1. UCLA, Sept 13, in Arlington
Thanks to 9 starters back on offense, including QB Brett Hundley, and 8 starters back on defense, including leading tackler LB Eric Kendricks - from a 10-win team - UCLA has to be seen as a legit national title contender. What's really scary is five of UCLA's 8 returning starters on defense are sophomores, including two-way star Myles Jack, who posted 75 tackles at OLB and ran for 267 yards (7.0 ypc) and 7 TDs in 2013. Not even Jim Mora Jr. can screw this up ... I think.
2. Baylor, Oct. 4, in Austin
The Bears averaged 52.4 points per game in 2013, including a staggering 60.9 ppg at home. But the BU defense began leaking oil down the stretch last season, giving up an average of 36.6 ppg over the final five games of the season. Is BU's defense ready to stand up? Or will the Bears' offense have to carry the load? - which it should be entirely capable of doing. BU has won three of its last four against Texas.
3. Oklahoma, Oct. 11, in Dallas
How is a home game vs Baylor more difficult than a road trip to Dallas for the Red River Shootout? Because we know Bryce Petty is legit after posting 32 TD passes with just 3 INTs last season. Whereas Trevor Knight has started five games for OU and completed just three of them. Knight has never taken snaps in the RRS, and with Texas possessing half the house in the Cotton Bowl, the Horns' pressure D might make life miserable for Knight.
4. Kansas State , Oct. 25, in Manhattan, Kan.
All Bill Snyder does is take over-looked talent and turn it into your worst nightmare, especially in Manhattan. Example: two of K-State's best players - senior C B.J. Finney (26 starts) and DE Ryan Mueller (11.5 sacks in 2013) are former walk-ons. QB Jake Waters loves throwing to WR Tyler Lockett, who had 237 yards receiving vs Texas in 2013 and 278 vs OU. True freshman RB Dalvin Warmack may replace 1,000-yard rusher John Hubert (1,048 in 2013).
5. Texas Tech, Nov. 1, in Lubbock
Kliff Kingsbury told me matter-of-factly he thinks this year's team is better than last year's 8-5 squad, in part because of the JUCO players Tech has recruited on defense (namely DT Rika Levi, 6-2, 350). QB Davis Webb has to stay healthy and get more production from Tech's running game (led by RB Deandre Washington, 450 yds rushing in 2013, 4 TDs). Lubbock, around Halloween, can be a scary place.
6. TCU, Nov. 27, in Austin
The Horned Frogs have a new offense that will emulate Oklahoma State's under co-coordinators Doug Meachum and Sonny Cumbie. TCU may be starting a new QB in A&M graduate transfer Matt Joeckel. If those changes take, TCU could be a really difficult out on Thanksgiving. The Frogs may not have DE Devonte Fields, but they have 8 starters back on defense, including senior DT Chucky Hunter and leading tackler LB Paul Dawson.
7. BYU, Sept. 6, in Austin
Gashed by the 259 yards rushing of QB Taysom Hill, Texas suffered one of its most humiliating losses in recent memory as the Horns gave up 550 yards on the ground, including 271 after contact. Hill is back for BYU, but Charlie Strong has told his players to take this rematch personally after last year's embarrassment. "Don't ever let that happen again," Strong has told his players.
8. OKLAHOMA STATE, Nov. 15, in Stillwater
With only 8 starters returning in 2014, Oklahoma State is a common pick by the media to take a serious step back from last year's 10-3 season. Stillwater is a hard place to play. And if Mike Gundy has recruited well enough to plug and play, he'll earn a new level of respect, and this game in Boone Pickens Stadium will end up being way too low on the list.
9. West Virginia, Nov. 8, in Austin
The Mountaineers collapsed in 2013, going 4-8 after going 10-3 in 2011 and 7-6 in 2012 under Dana Holgorsen, aka the "headset smasher." Holgorsen has already settled on senior QB Clint Trickett, who will have three of the team's top four rushers back, led by RB Dreamius Smith. WVU also returns its top three WRs. The question remains on defense, where you'll find my favorite B12 defensive player - S Karl Joseph.
10. North Texas, Aug. 30, in Austin
UNT won 9 games last season and defeated UNLV 36-14 in the Heart of Dallas Bowl under fourth-year coach Dan McCarney. The Mean Green returns just 5 starters on offense and 4 on defense after losing their QB, a 1,000-yard rusher, their top two WRs and three of their top five tacklers.
11. Iowa State, Oct. 18, in Austin
This may be too low for a team Texas barely escaped in Ames last year (31-30) that returns 10 starters on offense, including QB Grant Rohach, RB Aaron Wimberly and leading WRs Quenton Bundrage and TE E.J. Bibbs. The ISU defense returns just 5 starters after losing top two tacklers from last year - LB Jeremiah George (133 tackles) and S Jacques Washington (119 tackles).
12. Kansas, Sept. 27, in Lawrence
Charlie Weis has 8 starters back on offense and 9 starters back on defense. But since when has Weis made the most of a situation like that? The guy was supposed to be the QB Whisperer. Instead, Weis has rifled through the pile, looking for QBs the way most kids rummage through drawers looking for two socks that match.
Texas' Toughest Games: 1 to 12
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