2007 Texas Longhorns

Posted Dec 31, 2007

2007 Texas Longhorns Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 Texas Longhorns

Recap: After back-to-back three-loss seasons since winning the national championship in 2005, some have begun wondering if complacency has crept into the Texas program.  Although the Longhorns won 10 games, few were of the quality variety, and the program lost to Kansas State and Texas A&M for the second straight season.  It took until December before Texas really had a statement moment, pounding No. 12 Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl to finish an up-and-down year ranked in the top 10.          

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Jamaal Charles

Defensive Player of the Year: S Marcus Griffin

Biggest Surprise: The ease with which the Longhorns handled the Sun Devils in San Diego was a mild surprise, considering how they'd struggled with lesser opponents throughout the year.  Charles was typically explosive, but it was the nifty feet of QB Colt McCoy, who ran for 84 yards and a touchdown, that really ignited UT's 52-point outburst.    

Biggest Disappointment: McCoy.  Rather than building on his Freshman All-American season, he regressed, throwing seven fewer touchdown passes and 11 more interceptions than a year ago.  He did, however, rush for 424 yards and four touchdowns, most of it late in the year, a wrinkle in the offense that we'll see more of in 2008.

Looking Ahead: With Oklahoma winning the last two Big 12 titles, and Texas slipping a bit, 2008 shapes up as an important year for the ‘Horns and head coach Mack Brown.  The offseason got off to a nice start when the program hired defensive coordinator extraordinaire Will Muschamp, who'll be asked to fix a broken defense that's been especially leaky against the pass the last two years.

- 2007 Texas Preview
2006 Texas Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 10-2
2007 Record: 10-3

Sept. 1 Arkansas St W 21-13
Sept. 8 TCU W 34-13
Sept. 15 at UCF W 35-32
Sept. 22 Rice W 58-14
Sept. 29 Kansas State L 41-21
Oct. 6 vs. Oklahoma L 28-21
Oct. 13 at Iowa State W 56-3
Oct. 20 at Baylor W 31-10
Oct. 27 Nebraska W 28-25
Nov. 3 at Oklahoma St W 38-35
Nov. 10
Texas Tech W 59-43
Nov. 23 at Texas A&M L 38-30
Holiday Bowl
Dec. 27 Arizona State W 52-34

Dec. 27
2007 Holiday Bowl
Texas 52 ... Arizona State 34

Texas dominated from the start with a 21-point first quarter on a two-yard touchdown catch from nose tackle Derek Lokey and scoring runs from John Chiles and Jamaal Charles, but the game will be remembered for how Arizona State got its first touchdown. Sun Devil quarterback Rudy Carpenter was under pressure and attempted to throw the ball away, it was ruled a lateral with the ball bouncing around towards Chris Jessie, part of the Texas football operations staff and Mack Brown's stepson, who inadvertently went to pick it up, missed, and Texas recovered. After originally being ruled Longhorn ball, the officials reversed the call saying Jessie touched it, Texas was issued an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and ASU got the ball back on the Texas seven and scored on a pass to Chris McGaha. Everything else went right for the Longhorns with Jermichael Finley recovering a Colt McCoy fumble in the end zone for a score for a 35-13 lead in the third quarter, and ASU wouldn't get any closer than 15 the rest of the way. UT outgained ASU 300 yards to 22 on the ground and forced five turnovers.
Offensive Player of the Game: Texas QB Colt McCoy completed 21 of 31 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown, and ran 16 times for 84 yards and a score
Defensive Player of the Game: Texas CB Brandon Foster made seven tackles, all solo, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, broke up a pass and picked off two passes
Stat Leaders: Arizona State - Passing: Rudy Carpenter, 18-36, 187 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Dimitri Nance, 18-48. Receiving: Chris McGaha, 9-79, 1 TD
Texas - Passing: Colt McCoy, 21-31, 174 yds, 1 TD
Jamaal Charles, 27-161, 2 TD. Receiving: Nate Jones, 6-47
Thoughts & Notes ... The pressure would've been on Mack Brown had the Longhorns lost to Arizona State, and now it'll be on after the team showed what it could do when properly motivated. Playing with an attitude, the offense came out roaring, the entire team appeared to be in it for the full sixty minutes, and now the job will be for everyone to play that way game in and game out in 2008. ... ASU QB Rudy Carpenter spent the week popping off to the Texas team, and he paid the price. The Sun Devil offensive line couldn't come close to keeping Carpenter upright with Texas getting in shot after shot. ... Is there a quarterback controversy at ASU going into next year? While Texas could afford to let up somewhat with the game in hand, ASU backup Danny Sullivan still looked impressive in a relief role completing seven of 14 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown with an interception. He also showed off a much, much better deep arm than Carpenter.

