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Top 5 Concerns for Texas Heading Into Big 12

Top 5 Concerns for Texas

The top five concerns for Texas heading into Big 12 play may seem like speed bumps now, but they’re worth keeping an eye on.  Starting 3-0 with an impressive win over Alabama can go a long way toward covering up what hasn’t gone right for the Longhorns.  Questions about whether Texas is back seem to have been answered.  Now the Longhorns head to Waco to take on Baylor and kick off the Big 12 schedule.  It will be an uphill fight for Texas to run the conference table and set itself up for a shot at the playoffs.  Texas has not won a Big 12 championship since 2009. What will it take to get there? And what are the top 5 concerns for Texas heading into the Big 12?

What flaws are nagging the unbeaten Longhorns?  Watching them bulldoze through the nonconference schedule raises a few questions about how they’ll fare in the Big 12.  The offense has been clicking and the defense has been up to snuff, but there have been chinks in the armor.  The top five concerns for Texas heading into Big 12 play could derail the Longhorns in their pursuit of a national title.

5. Running on Fumes

The Texas running game has not gotten it turned around this season.  The Longhorns had a yeomanlike 158 yards on 39 carries against Rice.  The encore performance against Alabama was a paltry 105 yards on 37 rushes.  Finding replacements for Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson has been as difficult as expected.

The Longhorns are ranked tenth in rushing yards per game in the 14-team Big 12.  Meanwhile, Texas was top-ranked in both passing and receiving yards heading into the Wyoming game.  It may be unfair to place the burden of replacing two NFL running backs on sophomore Jonathon Brooks.  But he finally broke free against Wyoming, rushing for 164 yards on 21 carries.

Critics will point out that Texas got its running game on track against a Mountain West Conference opponent.  The Longhorns seem to be relying on the young Brooks as the workhorse back going forward.  Three games into the season, questions remain about the potency of the rushing attack.

4. The Offense Can’t Be This Good

Quinn Ewers has passed for 740 yards, eight touchdowns, and no interceptions in the first three games.  It’s safe to say we’re seeing an improved version of Ewers this year.  The sophomore capped nonconference play with 11 of 21 passing for 131 yards and two scores.  He has an array of talented receivers to throw to, and the Longhorns have been getting All-America levels of play from tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders.

Winning ugly seems to be the Longhorns’ style under Ewers.  How long can they expect to win in the Big 12 with Ewers playing the way he did against Wyoming?  He stepped up in the fourth quarter with another long touchdown pass to Xavier Worthy.  You could say Ewers comes through for the Longhorns when they need him the most.  The problem is, they need him all the time.  Until the running game gets turned around, it’s all on Ewers and the receivers to carry the load.

3. The Merry-Go-Round on Defense

Defensive end Barryn Sorrell had the big game everyone had been waiting for.  He had five tackles and registered his first sack of the season against Wyoming.  He said before the season his goal was to get 10 sacks this year, so he still has a way to go.  Sorrell is the team’s returning sack leader and is being leaned on heavily by the Longhorns.  He turned up just in the nick of time for Texas, which has been getting sack production from David Gbenda, Byron Murphy, Ethan Burke, Anthony Hill, and T’Vondre Sweat.

Head Coach Steve Sarkisian has rotated young players heavily throughout the nonconference schedule.  Will he continue to mix and match players during conference play?  The Texas defense allowed the first 100-yard rusher of the season when Wyoming’s Harrison Waylee reeled off 113 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.  No matter which players are on the field, they need to return to the form that kept Rice and Alabama from running the ball.

2. The Defense Can’t Be This Good

The Longhorns’ 3-0 record has been built on an attacking defense that causes turnovers.  Six different players have registered at least one sack.  The defense has been more physical than all three of its opponents and kept the Longhorns in the game while the offense got itself sorted out.

The defense can only carry the offense so far.  Texas took over the Alabama and Wyoming games late on fourth-quarter touchdowns.  In both games, the Longhorns relied on the defense to hold down the fort until the offense could rally.  The Texas defense has figured out a way to get it done so far this season.  There’s very little for the Longhorns to clean up on that side of the ball heading into the Big 12.

1. The Team Is Still a Year Away

Texas lost its Big 12 opener last season against Texas Tech.  The Longhorns would do well to focus on this year’s opener with Baylor and leave it at that.  No matter how heavily Texas will be favored, there’s no reason to look past the Bears.

Can the Longhorns be consistent and mature enough to win the Big 12?  Playing behind an inconsistent Ewers, Texas converted just four of 12 third down conversion attempts against Wyoming.  The team remains young at quarterback along with many other positions across the board.  Youth and lack of depth abound everywhere except for the wide receivers and defensive linemen.  Improving on last season’s 6-3 conference record and winning a Big 12 title appear to be achievable objectives for Texas, but it needs to play better.

Winning can cover a lot of flaws.  The Longhorns are living in a best-case scenario with a win over Alabama, a top-five national ranking, and an unbeaten record.  Texas now gets to see how it stacks up against the Big 12 one last time.


Top 5 Concerns for Texas

Photo courtesy: Mikala Compton/Austin American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK




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