Strength in Numbers

<B>The Chasm Between Talent and Performance</B>

Mack Brown has assembled an incredible array of offensive talent at Texas, including enough top-notch blue chippers to make coaches of the top offenses in the country envious. However, none of those coaches currently reside in Austin, as Texas ranks 71st in rushing offense and 84th in total offense, with the latter figure placing almost in the bottom quartile in the country.

When the Longhorns struggled in 1999 on occasion, the departure of Ricky Williams and a seasoned offensive line was referred to (understandably) as the reasons. In 2000, both the quarterback "shuffle" and the fact that the star receivers were just learning about college life contributed to moments of botchery (OU and the final moments versus Oregon, as examples). Last year, without Cedric Benson against Oklahoma, Texas fans could again rationalize the failure to move the football in such a key contest.

But what could be the reason this season? Benson, while apparently hindered recently by a fragile toe, nonetheless has played extensively in every game thus far, and the three burners from the best receiving class in the country (2000) have become seasoned performers with probable NFL futures. Additionally, the Horns possess the top-ranked quarterback coming out of high school who’s now a senior, along with four members of All-USA Today teams on the offensive line in the most recent two-deep. In all, Texas carries no less than nine players with Parade All-American or All-USA Today credentials coming out of high school just on the two-deep, while several more superstar recruits attempt to crack it.

Beyond the profusion of stratospheric high school accolades, Texas features considerably more pre-season first and second-team all-conference performers on offense than any team in the Big 12. Utilizing Phil Steele’s preseason magazine (the publication rated the top overall in accuracy over the past three seasons), the number of first and second-team players on offense per school breaks down this way (total of first teamers, followed by second teamers):

Texas (4,3)

Missouri (1,2)

Colorado (0,3)

Oklahoma (1,1)

A&M (1,1)

Tx Tech (1,1)

Okla St (1,0)

Baylor (1,0)

Nebraska (1,0)

Iowa St (0,0)

Kansas (0,0)

Kansas St (0,0)

As can be witnessed, Texas far exceeds any other conference school in supposed top-level talent on offense. But despite this dominance, Greg Davis offense ranks only eighth in the Big 12 (354 yards per game), and even languishes behind two of those schools (ISU and K-State) that featured a total of zero first and second-team all-conference players. Texas Tech, in contrast, leads with 466 ypg.

Some may speculate that Texas, in light of recently facing OU and Kansas State, has met stronger opposition compared to a number of its conference counterparts. In light of this possibility, I adjusted the offensive per game averages based on competition, additionally omitting any games against Division I-AA programs. Even with these modifications, the Longhorns remain eighth in the conference in yards per game.

The bottom line that becomes apparent is that Texas, at a time when Greg Davis now has all of his own recruits to run his offense, is drastically underperforming relative to the massive talent on hand. Included in the head-shaking performances are rushing and total yard figures of 27 and 214 yards against North Texas, 53 and 209 yards against Oklahoma (for more on the ineptitude versus OU, see last week’s "Strength In Numbers"), and 46 and 230 against Kansas State. North Texas has since allowed over 100 yards on the ground to every opponent, including I-AA Nicholls State, which racked up 149 yards the week following the UT game. Since a season-high 271-yard rushing total against North Carolina in the second game, Texas has gained fewer yards on the ground in five successive weeks. Most troubling is the fact that the Horns have gained 53 or less rushing yards in three of their seven contests so far. Though the team overcame such a deficiency this past Saturday, Texas’ chances of winning when outrushed falls dramatically. [In comparison, Mack’s record is 37-0 record when UT outrushes the opposition.] Another astounding and pathetic number to consider is the Horns have failed to crack a meager 230 yards in total offense three times already!

On the surface, Texas is ranked seventh in the nation and owns a 6-1 record. But as long as the offense often performs at a level worse than schools with but a grain of the talent this offense squanders, the Longhorns’ standing among the top teams in college football is tenuous.

Bert Hancock has owned two college football-related web sites and was designated "Lead Writer" of one of the first independent web sites dedicated strictly to UT sports. At the University of Texas, where he received a Bachelor of Business degree, his area of specialty was in statistics and probabilities. His "Strength In Numbers" column appears weekly on InsideTexas.com.


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