Nov. 23
Texas A&M 38 ... Texas 30
Texas A&M got out to a 17-0 lead on a 35-yard pass play to Mike Goodson and a five-yard T.J. Sanders run, but it was two big pass plays in less than three minutes early in the fourth quarter that put the game away. Stephen McGee ran for a six-yard touchdown with 49 seconds to play in the third quarter, but Texas answered with a 91-yard kickoff return for a score from Quan Cosby. Just nine seconds into the fourth, McGee and Goodson hooked up for a 44-yard score, and on A&M's next drive, McGee connected with Earvin Taylor for a 66-yard bolt of lightning for an insurmountable 21-point lead. Marcus Griffin of Texas and A&M's Mark Dodge each came up with 14 tackles.
Player of the game: Texas A&M QB Stephen McGee completed 25 of 36 passes for 362 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions, and ran 15 times for 30 yards and a score.
Stat Leaders: Texas A&M - Passing: Stephen McGee, 25-46, 362 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Mike Goodson, 12-72. Receiving: Earvin Taylor, 7-113, 1 TD
Texas - Passing: Colt McCoy, 17-32, 229 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Jamaal Charles, 17-92, 1 TD. Receiving: Jamaal Charles, 4-81
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The pass defense has to be addressed. Abysmal last year, it was explained away as Gene Chizik's style leaving the corners on an island. This year's version was supposed to provide more all around help and it still got torched. Texas A&M was able to throw for 362 yards?! That's not right. Worse yet, the offense never appeared on track against a mediocre Aggie D. The door was opened for the Longhorns to make a big statement and put the pressure on Oklahoma, and they came up with a lackluster performance at the worst time. Losing to Oklahoma and A&M in the same season isn't going to sit well, and things could get testy if Mack Brown doesn't win the bowl game.

Nov. 10
Texas 59 ... Texas Tech 43
Colt McCoy threw four touchdown passes and ran for two scores, Texas outgained Texas Tech 551 yards to 476, and held on to the ball for 40:12, but it needed two onside kicks and to keep the pressure on offensively to overcome 466 passing yards and five passing touchdowns from Graham Harrell. The Texas Tech quarterback connected with Michael Crabtree from 26 and 69 yards out as part of a 23-point fourth quarter, but the Longhorns cranked out 24 in the final frame with McCoy connecting with Nate Jones from 34 yards out and Quan Cosby from 14 yards out, and ran for a 22-yard score. The Longhorns outgained the Red Raiders 283 yards to ten on the ground.
Player of the game: Texas QB Colt McCoy completed 21 of 30 passes for 268 yards and four touchdowns with an interception, and ran 11 times for 51 yards and two scores.
Stat Leaders: Texas - Passing: Colt McCoy, 21-30, 268 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jamaal Charles, 23-174, 1 TD. Receiving: Quan Cosby, 8-94, 2 TD
Texas Tech - Passing: Graham Harrell, 36-48, 466 yds, 5 TD, 1 INT
Edward Britton, 1-9. Receiving: Michael Crabtree, 9-195, 2 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...  The defense can't stop anyone, but it doesn't matter. Texas Tech's offense got its yards, but Colt McCoy, Jamaal Charles, and the Longhorn attack more than kept up the pace, with McCoy, outside of a horrible decision on an interception, came up with a brilliant performance to keep his largely unrecognized season rolling. With a two week rest before facing A&M, the team can start coming up with its argument for being the best team that won't be in the BCS.

