So, after waiting for the Big 12 to resolve West Virginia's exit from the Big East to get the Mountaineers into the league this season, the long-awaited release of the conference schedule finally went down Tuesday morning.
Here's a look at how things will go down for the Longhorns in the 2012 conference season:
- at Oklahoma State, September 29th
- West Virginia, October 6th
- vs. Oklahoma (Cotton Bowl), October 13th
- Baylor, October 20th
- at Kansas, October 27th
- at Texas Tech, November 3rd
- Iowa State, November 10th
- TCU, November 24th
- at Kansas State, December 1st
First of all, the home schedule isn't as bad as it would have been if Texas had been forced to pick up another non-conference game instead of West Virginia, but the match-up against the Mountaineers and the tilt against the other new member are probably the best games on the home slate. The other contests at DKR are Wyoming, New Mexico, Iowa State, TCU, and Baylor.
The issue now is that TCU could still be reeling from the effects of losing at least three defensive starters due to the drug arrests made on Wednesday, decreasing the quality of that contest, even late in the season. The third-best game is against Baylor, a team that faces major question marks on both sides of the ball after getting terrible safety play in 2011 and losing the best player in the history of the program, as well as their top receiver and running back. Lache Seastrunk enters the fold and there is still some talent at wide receiver, but it's still easy to predict a drop off there.
In other words, things could have been worse for the home schedule, but replacing Texas A&M with TCU doesn't look as appealing now as it did a matter of hours ago. That game is currently scheduled for the Saturday following Thanksgiving, but the current expectation is for the game to be moved back to Turkey Day as soon as ESPN and Fox work out a deal for the television rights.
The final game against Kansas State in Manhattan could be a huge game if the Longhorns are working to make a BCS bowl at that point -- the expectation for the season. Is this the year that Texas finally breaks the vice-like grip of EcoKat around our throat? Doing so could be the difference between a successful season and another mid-tier bowl game.
It could well be cold and windy, which may not favor either team, as both are expected to feature the run heavily, but it will be senior night for quarterback Collin Klein and, well, Kansas State owns Texas.
The season-defining stretch for Texas could well come early in the season, starting with the conference opener against Oklahoma State. Fortunately for the 'Horns, the Pokes could have a quarterback competition that lasts into the fall and will also have to replace all-world wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Expect T. Boone's boys to rely more heavily on the running game, which will feature a talented stable of backs including the proven and versatile Joseph Randle, bruising Jeremy Smith, and scat back Hershel Sims, the former Abilene star Texas passed over in favor of Malcolm Brown.
Following that contest, Texas will face a much stiffer challenge when hosting West Virginia, though entering the second year under Manny Diaz should eliminate the adjustment period that was needed in 2011 and result in the Longhorn defense being much more prepared for the high-powered offensive attack of the Mountaineers.
After hosting Holgo and company, Texas will make the trip up I-35 to the Cotton Bowl for the annual showdown there with Oklahoma, which will benefit from the return of Landry Jones and addition of Trey Metoyer, the former East Texas star who had to spend a year at a prep school after failing to qualify out of high school. The concerns for the Sooners revolve around the running game that struggled last year and some major losses on defense, including Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year Frank Alexander and star linebacker Travis Lewis.
If the Longhorns can make it through that stretch at 2-1, which is probably moderately hopeful, Texas should be in good position to compete for the Big 12 title and a BCS bid, depending on what happens with the Kansas State game to end the season.
So, BONizens, what are your predictions for Texas in conference play and can the Longhorns pull out a Big 12 title with this schedule?