When Texas rolls over to Provo, Utah, the Longhorns will be taking on BYU for only the fourth time in the history of either program. BYU won in both 1987 and 1988 (even stomping the Horns, 47-6, in 1988), while Texas took home the “W” in 2011.
Obviously, Burnt Orange Nation will be looking to even up the all-time series at two games apiece, but there is something far more immediate than history at stake on Saturday: There is the opportunity for Texas to move to 2-0 on the young season and one step closer to the ever-important 10-win season. For BYU, hosting Texas also serves as the Cougars’ 2013 home opener. Coach Bronco Mendenhall’s squad is presumably ready for some home cookin’ following a tough, 19-16 loss at Virginia to begin the season.
Avoiding an 0-2 hole will not be easy, however. Offensively, Mendenhall is expected to lean heavily upon his running game, led by Jamaal Williams. After piling up 1,090 total yards (775 on the ground) as a freshman a season ago, the 6-foot, 200-pound Williams picked up right here he left off in his first game as a sophomore. In a veritable monsoon at UVA, he collected 144 yards on 33 attempts.
Quarterback Taysom Hill is also a sophomore, and he can also make moves on the ground. Against the Cavaliers, he rushed for 42 yards on 11 attempts.
All three will be looking to exploit what was easily the weakest facet to Texas’ game a year ago: Rushing defense. In 2012, the Horns gave up a whopping 34 rushes of 18 yards or more, good for third-worst in the entire BCS. However, the longest rush of the day given up to New Mexico State in the season opener was only 15 yards, and they only allowed 104 on 38 total attempts for the ball game.
Is one game against a poor NMSU squad enough to instill confidence in the Longhorns’ defensive unit? With Jackson Jeffcoat, who missed most of 2012 with an injury, back and collecting seven tackles in his 2013 debut, it’s very possible. Jeffcoat, Cedric Reed and Malcolm Brown can be a force on the defensive line, while Adrian Phillips and Quandre Diggs want to make a mess of things in the defensive backfield.
That is good, because Hill has not proven he can win games with his arm, while Texas’ David Ash has done exactly that. Ash led the Horns to an Alamo Bowl win over Oregon State a year ago and then threw four touchdown passes in the win over New Mexico State.
However, will Ash be able to find the same sort of success against a BYU defense led by the one and only Kyle Van Noy? The future first-round NFL Draft pick is a superstar waiting to burst onto the scene.
A win over Texas would be the perfect means by which to catapult himself into the national conversation and get his team on the right track to a bowl game.
Can he make it happen, or will Ash continue to show improvement and lead his Horns to a “W”? Can an improved Texas defensive front stop BYU’s elite rushing attack?
We have no idea, but perhaps you do. It’s time to stop chatting and focus in on the only thing that’s important come Saturdays. It’s time to play some hard-nosed, winning football.
It’s time to settle it.