Nov. 3
Texas 38 ... Oklahoma State 35
Oklahoma State took a 35-14 lead into the fourth quarter thanks to two touchdown passes from Zac Robinson, who also ran for a seven-yard score, a four-yard Dantrell Savage run, and a 39-yard Jacob Lacey interception return for a score. And then Jamaal Charles struck. A week after tearing apart Nebraska in the fourth quarter, Charles scored on touchdown dashes from 18 and 75 yards out in the final frame, Vondrell McGee tied it with a one-yard run, and with no time left on the clock, Ryan Bailey nailed a 40-yard field goal to break OSU's heart. The Longhorns ran for 307 yards on the day on the way to 589 yards of total offense. Oklahoma State cranked out 594 yards of offense.
Player of the game: Texas RB Jamaal Charles ran 16 times for 180 yards and three touchdowns, and caught three passes for 29 yards
Stat Leaders: Texas - Passing: Colt McCoy, 20-27, 282 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Jamaal Charles, 16-180, 3 TD. Receiving: Jermichael Finley, 6-79, 1 TD
Oklahoma State - Passing: Zac Robinson, 30-42, 430 yds, 2 TD
Dantrell Savage, 23-103, 1 TD. Receiving:
Brandon Pettigrew, 8-87, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...  All of a sudden, Jamaal Charles has gone from being a soft speedster to a Texas legend. When you crank out two fourth quarters like Charles has, to beat Nebraska, and now, to beat Oklahoma State, you build a reputation for being able to come through. Texas already has that against the Cowboys, putting yet another stamp on an already amazing series of games. For all the problems, all the inconsistencies, all the mistakes, including three interceptions and 11 penalties this week, Texas is still 8-2 and in the hunt for a possible at-large BCS bid. All that matters are wins.

Oct. 27
Texas 28 ... Nebraska 25
Down 17-3 late in the first half, Texas came up with Ryan Bailey field goals from 47 and 49 yards out, and then Jamaal Charles went ballistic. The Texas back tore off touchdown runs from 25, 86 and 40 yards out as part of a 25-0 run before Nebraska got within three on a four-yard Maurice Purify catch. Texas recovered the on-side kick and ran out the clock, thanks to Charles, who ended up with 290 yards, ran for 216 yards in the fourth. Nebraska got its early lead thanks to tow Nate Swift touchdown catches.
Player of the game: Texas RB Jamaal Charles ran 33 times for 290 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Texas - Passing: Colt McCoy, 12-28, 181 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Jamaal Charles, 33-290 yds, 3 TD. Receiving: Quan Cosby, 5-113
Nebraska - Passing: Sam Keller, 23-35, 298 yds, 2 TD
Marlon Lucky, 24-111. Receiving:
Nate Swift, 6-112, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...  Jamaal Charles might not be having the most consistent season, but he ran himself into Texas legend with the unbelievable fourth quarter against Nebraska. The 216-yard, three touchdown quarter showed just how amazing he is when he gets into open space. He'll have to do even more if Colt McCoy continues to be banged up. He got knocked around by the Huskers, and takes too many big shots. It's going to be a shootout against Oklahoma State and Texas Tech over the next two weeks, and the Longhorns need to be far sharper than they were for three quarters this week.

Oct. 20
Texas 31 ... Baylor 10
Texas was down 7-3 late in the first half after Thomas White caught a 17-yard touchdown pass, but then the defense kicked it in with a 23-yard interception return for a touchdown from Nate Jones to start a 28-3 scoring run. It wasn't easy, even after short touchdown runs from Chris Ogbonnaya and Vondrell McGee made it 24-10. Down 14 with six minutes to play, Baylor was driving deep, but Marcus Griffin picked off a Michael Machen pass and took it 91 yards for a touchdown to seal the win. Texas outgained the Bears 177 to 8 on the ground.
Player of the game: Texas DB Marcus Griffin made six tackles and two interceptions with one for a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Texas - Passing: Colt McCoy, 25-34, 293 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Jamaal Charles, 16-56. Receiving: Nate Jones, 6-72, 1 TD
Baylor - Passing: Michael Machen, 25-44, 231 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Jay Finley, 8-23. Receiving: Justin Akers, 9-77

