ends will be a bigger part of the offense in the new scheme.
The Longhorns offense has some definite question marks, but they also have a significant amount of upside.
2014 Texas Defense
Charlie Strong is known for his defensive prowess, and he has a ton of talent to work with on this side of the ball. Texas returns eight starters from a defense that underachieved in 2013. Can Strong and his staff get these blue-chip recruits to maximize their potential?
Everywhere he has gone, Strong has had a good defensive line. This group underachieved badly last year. I expect them to improve in a big way in 2014. Malcolm Brown (not to be confused with the running back) is the nose tackle here, and he's 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds. Watch out for senior Cedric Reed to have a massive season at defensive end under the new defensive system.
The deepest position on the Longhorns roster is linebacker. Texas' second unit is comprised of guys who have 38 career starts. Think about that statistic for a minute. Timothy Cole is a guy the coaching staff is very high on. Steve Edmond is a veteran leader at the middle linebacker spot. Dalton Santos, Jordan Hicks, and Kendall Thompson should all be solid as well. With tons of depth and ability, this is the best group of linebackers in the Big 12.
Six of the top eight from last year's secondary return for Texas. The Longhorns back line will be led by safety Mykkele Thompson. Quandre Diggs is a strong cover corner, and he has lots of experience. The starting unit is excellent here, but there is a bit of concern about the lack of depth in the secondary.
If Strong has the impact here that he has had on other defenses, this Longhorns defense should be the best defense in the conference in 2014.
2014 Texas Longhorns Odds to Win Big 12
Texas is the third favorite to win the Big 12 at 15/2, according to odds from Bovada. The Longhorns are listed at 66/1 to win the FBS Championship . Oddsmakers have set the team's season win total at 7.5 games .
2014 Texas Longhorns Picks & Predictions
Texas has one of the toughest schedules in the country . If this team has a breakout year in 2014, they will definitely have earned it. They play BYU and UCLA in nonconference action and then are forced to play Baylor and Oklahoma in consecutive weeks in October. The defense needs to be excellent, and the offensive line needs to improve. Texas is a tough team to rate this year, but I don't see them winning a pretty strong Big 12 Conference.
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