Mack Brown's Longhorns face a favorable schedule this fall.
It's Texas, and it is inconceivable to look at who the Longhorns have -- 19 starters return in addition to recruiting class after recruiting class of top prospects -- and not somehow feel they belong near the top versus what they were during the preseason hype of 2012 and 2011.
And it is quite possible the hype is warranted. Although 2010’s preseason predictions and the 2012 defense should serve as cautionary tales for those readying to ride the barrel over the falls with the Longhorns. Likewise all the statistical algorithms that put Texas near the top of 2013 can be quickly countered with other stats -- and by turning on the tape for just about any game in 2012.
But there is one fact --- not a pliable stat or unpredictable player projection -- that can be found amid all the preseason data, and it should not be overlooked, although it has, when attempting to decipher whether or not Texas will rise or fall in 2013. And that is the schedule.
Texas has been blessed with the breaks and byes that should allow it to be in a better position both physically and mentally than most of its opponents.
The Longhorns have three byes in 2013. That’s more than Texas ever has had during the Mack Brown era. Brown’s teams are 19-5 following a bye, with three of those losses coming to Texas A&M (2007, ’06 and ’99.) The other two losses were to TCU in 2012 and Oklahoma in 2010.
The first of the three byes (Sept. 28) allows for a break after the first four games -- three of which are at home -- and what could be the most important two-week stretch of the season. This bye, just after a home game against a depleted Kansas State team(it returns a total of nine starters), will allow Texas time to reassess where it is after those first four games before it goes to Iowa State, one of the most exhausting and geographically-challenging trips in the Big 12.
What follows is the make-or-break week of the season: Oklahoma. And Texas, with a bye and a Thursday night game against Iowa State, will have nine days to prepare and will have played only one football game in the 20 days leading up to OU. Oklahoma, on the other hand, will be playing for the third consecutive week, with games at Notre Dame and against TCU preceding the Red River Rivalry.
In the Brown era, Texas has had a bye before OU only once. That came in 2010. And even then an entirely overmatched Texas team, which would go on to finish the season 5-7, was able to keep the score a respectable 28-20 in favor of the Sooners.
Following the OU game is another bye before the Longhorns travel to face what could be the best defense in conference in TCU. So, in the span of 35 days before the TCU game, Texas will have played only two games.
TCU, which beat Texas last season, will be playing for the fifth consecutive week and coming off a road game at Oklahoma State. So, there again, Texas should be the more rested and ready of the two teams.
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The TCU game starts a stretch of four games in four weeks. And while that might seem daunting, Kansas is stuck in there for a game at DKR. Sure, Kansas was a test at Lawrence last season. But at home in the Brown era, Texas has beaten KU by an average score of 55-9 with two shutouts. So, suffice it to say, the starters should get just enough action to keep their edge but also get just enough rest to stay healthy.
Texas’ most difficult game in this four-week stretch could be Oklahoma State, and that game is also at DKR. It’s also the fifth consecutive game for OSU, with three of those -- ISU, Texas Tech and Texas -- on the road.
To end the season, Texas has another bye before the Thanksgiving game against Tech. Tech also has a bye before the game but will have played seven consecutive weeks before its bye, whereas Texas will have played only four.
And, finally, Texas will get another nine days off before having to go to Baylor Dec. 7. The Bears will be coming off back-to-back road games at Oklahoma State and TCU, plus a Nov. 16 game against Tech at Cowboys’ Stadium.
So while stats can be aligned or massaged to fit future projections one might fancy, the schedule, which is set in stone, is one locked-in fact that bodes well for Texas’ outlook in 2013.