There are a lot of things that make me want to believe Texas can pull off this upset and give Charlie Strong a signature win in a high-profile game like this (and just imagine the confidence that would pour into this young team if that happened?!?!).
I can see Tyrone Swoopes playing like he did against UCLA and at Oklahoma State last year (playing well).
I can see an improved, tenacious attitude across the board helping Texas' young players not play like young players.
I can see the Horns' D-line making life hard for Irish QB Malik Zaire and some well-timed blitzes possibly leading to a turnover or two by Zaire, who has only started 1 game. (I still can't believe Everett Golson isn't in an ND uniform - that must have been some divorce between Golson and coach Brian Kelly.)
But there are still just one too many questions for me to call the upset outright because I haven't yet seen the 8 freshmen - at LT, RG, WR, CB, MLB, WLB, P and backup QB - we know will be on the field for Texas (and possibly as many as 17 freshmen throughout the course of the game).
I firmly believe Texas is headed in the right direction and is going to be a much improved team in 2015. I just don't know if it will all come together Saturday - even though I think there's a possibility it could ...
NOTRE DAME 17, TEXAS 13
I'm not really sure what it all comes down to. Quarterback play, offensive line play, defense: there are many questions going into this game and no way of knowing what's going to happen with this team when they get on the field.
This is a big game on a big stage with lots of eyes watching; this is a team who knows the national perception of them isn't too flattering. This is also a team who is sick of being the butt of jokes and is ready to get, in Charlie Strong's own words, "the T back in Texas." A lot of this game rides on confidence and attitude.
We're also going to see a lot from some young players who just don't have the luxury of freezing up on Saturday night. It may be a lot to ask from some of these young guys, but like the staff and players said on Monday, these guys came to Texas to play -- now is there chance.
If Texas comes out on the field full of energy and ready to fight, I believe they can win the game. If they are sluggish, Notre Dame will take advantage. My gut tells me that it will be a close game, but they are ready for the fight.
TEXAS 21, NOTRE DAME 17
A lot of questions follow Texas into its season opener at Notre Dame.
Will Tyrone Swoopes play better than how he finished last season? How will the coaches utilize Jerrod Heard? Can the offensive line make progress with two true freshman starters? Will the defense take a step back after losing six starters?
The unknown has caused people to not give the Longhorns the benefit of the doubt against the Fighting Irish. There is always a chance for an upset, and it will start with the defense taking away Malik Zaire’s legs.
Zaire has only completed 21 career passes, so his ability to sling it is yet to be determined. If the Longhorns defense can make Zaire one-dimensional and force him to throw the ball, Texas could stand a chance.
But the defense can only do so much without the help of the offense. Swoopes has to start off strong and set the tone for the offense. If he reverts back to the TCU/Arkansas version of his game, then it will be a long night. But if Swoopes (and/or Heard) can manage the game and put up points, Texas will have a chance.
However, there are simply too many ifs to predict Texas will leave South Bend with a victory.
NOTRE DAME 27, TEXAS 17
Texas won’t play scared.
The Longhorns won’t play young either. The environment won’t intimidate these youngins. They are a different breed.
Tyrone Swoopes will take care of the ball and not throw an interception.
However, I do think the Longhorns will struggle at times up front against this Notre Dame defensive line. The Irish are bringing everything including the kitchen sink and I think, at times, it will simply be too much for Texas.
For as good as Johnathan Gray needs to be on the ground in this one, he needs to be even better in pass protection. That’s the key for me on offense if Texas is going to have success in this one. He’s got to give Swoopes time back there.
Defensively, it’s all about the push Texas gets up front. And there is real estate to be had over ND guard Quenton Nelson, who has not played a down of meaningful football for the Irish. And it wont be just about Poona Ford, Hassan Ridgeway and company getting the best of Nelson. Don’t be surprised to see Naashon Hughes and the other Fox ends line up over him at times as well.
At the end of the day, though, I do believe Malik Zaire will make a play or two too many to give the Irish the slight edge. But Texas will leave South Bend feeling confident about what is to come.
NOTRE DAME 24, TEXAS 17