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...  Texas isn't good enough to just go through the motions and make everyone happy. Yeah, it beat Baylor 31-10, but that was because the defense saved the day. The offense, for cranking out 470 yards, was surprisingly average against the anemic Bears. With Nebraska coming up, and with the way it's getting run over by everyone, the Longhorns have to be prepared to start pounding the ball over and over again. However, only averaging 3.8 yards per carry against BU has to be worrisome going into the finishing kick.

Oct. 13
Texas 56 ... Iowa State 3
Former Texas defensive coordinator and now Iowa State head man Gene Chizik didn't have any luck against his old team as Colt McCoy threw four touchdown passes, highlighted by a 58-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Shipley on UT's first play from scrimmage, ran for a 44-yard score, and Jamaal Charles ran for an eight yard touchdown in an ugly rout. Iowa State only got a 25-yard Bret Culbertson field goal in the second quarter. The Cyclones were outgained 514 yards to 228 and were never close to threatening. Brandon Foster added an interception return for a Texas touchdown.
Player of the game: Texas QB Colt McCoy completed 23 for 30 passes for 298 yards and four touchdowns, and ran four times for 50 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: Iowa State - Passing: Bret Meyer, 17-33, 111 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Jason Scales, 19-77. Receiving: Jason Scales, 5-5
Texas - Passing: Colt McCoy, 23-30, 298 yds, 4 TD
John Chiles, 9-54, 1 TD. Receiving:
Nate Jones, 7-125, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Texas needed to wipe someone off the map, and at least for one week, this looked like Texas again. Yeah, it was against Big 12 punching back, Iowa State, but it was on the road, it was decisive, and it was impressive, with the O line playing its best game of the year, and Colt McCoy showing no ill-effects from the battering he's taken in recent games. Without Limas Sweed to around anymore, Nate Jones appears ready to fill the bill as a number one target.

Oct. 6
Oklahoma 28 ... Texas 21
In a battle of dueling passing quarterbacks, OU's Sam Bradford got more time, didn't make any big mistakes, and threw three touchdown passes with two short tosses to Jermaine Gresham before breaking a 21-21 tie with a 35-yard throw to Malcolm Kelly. OU's DeMarco Murray, who finished with 128 yards, cranked out a 65-yard scoring dash for the only points of the third. Colt McCoy came up with a six-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Shipley, and a 22-yarder to Jermichael Finley, but was under pressure all game long. Even so, a one-yard Vondrell McGee touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter tied it, but after Kelly's touchdown, Texas didn't do anything with its three final drives.
Player of the game: Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford completed 21 of 32 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Texas - Passing: Colt McCoy, 19-26, 324 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jamaal Charles, 17-79. Receiving: Jermichael Finley, 4-149, 1 TD
Oklahoma - Passing: Sam Bradford, 21-32, 244 yds, 3 TD
DeMarco Murray, 17-128, 1 TD. Receiving: Juaquin Iglesias, 6-99
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The offensive line struggled yet again. Oklahoma's defense was able to beat up Colt McCoy, and while the Texas quarterback stayed in the game and gutted it out, he took way too many shots. Meanwhile, the running game never got going, averaging just 2.1 yards per carry, even though Jamaal Charles ran well (outside of a fumble in the end zone). This remains a flawed Texas team in several areas, but it was in the game against a strong Sooner squad until the end. Things ease up against Iowa State and Baylor to get back on track before dealing with Nebraska.

