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2006 Longhorns Season Preview: North Texas

Screw it. We can talk about basketball and baseball until we're blue in the face. We know what you want... more football! Hey, we're here to serve. So let's get started. (Now, don't complain when a lot of this gets rehashed closer to the season. It's inevitable.)

The first game on the Horns schedule next year will be the Mean Green of North Texas. Is this even worth previewing? Of course it is. Because while the game itself won't be competitive, there are some huge positional battles that will be extraordinarily competitive, and important, with the blockbuster Ohio State game looming the very next Saturday.

North Texas is coming off of a terrible 2-9 season. The worst of it is that the prospects for next year are worse, if anything. Senior Patrick Cobbs, who led the nation in rushing in 2004, graduated this past year, leaving North Texas without their one viable offensive weapon. The coaching staff is in a bit of disarray as well, as three coaches have left the program.

The Horns, taking the field for the first time to defend their national title (which they earned with a 41-38 win over USC in the Rose Bowl), will be testing some new blood at some key positions. The big one, obviously, will be at quarterback. This does not bode well for North Texas, as I fully expect Mack Brown to give both Colt McCoy and Jevan Snead quality playing time in which they'll be asked to try to score.

The smart money is on Brown naming McCoy the starter, though Snead will have his opportunities to show he's the better choice. The nightmare scenario for Texas will be some kind of shared gig where Brown can't decide who is better, or is afraid to play full time the QB he really thinks is better. Ohio State waffled around with Troy Smith and Justin Zwick last year, and it undoubtedly helped the Horns pull off the win.

My feeling, though, is that Mack won't make that mistake. He's had his share of quarterback waffling incidents in the past, with dubious results, and I expect him to be decisive with who will play, at least through the Ohio State. If we lose that one, all bets are off.

Still, the key for the Horns offense in 2006 is going to be the running game. Texas will likely use their passing as a secondary compliment to the run game, which should be outstanding. With Jamaal Charles, Ramonce Taylor, Selvin Young, and Henry Melton all primed for big seasons, the Horns aren't going to have trouble running the ball against weaker teams. Record team rushing totals doesn't seem out of the question for the 2006 Horns.

In the end, we'll be watching this North Texas game closely to see how the new secondary looks, to watch Sergio Kindle for the first time, and to see which quarterback looks the best. I've completely convinced myself that next year's defense is going to be as good, or better, than last year's unit, despite the losses of Huff, Griffin, Harris, and Wright. The Horns blow out North Texas in preparation for Ohio State, 61-3.

Next up: Ohio State