Bill Frisbie, Lead Writer -- 'Twas the night before Game Day for Arkansas State, and that means only one thing for the boys from Jonesboro during their first venture to Austin: the self-proclaimed Music Capital of The World.
Milk and cookies.
So much for keeping Austin weird.
When sixth-year Indians coach Steve Roberts inherited the program, he established a pre-game tradition of players gathering around milk and cookies to help build team chemistry. During this time, each player visits with at least three other teammates he has not visited with throughout the week in order to learn more about each other. Meanwhile, Texas coach Mack Brown wants you to believe that Saturday's 6:00 p.m. kickoff at DKR will be no cakewalk, even though it would seem the Horns are continuing a steady diet of cream puff home openers courtesy of the Sun Belt Conference.
Brown tips his hat to an Indians squad that won the 2005 Sun Belt Conference title before knocking-off six Division-I foes last season. Brown points out that all four ASU starting DBs are projected to play in the NFL. To be frank, the only Indian who will be playing Sundays is SS Tyrell Johnson. Brown also notes that Indians QB Corey Leonard is on the preseason Dave O'Brien Watch List honoring the nation's top signalcaller. Again, to be frank, nearly every returning starter at a D-I program makes a Watch List.
But to be fair, Arkansas State is a far more worthy non-conference opponent than, say, was Sam Houston State last year. The Indians aren't afraid to face the big boys, traveling to Auburn last year and visiting Tennessee in a few weeks. This is the first meeting between the Horns and the Indians, but Arkansas State is 0-14 against Big 12 Conference competition. It will be 0-15 come Saturday night, as Horns fans will celebrate the eighth-straight season-opening win of the Mack Brown era (presumably with something other than milk and cookies). Texas 45, Arkansas State 6.
Mike Blackwell, Inside Texas magazine editor -- Oh, please.
The most interesting aspect of Saturday's opener between the University of Texas and Arkansas State will not be what happens on the field. No, the fun stuff will happen in and around the partially-completed construction around Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
There will likely be more intensity shown outside the stadium a couple of hours before the game than inside. Texas fans have been given ample warning about parking woes, traffic congestion, portable toilets on the north end of the stadium and the early cut-off of beer sales in the alumni center, but as sure as the sky is blue, you can bet tempers will nevertheless flair.
But not much during the game.
Poor Arkansas State will earn every dollar it gets for getting rolled.
Here are the Cliff Notes:
*Mack Brown will want Jamaal Charles to get off to a great start, and he will by rushing for 150 yards on 18 carries, and he'll break at least one long run and score at least one touchdown.
*Brown will also want John Chiles to get significant playing time under center, and he'll come in after Colt McCoy's fourth touchdown pass of the game, which will happen midway into the third quarter. Chiles will bust a long one at some point, perhaps reminiscent of You Know Who.
*With Texas struggling with irritating but not debilitating injuries at wide receiver, a ton of young ones will see action at this position, and one of them will stand out from the others with a big catch of some sort against an overmatched Arkansas State defense.
*Defensively, the Longhorns will blitz and swarm the Indians, recording eight sacks and creating 4-6 turnovers. The Longhorns will score at least one defensive touchdown.
Ho-hum. Texas 55, Arkansas State 7.
Michael Pearle, Co-publisher -- Texas of course will win this game in a blowout as it builds momentum and rhythm heading into the TCU game and on into the season.
Against Arkansas State, I look for Texas to try and establish its running game by giving the ball to Jamaal Charles time and again to try to get his and the offensive line's mentality set that they can run the football and dominate, and that they will. Will Jamaal get 25 carries? Doubtful, but 20-something is a possibility. A nice mix of Chris Ogbonnaya and Charles should see Texas approach the 200-yard mark rushing. Given that the strength of the Indian defense is in its secondary, the Texas running game should be featured. McCoy will also complete plenty of passes to Jermichael Finley, Nate Jones and Quan Cosby, and hopefully will be able to rest Limas Sweed for the most part.
Defensively for Texas, ASU should try and control the clock with their ground game, but will get precious few yards running into the teeth of the tough UT front seven, forcing them to wing it through the air. As a result, Texas should get a couple of picks in this one, leading to a couple of cheap scores.
Texas wins this one easy and gets in a productive tune-up for Froggy Fest on September 9. Texas 52, Arkansas State 7.
Ross Lucksinger, InsideTexas.com Editor -- Arkansas State is no pushover, for a Sun Belt team, anyway. Quarterback Cody Leonard and left tackle Matt Mandich anchor an offense that led the conference in first downs, third down conversions and time of possession.
As far as season-opening opponents go, however, Texas will have no problem rolling the Indians, er, Native Americans, uh...let me get back to you on that one.
ASU has a sufficient amount of offense to keep from getting shut out and will probably snag a few points at the end against the scrubs, but the game should be far out of reach at this point. The win for Texas is not in question, but a lot of questions will be answered (and some exasperated).
Watch for the running scheme. Watch for backup QB John Chiles. Watch the O-Line. Watch the D-line. Watch the DBs. Watch for the game within the game, but don't worry about watching the game itself. It's gonna be ugly. Texas 63, Arkansas State 6
Clendon Ross, Co-publisher -- Don't think we won't learn something about the Longhorns in the opener against the Arkansas State ******s (the team mascot that must remain nameless). One reason for that, of course, is the fact that we've seen this team a grand total of twice during August practice, and that was before they even put the pads on! So there's a whole lot that will be new to the 80,000-plus sets of eyes in DKR Saturday evening. But we're going to also learn what a Duane Akina-schemed defense looks like against guys in difference colored jerseys (with more than a couple of weeks of Alamo Bowl practices to prepare) and what, if anything, has been done scheme-wise to improve on the '06 offense's anemic running game.
Those are the things I will be most focused on vs. Arkansas State because I believe those are the two things, barring injuries, that will determine whether this team is again a Big 12 South runner-up or a conference, and perhaps national, title threat.
I have my hopes on the defensive side of the ball. I expect that Duane Akina's aggressive, attacking scheme (and his willingness to stray from a base defense when warranted) will make this unit better than last year's ridiculously one-dimensional bunch. That doesn't mean we won't see some big plays surrendered, perhaps even to Arkansas State, but I expect those plays will be more than balanced out by disrupting opposing offenses and forcing game-changing sacks, TFLs, and turnovers.
I'm not as sanguine about the running game. I'm definitely excited to see the bulked up Jamaal Charles in game action as the No. 1 running back, but I'm going to need a lot of convincing that Greg Davis is prepared to scheme a running game that is innovative and not predictable against the better defenses on the schedule. My fingers are crossed, but that hasn't worked so well in the past (except when Vince Young was taking the Longhorn snaps). If Texas struggles on the ground Saturday we'll know we're in for a long season.
But I don't expect that to happen, not against this level of competition. The Texas offense, even with a dinged up wide receiver corps, moves the ball with relative ease (I see a big game for Charles, Jermichael Finley and Quan Cosby), while Akina's guys get after it, flying to the ball, forcing lots of ASU mistakes and shutting down the Indians' (oops, I said it) ground game. Texas 55, Arkansas State 10.