* Date, Time: Sat., Sept. 9, 8 p.m. (ABC national).
* Location: Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
* Last Year, Bowl: 13-0 (defeated USC in Rose Bowl). Big 12 South: 8-0/first.
* Coach: Mack Brown (ninth year at UT, 83-19; 23rd year overall, 169-93-1)
* Returning Starters: 13. Offense (6): WR Limas Sweed, LG Kasey Studdard, C Lyle Sendlein, RT Justin Blalock, WR Billy Pittman, RB Selvin Young. Defense (7): DE Tim Crowder, DT Frank Okam, DE Brian Robison, MLB Rashad Bobino, SLB Robert Killebrew, SS Michael Griffin, CB Tarell Brown. Specialists (0): None.
* Last League Championship: 2005.
* Last Year Did Not Go To Bowl: 1997.
* Series Vs. Ohio State: Texas won the first-ever meeting with OSU 25-22 last year in Columbus.
* Schedule: Sept. 2, North Texas; Sept. 9, Ohio State; Sept. 16, at Rice; Sept. 23, Iowa State; Sept. 30, Sam Houston State; Oct. 7, vs. Oklahoma (at Dallas); Oct. 14, Baylor; Oct. 21, at Nebraska; Oct. 28, at Texas Tech; Nov. 4, Oklahoma State; Nov. 11, at Kansas State; Nov. 24, Texas A&M.
* Outlook: Texas, which defeated USC 41-38 in the Rose Bowl to win the national championship, opens the new year ranked No. 2 in the USA Today coaches poll and No. 3 in the Associated Press media poll.
The Longhorns will try and defend their national title without star quarterback Vince Young, who opted to turn pro, as well as Thorpe Award-winning safety Michael Huff.
"We are excited about starting the season," Brown said. "We realize that we've got the program that won the national championship last year, but our current team is starting over. The message that they have right now is that last year is over. They understand that the new season is here now."
UT does not have a quarterback who has ever thrown a pass in a college football game. Redshirt freshman Colt McCoy had the edge over early enrolling freshman Jevan Snead to replace Young.
"We have been really pleased with both of them doing the same thing," Brown said. "Colt, when he has walked on the field, has been like a coach's son. He has been in charge and he has been good. Jevan has been the same way, which is even more amazing even as a true freshmen. They have been mature; they have handled tipped balls, interceptions and sacks. It will be really interesting to see how they play next week because I am excited to watch them.
"We have told them that none of (the pressure to repeat) matters, because none of that matters because that was last year and we are starting over. They also have a better supporting cast around them than any of the other quarterbacks had when they were their age. We feel like they have a better chance to be successful than some of the other guys that have been really successful. The challenge for them is trying to not do too much."
The good news for UT is the new quarterback will be surrounded by play makers like Selvin Young (461 yards, eight TDs) and Jamaal Charles (878 yards, 11 TDs) at running back and Sweed (36 catches) and Pittman (34 catches) at receiver. But Texas will be without do-it-all athlete Ramonce Taylor after academic and off-the-field issues clouded his off-season.
Gene Chizik made quite an impression last year in his first year as the co-defensive coordinator. He'll keep the pressure on with a veteran defense led by the rangy Crowder and Robison (seven sacks) up front, Killebrew (67 tackles) at linebacker and Griffin (124 tackles, three interceptions) and Brown (69 tackles) in the secondary.
"We have a chance to be better than we have been on defense," Brown said. "Everybody can run. We need to be two deep; we have to develop that depth, especially in our secondary. We have some young linebackers that we want to see. We have said we need more pass rush out of our ends, but we do think that this could be a special defense. We need to come up with more turnovers. That was the biggest concern about our defense last year. You look at us compared to USC, and we did not have near as many turnovers coming into that game, especially as many interceptions as they had."
Texas won the national title for the first time in 35 years last season. Moreover, the Longhorns have won 20 straight games dating to a 2004 loss to rival Oklahoma and 16 straight at home back to a 2003 loss to Arkansas.
The showdown with Ohio State will be considered, once again, one of the biggest games on the college football calendar. It's unclear if a defending national champion has ever hosted a No. 1-ranked team the following year, but that scenario could possibly play out here.
* Jerry Rudzinski Says: That is still a haunting loss. Yeah, they had Vince Young, but Ohio State had a lot of special players, too, like A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, Donte Whitner. A lot of those guys are gone. Ohio State needs to make sure it doesn't let its guard down just because Vince Young is wearing a Tennessee Titans uniform now. This is still Texas. They have great ability and great talent.
The offensive line and the defensive line, the secondary and the talented wide receivers – they are all pretty much still there. That's a very good football team.
From OSU's standpoint, they have to pressure the young quarterback. Colt McCoy – and isn't that a great name for a quarterback or what? – they will need to get after him. Sometimes, the problem when you blitz is, if you don't get to the quarterback, he has a clear lane to run through and can hurt you. OSU will need to be precise with its defense. They can send people because McCoy does not run as well as Young and doesn't have the size.
Tim Crowder has made 34 straight starts. Michael Griffin will be the man for them in the secondary. They ought to be pretty good defensively.
* Steve Helwagen Says: Ohio State was the jumping off point for Texas' run to the national championship. I think back to last year and the hype for that game and how it lived up to its billing. The college football world stopped and watched in awe as these two great teams battled for the entire 60 minutes and the Longhorns, with Vince Young pushing all the right buttons, pulled it out before a shocked crowd at the Horseshoe.
For years, people ridiculed Mack Brown because his teams couldn't beat Oklahoma and they couldn't win the big bowl games. Well, those days are gone. Brown has proven he is a national championship-caliber coach and the fans at UT don't think they will have to wait another 35 years to taste a title.
It won't be easy to repeat this year, though, without Young. They have two quarterbacks battling for the job and neither have thrown a pass in a college game. My guess is that Jim Heacock and the OSU defense will mix up pressure and coverage packages to try and confuse those young passers. If the Buckeyes can force the quarterback into two or three costly turnovers, OSU should be in good shape.
Some people are not giving it much play, but Ramonce Taylor with his athletic ability was a special guy. They will miss him as well.
Texas has seven starters back on defense and should be tough.
This should be another memorable game people will be talking about for years. Who knows, maybe it will again be the jumping off point for the visiting team to win a national championship.
Below are archives of past opponent previews: