The Longhorns are coming off a roller coaster year in 2013, and will be looking to get off to a quick start in non-conference play this upcoming season. Texas came close to a Big 12 Championship after a terrible start to the season that included blowout losses to BYU and Ole Miss, so if they can right the ship early on expect the Longhorns to be in contention for a title once again. I’ll go through the non-conference schedule and analyze the opponents ups we’ll see in 2014.
Week 1 – Texas vs. North Texas
The North Texas Mean Green coming into DKR would normally be a breeze, but this is one of the best UNT teams we’ve seen in a long time. The team finished 9-4 in its first season in Conference USA in 2013, including a bowl win over UNLV at the Heart of Dallas Bowl. It was the first bowl win since 2002, and the first winning season for the Mean Green in a decade. UNT beat Conference USA champs Rice, as well as Louisiana Tech, Tulsa and Southern Miss. North Texas also had the best second-half defense in the entire FBS, so while Texas should win this game, it won’t be the 50-point blowout some might expect.
Week 2 – Texas vs. BYU
The Longhorns were decimated by BYU last season in Provo, in one of the worst defensive performances you will ever see in college football. The Cougars rushed for 550 yards, including 259 yards from quarterback Taysom Hill. This time the game will be in Austin, and defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is long gone (he was fired the day after the BYU contest). BYU finished the 2013 season at 8-5 when the team lost to Washington in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Before that, the Cougars picked up wins over Boise State, Houston and Nevada. A new system in place should get Texas the home win, and hopefully we don’t see a two-hour delay this time around.
Week 3 – Texas vs. UCLA (in Arlington)
A rematch of the home-and-home series the two schools played in 2010 and 2011, this should be a very telling game. The away teams won those two games quite convincingly, but this contest will be at the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The crowd will likely be pro-Longhorn, but playing indoors will level the playing field. UCLA had a solid 2013 season, beating Nebraska, Cal, USC and Virginia Tech — the latter of which being a 42-12 beat down in the Sun Bowl. The Bruins have their star QB back for his junior season in Brett Hundley, and if UCLA has a good season he could be in Heisman contention. I’m not sure if the Longhorns are ready to shut down a QB of Hundley’s stature, and at this point i’d have to pick UCLA to win this game.
Get ready for the fireworks to begin next season, when the Longhorns begin home-and-home series’ with Notre Dame and Cal. Starting in 2017, Texas will also play a series against USC.