Ranking the 2014 Texas Football Schedule from Worst to Best
The 2014 Texas schedule is loaded with talented teams. UCLA, Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas Tech are just a few of the teams the Longhorns will face this year. There aren’t many easy games on the schedule for Charlie Strong to use to break in new offensive and defensive schemes.
With just a few days remaining before the season opener, let’s take a look at the 2014 Texas schedule and rank the Longhorns’ opponents from worst to best. Although some teams clearly have more talent than others, in the end it is all subjective. Injuries could also affect the competitive balance.
Here is my ranking of the 2014 Texas schedule from 12 to 1. Feel free to leave yours in the comment section below.
12. Kansas Jayhawks
Poor Charlie Weiss. He just can’t seem to catch a break since leaving the New England Patriots. The Notre Dame head coaching gig didn’t net him much but a bunch of cash. He had success as the offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs, but surprisingly left after one season for the same job with the Florida Gators. He then left the Gators after one season for the head job at Kansas.
Jayhawk fans are still waiting to see Weiss turn the program into a winner. It looks like they will keep waiting.
Kansas will be breaking in a new quarterback and running back. The defense has a few players, but not enough to make up for the lack of talent on the other side of the ball. This will be the easiest game on the schedule for Texas.
11. North Texas Mean Green
Normally season openers are cupcakes. The big programs invite a smaller school to come to town so it can pulverize its helpless victim. The cupcake limps away with a pocketful of cash. Everyone is happy.
News flash: North Texas was no cupcake in 2013.
The Mean Green won nine games last season. It is picked to win the Conference USA West division. On paper, this looks to be one of Texas’ most challenging season opening games in recent memory.
Upon closer inspection, however, North Texas is replacing some important pieces. There will be a new quarterback under center. Whoever it is, they will not have faced a team like Texas. Making your first collegiate start on the road in a hostile environment usually doesn’t end well.
The defensive line must replace four starters. Smaller schools like North Texas don’t simply reload at positions. There is usually a gradual learning curve that takes place.
This could be a tighter game than people expect. It could also turn into a rout if the Mean Green quarterbacks can’t generate any offense.
10. West Virginia Mountaineers
Dana Holgorsen is heading in the wrong direction. Holgorsen was a feared offensive mastermind at Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State. But once he got to West Virginia, he found out that offense alone doesn’t win games. His teams can score, but they have struggled recently at stopping opponents from scoring as well.
The quarterback situation is a mess. Clint Trickett transferred in from Florida State, but he hasn’t exactly taken hold of the starting job. The defense is still the weak link. Texas barely escaped Morgantown last year. This year the Mountaineers come to Austin for a late-season match up. Holgorsen could be on the coaching hot seat by this point. A healthy Texas team should handle West Virginia with ease.
9. TCU Horned Frogs
TCU breaks in a new offense. Sonny Cumbie comes over from Texas Tech and brings a wide-open offense with him. Texas A&M transfer Matt Joeckel takes over the quarterback job. The talent around him is young and inexperienced. The strength of this team is on the defensive side of the ball, even without Devonte Fields. Texas rolled into Fort Worth last year and abused the Horned Frogs in front of a few thousand rain-soaked fans.
The Horned Frogs visit Austin for the Thanksgiving night game. The late season clash gives Cumbie time to work out the kinks in the offense. Gary Patterson is a very good coach who gets the most out of his players. TCU will come to Austin looking to shock the Longhorns on National TV. Don’t sleep on the Horned Frogs.
8. Iowa State Cyclones
Iowa State outplayed Texas last year in Ames. It took a late quarterback sneak for a score – and a controversial non-fumble call – for Texas to escape with the victory. This was a game where the Longhorns snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Iowa State returns some pretty good offensive weapons. Grant Rohach looks like he could be the real deal at quarterback. He also has arguably the best tight end in the conference to throw to in E.J. Bibbs.
The trouble for the Cyclones is on defense, where just five starters return. Iowa State loses its top two tacklers from 2013. This is not a team that simply reloads at key positions. Texas should take care of business at home versus the Cyclones.
7. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Oklahoma State returns just eight starters. This team is so green that coach Mike Gundy cancelled the spring game in order to get in an extra practice.
While it may be short on experience, the Cowboys are not lacking in talent. J.W. Walsh should get the starting nod at quarterback. If he falters, Gundy will not hesitate to insert heralded freshman Mason Rudolph. Rudolph looked good in the final spring practice. If this season is awash, Gundy may just let Rudolph take his lumps and get the growing pains out of the way. Tyreek Hill is the Cowboy’s version of Daje Johnson. Players like this can break a game open and swing momentum.
Texas should win this game, but something about playing in Stillwater makes this a scary game. The fans are right on top of the field. It’s late in the season. Oklahoma State, with all of its youth, is a team you’d rather play early in the season than late.
