Coach: Mack Brown (8th season, 70-19) 2004 record: 11-1 (Beat Michigan in Rose Bowl) Big 12 finish: 7-1 (2nd South) 2004 I-A offensive rankings:Rushing: 2nd (299.2 ypg) Passing: 106th (165.3 ypg) 2004 I-A defensive rankings: Rushing: 16th (107.4 ypg) Passing: 58th (212.7 ypg)
at Ohio State
at Oklahoma State
at Texas A&M
Depth Chart: Offense
7 returning starters in red
Depth Chart: Defense
9 returning starters in red
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Before Texas left on its trip to Southern California to play Michigan in the 2005 Rose Bowl, coach Mack Brown told his team to take mental notes.
From the practices at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., to the trip to Disneyland, to the media demands, to the feel of the Rose Bowl's grass turf, Brown wanted nothing to be lost, especially among his returning players. Picturing life in Pasadena, where this season's BCS national title game will be played, is the first step toward returning, Brown reasoned.
"The message we're sending to our team in everything we do -- from our off-season workouts to spring practice to the fall -- is we want to go back to the Rose Bowl, and we want to win," Brown said.
The Longhorns won their first BCS bowl game by beating Michigan 38-37 on a last-second field goal as quarterback Vince Young became a national star. Young's dominating performance -- four rushing TDs and one passing -- is a big reason Texas is a sexy pick to overcome the losses of running back Cedric Benson and linebacker Derrick Johnson and challenge for a national title.
The Longhorns' offense has a chance to be one of the country's best and most exciting thanks to Young. Last season's Rose Bowl MVP, Young has more tools to work with than any college quarterback should be allowed. He's got the swivel and speed of a running back and a 6-foot-5 frame to look over linemen in the passing game. He's even got a former NFL co-MVP mentor in Tennessee Titans quarterback Steve McNair.
Young will operate behind Texas' best offensive line since Brown took over as coach in 1998.
Gone is Benson, the No. 6 rusher in NCAA Division I-A history. Fourth-year junior Selvin Young, who has averaged 5.0 yards per carry in three seasons as a backup, will battle sophomore speedster Ramonce Taylor to replace Benson.
Receiver is a big question mark after Texas went without a 40-catch wideout last season for the first time since 1997. Until a wideout emerges, the go-to receiver will be senior tight end David Thomas, who has 10 career touchdown receptions.
The Butkus Award-winning Johnson meant more to the Longhorns than his 130 tackles and an NCAA record nine forced fumbles last season.
Johnson's confidence and swagger rubbed off on players such as senior middle linebacker Aaron Harris. Harris broke out with 118 tackles last season and will need to pick up where he left off in the Rose Bowl, a game in which he had a team-leading 8.5 tackles.
There are big questions about who will join Harris in the linebacking corps under new co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Gene Chizik, who led undefeated Auburn to the No. 1 national ranking in scoring defense.
Chizik takes over a defense with talent and depth in the defensive line thanks to senior defensive tackles Rod Wright and Larry Dibbles, sophomore Frank Okam and incoming freshman Roy Miller. There is also quality depth in the secondary, which is solid but lacks star power.
Rose Bowl hero kicker Dusty Mangum has moved on, leaving the field goal chores to senior David Pino, who is 3-of-4 on field goal attempts with a long of 39 yards. Punter Richmond McGee was a weapon at times last season, although his short kickoffs late in the season led to long returns that nearly proved costly in victories over Oklahoma State and Michigan.
Selvin Young and Taylor should be threats to score on kick and punt returns this season.
Texas will learn quickly if it's a contender for the national title with a road trip to Ohio State for a nationally televised game in prime time on Sept. 10. With Young and Ohio State speedster Ted Ginn Jr. on the field, it might also help shape the 2005 Heisman race.
If Texas can beat the Buckeyes, UT will have momentum for the Oklahoma game Oct. 8. OU has beaten the Longhorns the last five years by an average of 27 points, helping keep Texas from earning a national title shot or even from winning a Big 12 title under Brown.
With OU losing numerous key starters on offense and defense, Texas has its best chance to win the Red River Shootout in a while.