The case for
The Longhorns at last look like the kind of talent-laden team Mack Brown once trotted out annually. Nineteen starters return from last year's 9--4 squad, which struggled mightily on defense before generating 10 sacks in a 31--27 Alamo Bowl win over No. 13 Oregon State. Standout defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and outside linebacker Jordan Hicks, who both missed most of 2012 with injuries, are back as well. David Ash, overwhelmed as a true freshman in 2011, is now the Big 12's most experienced quarterback (18 starts), and receiver Mike Davis leads a proven group of skill players. The Longhorns began installing a hurry-up offense during bowl practices and amped it up in the spring. The new scheme is a nice fit for Ash, a 67.3% passer last season. "We're not trying to throw the ball 65, 70 times a game," says offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, "but we are going to throw it more."
The case against
The defense is counting on the development of several players (linebackers Steve Edmond and Peter Jinkins, safety Mykkele Thompson) who have started games in the past. And while Ash came up big in several road wins last year, he has struggled with consistency and was benched twice.
How's your confidence level compared with last year's, when you were coming off a 5--7 season?
Two years ago we stunk on offense and were good on defense. Last year we stunk on defense but were pretty good on offense. This year we're going to be older, we've got depth, the quarterback's older. I finally think that all comes together and we're a lot better.