6. BYU Cougars
We all remember what BYU did to the Texas defense last year. The Cougars also pretty much ended David Ash’s season. That loss seemed to set the tone for the rest of the season – a sputtering offense trying to support an underachieving defense that had trouble tackling.
It’s a safe bet that Strong won’t let his players forget what happened in this game, and that it won’t happen again. Taysom Hill ran wild through the Longhorn defense. He will be a marked man in this game. Texas cannot let BYU come into Austin and run the ball down the defense’s throat.
This game should be a Texas win. The caveat here is that it is the second game of the season. The coaches and players will still be feeling each other out. And let’s not forget that many of the players on the field this year are the same players who allowed the Cougars to rack up 679 yards of offense. These same players will be playing under their third defensive coordinator in less than a year. It will take some time for these guys to adjust to a new system.
5. Texas Tech Red Raiders
This game could be very tough, or it could be an easy Texas victory. This all hinges on the health of Red Raider quarterback Davis Webb. Webb is the only signal caller on the roster with any college experience after Baker Mayfield and Michael Brewer transferred. An injury to Webb could derail the momentum Kliff Kingsbury has going.
Texas Tech has concentrated on getting better on defense. In the past, the defense had trouble stopping the opposing team’s offense. Kingsbury hopes a renewed focus on solidifying this side of the ball will equate to more victories.
Texas handled the Red Raiders pretty easily on Thanksgiving night in Austin last season. The defense rallied to put pressure on Texas Tech quarterbacks, disrupting the rhythm plays Tech uses to move the ball. Lubbock has always been a tough place for Texas to play. It’s a hostile environment, especially when the Longhorns come to visit.
4. Kansas State Wildcats
Once Kansas State figured out its quarterback situation, things really began to look up for the Wildcats. Following a bye week, Kansas State went on to win six of its final seven games, including a bowl victory over the Michigan Wolverines.
Jake Waters comes back for his senior year. He is one of the better quarterbacks in the conference. It helps when you have a dynamic player like Tyler Lockett to throw to. This duo should be even better this season.
The defense needs to plug a few holes, but Bill Snyder always seems to get the best out of each of his players. This game is in Manhattan, which has been a nightmare of a road trip for the Longhorns in recent years. This will be a good test for Strong to see how the team responds to adversity.
3. Oklahoma Sooners
Texas probably stole one from Bob Stoopes and the Oklahoma Sooners last year. Oklahoma came into the game ranked. Texas was reeling from bad losses to BYU and Ole Miss. It was a combination of the Sooners looking past Texas, and the Longhorn players wanting a win for Mack Brown to take some of the heat off of their beloved coach. Oklahoma was also trying to solve its quarterback problem. It learned that Blake Bell was not the answer.
This year the Sooners have settled on a signal caller. Trevor Knight gets the nod. He had late-season success, namely in the Sugar Bowl versus the Alabama Crimson Tide. Oklahoma also returns a pretty good backfield, even without Joe Mixon.
The Sooner defense is stacked. Eric Striker blew up numerous plays last year versus Texas (and even more the year before that). This is a rivalry game, and as we learned last season, the best team doesn’t always win a game like this. Texas is improved, but Oklahoma looks to have more horses to run with this year.
2. Baylor Bears
Last year’s 30-10 Baylor win wasn’t as close as the score indicated. Sure it was 3-3 at the half. But everyone in that stadium who wasn’t frozen knew that it was just a matter of time before the Bears offense got going. Sure enough, the second half was all Baylor.
This year’s Baylor team could be even better on offense. Bryce Petty comes back with a better grasp of the offense. Shock Linwood takes over as the lead running back. Antwan Goodley and Levi Norwood will once again be hauling in passes from Petty.
The difference between this Baylor team and last year’s is the defense. Names like Shawn Oakman, Andrew Billings, Bryce Hager and Aiavion Edwards may not sound familiar now, but by the time these two teams square off, Texas fans will see that the Bears defense has improved.
1. UCLA Bruins
The UCLA game kicks off a stretch were Texas faces three top 10 programs in a five-week period. This game will be played on a neutral field. The Bruins come to Dallas with a roster filled with talent. It all starts with quarterback Brett Hundley. Hundley can beat you with his arm, and his legs. He was the leading rusher for UCLA last year. Hundley is being mentioned as a Heisman trophy candidate.
The offense is good, but the defense may be the best the Longhorns face all season. The defensive line returns more talent than it knows what to do with. Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Eddie Vanderdoes and Kenny Clark are a pass rushing nightmare for offensive lineman. Erik Kendricks and Myles Jack step in to replace two linebackers currently in the NFL, and could be even better than the guys they are replacing.
Hands down this will be the toughest game on the 2014 Texas schedule.
There are a few speed bumps on the schedule this season (Texas Tech, Kansas State) along with some challenging match ups (UCLA, Baylor and Oklahoma). Texas has the athletes to compete in most of these games. What kind of effort Strong can get out of his players week in and week out will make the 2014 Texas schedule one of the most interesting seasons in some time.