- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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AUSTIN, Texas -- The BYU game in the rearview mirror. It can't hurt you anymore, Texas fans. Next up is as intriguing a game as any on the schedule, especially after the tumultuous past week. Here's our final preview of Texas’ nonconference finale against Ole Miss on Saturday (7 p.m. CT, Longhorn Network).
1. With David Ash sidelined, Case McCoy will lead the Texas offense. Believe it or not, the senior is making his first career start at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. McCoy is 3-3 as a starter in his career.
2. In 2011, Manny Diaz’s first year at Texas, the Longhorns ranked No. 1 in the Big 12 in rush defense and rushing TDs allowed. New defensive coordinator Greg Robinson inherits a Longhorns defense that’s currently ranked last in the Big 12 in both categories.
3. If Robinson can simply make Texas a better tackling team, he’ll see serious, immediate results. Last week against BYU, the Cougars picked up an incredible 271 yards after contact. That says it all about Texas’ continued problems with missed tackles.
4. Texas is 16-1 at home in nonconference games since 2007 and is averaging 41.9 points per game during that stretch. But only one of those 17 teams was ranked. Mack Brown is 1-1 at home against SEC teams, with both of those games coming against Arkansas.
5. Injury update: In addition to Ash being ruled out, running back/receiver Daje Johnson (ankle) will miss the Ole Miss game. The severity of his injury is unknown, though he could be sidelined several weeks.
1. “This team is going to be a player-led team. No matter who the coach is coming in, as leaders, we'll get this thing corrected.” -- DE Jackson Jeffcoat
2. “We totally go back to work. This isn't the first time I've had things said about me and it won't be the last. The only way you can change the way things are outside is win. My total thought is on beating Ole Miss.” -- Mack Brown
3. “Our confidence level is very high in all of our quarterbacks. Whichever quarterback they put in, we feel comfortable that they can get the job done and do a great job.” -- RB Johnathan Gray
4. "He’s behind. We’ve just got to continue to teach him the things we know and just continue to learn on the go. I feel like since he’s been around, he’s watched practice, he’s watched us since two-a-days, he knows some of the things. We continue to get him up to speed and we still have great coaches that help him get up to pace and we have great GAs that know the system. I feel like he has a great supporting cast.” -- CB Quandre Diggs, on new DC Greg Robinson
1. Bend-don’t-break defense: What can we really expect from Robinson’s debut? He’s had so little time to fix things, but you have to think Texas will focus on stopping the run. As his predecessor used to preach: All that matters is holding Ole Miss to one point fewer than Texas. That’s especially true this week as the Longhorns scrap together their new defense.
2. Score early: We’ll keep harping on Texas’ inability to get off to a fast start on offense until that trend changes. Last week, after talking all week about that trend, the Longhorns went three-and-out on its first three drives against BYU. The offense has to help this defense out as much as possible on Saturday.
3. McCoy magic :Texas needs the McCoy that beat Texas A&M, the one who makes wild plays and makes his teammates better. He doesn’t have to be the Favre-ian gunslinger who tries to make plays out of nothing and gets picked off. Remember, McCoy is 3-0 when he doesn’t turn the ball over.
Two key players
Gray: McCoy is an obvious choice here, but he’s going to need help from Gray. The sophomore back produced 90 yards against BYU, but he needs to get off to a fast start as much as anyone on this offense. Gray has rushed for 48 first-half yards this season, and Texas needs more than that.
Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace: Hey, after what Taysom Hill did to Texas last week, every dual-threat quarterback should be feared going forward. Wallace has wheels, too, and he’s a lot better passer than Hill. That versatility could be a problem for the Longhorns, and Wallace’s three-interception game last season will have him plenty motivated on Saturday.
Texas 24, Ole Miss 21
Everything we’ve witnessed in the past week tells me to go with Ole Miss. That’s the safe, logical choice. But for some reason, you just get a sense that this is going to be a weird game and it’s possible we’ve overestimated the Rebels as we did last year. This can be one of the more remarkable wins of Brown's tenure or one of his worst losses. It can really go either way. Somehow, I think Texas survives.