The BCS will debut a fifth game this upcoming season and rather than adding a fifth location, they're going to turn around and play a second game for the national championship in one of the existing locations. Here's the schedule for the January 2007 BCS games:
Jan. 1st – Fiesta Bowl
Jan. 1st – Rose Bowl
Jan. 2nd – Orange Bowl
Jan. 3rd – Sugar Bowl
Jan. 8th – National Championship in Phoenix
The addition of the fifth game allows the four bowls to more easily maintain their conference tie-ins, meaning this season's Big 12 champion will not be displaced from the Fiesta Bowl, assuming they are not ranked No. 1 or 2 at season's end. On January 1st, Texas will be playing in Fiesta Bowl Part 1.
To better understand why this will come to pass, let's have a look at the key match-ups for the Longhorns in the 2006 season.
Ohio State is coming to Austin with an explosive offense and a chip on their shoulder. By the end of the 2005 season, Troy Smith had established himself as a leader and a dangerous weapon, scoring 27 touchdowns last season (16 passing and 11 rushing). Smith is now 13-2 as a starting quarterback and will likely be the best QB, if not player, the Longhorns will face in the '06 campaign. The Buckeyes also return the 1331 yards and 7 touchdowns of tailback Antonio Pittman from last season. Like the Longhorns, Ohio State returns three starters to the offensive line. Expect a lot of runs to the right behind senior guard T.J. Downing and junior tackle Kirk Barton.
The offense will be the strength for Ohio State in 2006, which is basically the exact opposite of 2005. Major question marks exist on the defensive side of the ball for the Buckeyes, where they have lost a crippling nine starters. While the athletes replacing the departed nine are by no means scrubs, six of the starters will be sophomores and the inexperience may be costly early in the season.
While the Longhorns' defense may be the best in the last 20 years, the inexperience for Texas lies in the quarterback position. I say "20 years" because I'm not quite ready to say they're going to be as good as the 1983 unit, but we are talking on that level, especially because of the sheer depth in the front seven. This game will be strength-on-strength, weakness-on-weakness. Ohio State's talented and deep offense will face Texas' talented and deep defense, while the Longhorn's inexperienced QB will face the Buckeye's inexperienced defense.
So who wins the game? Well, two of the most important factors in college football are defense and home field advantage and Texas has both. Of course, Ohio State had both last year…but Ohio State didn't have Vince Young and Troy Smith is not Vince Young.
Texas wins: 23-21
The Red River Shootout is upon us. One team is coming off an undefeated national championship season, the other is mired in doubt after a disappointing year where they began ranked amongst the elite and ended with a trip to the Holiday Bowl. The latter is downtrodden and frustrated by having their offensive line called "soft," but there is hope. Although they return a great deal of talent on both sides of the ball, the quarterback who led the champions to their victory is gone and a couple of inexperienced signal callers will be in a rotation, giving the underdogs a shot.
Did I mention it's 2001?
The annual Thanksgiving weekend match-up against the Aggies is only included on this list because Texas' in-state rival will always be up for the game, just as they were last season, proving to be a rather nasty speed bump on the Longhorns' national championship road. That's not going to be the case this season. Texas A&M no longer has the element of surprise with quarterback Stephen McGee running the option and the game will not be in the deafening confines of Kyle Field. Of course, the I-form option isn't even going to be the Aggies primary offense this season. Texas A&M is switching back to a shotgun, three-wide offense that they were unable to run effectively last year due to a lack of depth at wide receiver. But with senior wideout Chad Schroeder returning to the line-up, A&M will be running an offense that better suits McGee's throwing ability (his senior year at Burnet, McGee threw an astounding 33 touchdowns and no interceptions during the regular season. Interestingly enough, a vast majority of those touchdowns were to current Longhorn wide receiver Jordan Shipley).
But it will be all for naught, as the Aggies will show little improvement to a defense that finished 94th in the nation in scoring last season. Passing was the biggest issue for the no-so-aptly-named "wrecking crew," giving up 304.6 ypg (ranked 117th), and with the loss of Jaxon Appel to the NFL, an experienced core of Texas receivers and a quarterback who will essentially have a year under his belt, the Aggies will be unable to stop the Texas offense.
Texas Wins: 56-20
So, if the Longhorns manage to beat all three of these teams, shouldn't they be undefeated when the season ends?
With the talent on this team, the strength on this defense, the experience on the offensive line and the question mark at quarterback, my prediction for this season is that Texas beats Ohio State. Texas beats OU. Texas beats A&M. They beat every team that's there's a question mark on and lose to a team they're not supposed to.
The trap will snap when Texas fans least expect it.
In Big 12 play, Texas must travel to Lincoln, Lubbock and Manhattan this season. Be it the Cornhuskers and their revamped offense, the Red Raiders and the stifling hole of nothingness that is Lubbock or the Wildcats and new head coach Ron Prince, one of these teams will beat Texas.
Furthermore, those three teams are not the only potential quagmires on the schedule. What if the Oklahoma State game begins just as the previous two have…only this time there's no Vince Young heroics to bring the Horns back from the brink of defeat? What if Iowa State's Bret Meyer pulls off a miracle performance in Austin? Meyer passed for 2,876 yards and 19 TDs as only a sophomore and may be the best quarterback in the conference.
What if Sam Houston State…ok, that's just ridiculous, but still, the Longhorns schedule is full of potential landmines.
In the end, this is how the season will shake out: Texas will fall to one, post W's over the question marks on the schedule, beat whomever the Big 12 North places in front of them in the title game and wholup a vastly overrated Notre Dame team 38-27. Sunrise, sunset.