Sept. 29
Kansas State 41 ... Texas 21
Special teams and defense helped Kansas State blow past Texas, with Ian Campbell taking an interception 41 yards for a touchdown, James Johnson returning a kickoff 85 yards for a score, and Jordy Nelson bringing back a punt 89 yards for a touchdown. Texas appeared to overcome early problems with a six-yard Jamaal Charles touchdown run in the third quarter pulling the Longhorns within three, but KSU scored the final 17 points of the game helped by a two-yard Johnson touchdown. The Wildcat offense only gained 272 yards, but the defense came up with four interceptions and held Texas to 330 yards.
Stat Leaders: Kansas State - Passing: Josh Freeman, 22-38, 177 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: James Johnson, 19-77, 1 TD. Receiving: Jordy Nelson, 12-116, 1 TD
Texas - Passing: Colt McCoy, 19-39, 20 yds, 1 TD, 4 INT
Jamaal Charles, 17-72, 1 TD. Receiving: Jermichael Finley, 4-51

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... This appeared to be a team just begging to get tagged, and while Kansas State didn't do much offensively to get past Texas, the defense and special teams made it happen. The Longhorns were pressured all game long by the KSU defense, and had a woeful day from the special teams coverage units. Jamaal Charles never got in a groove, and Colt McCoy, for spreading things around well, failed to get much going down the field. He was beaten up and battered; the offensive line never gave him a chance. Where were all the big play receivers? Two catches for 14 yards for Limas Sweed?

Sept. 22
Texas 58 ... Rice 14
Texas exploded on Rice with 560 yards of total offense, outgaining the Owls 227 yards to -11 on the ground, in what quickly turned into a laugher. The Longhorn offense cranked out the first 41 points of the game, helped by Limas Sweed touchdown catches from 52 and 24 yards out, and two of Jamaal Charles' three short touchdown runs. Rice didn't get on the board until the final minute of the second half, with Toren Dixon scoring on an 18-yard catch, but the game had gotten well out of hand.
Player of the game: Texas QB Colt McCoy threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns on 20-of-29 passing, and ran three times for four yards.
Stat Leaders: Rice - Passing: Chase Clement, 18-32, 220 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Rushing: Bio Benibo, 2-9.  Receiving: Toren Dixon, 5-61, 1 TD
Texas - Passing: Colt McCoy, 20-29, 333 yds, 3 TDs
Vondrell McGee, 8-80, 1 TD. Receiving: Limas Sweed, 5-139, 2 TDs

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It might have come against Rice, arguably one of the five worst teams in America, but Texas desperately needed a breather of a blowout, just so it could feel like a national title type of team for a little while. The receiving corps finally showed up, helped by the first big Limas Sweed game of the year, and if everyone is healthy, the offense should keep on humming against a good Kansas State team next week. Can the offense build on this performance? Can the run defense play well two weeks in a row? The Wildcats, with two weeks off, will be rested and prepared.

Sept. 15
Texas 35 ... UCF 32
Texas needed a 46-yard touchdown run from Jamaal Charles to take a seemingly comfortable 35-24 lead with 3:37 to play, but UCF got a seven-yard Kamar Aiken touchdown catch with :35 and caught a pass for a two-point conversion to get within three. Texas got the onside kick and survived. Texas appeared to have control of the game after a 33-yard Brandon Foster interception return for a score and two of Ryan Bailey's five field goals, but UCF came back to take a one-point lead on short touchdown runs from Kevin Smith and Kyle Israel. Two more Bailey field goals, and the Charles touchdown run, got the lead back for the Longhorns.
Player of the game: Texas RB Jamaal Charles ran for 153 yards and a score on 22 carries, and had a reception for seven yards..
Stat Leaders: Texas - Passing: Colt McCoy, 32-47, 259 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jamaal Charles, 22-153, 1 TD. Receiving: Quan Cosby, 10-67
UCF - Passing: Kyle Israel, 9-26, 134 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Kevin Smith, 27-149, 2 TDs. Receiving: Kamar Aiken, 4-49, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Yeeeeeesh. Texas might be 3-0, but it hasn't exactly been smooth. The offense has been anything but consistent, while the defense has been stunningly awful against the run. The Longhorn offensive line continues to be mediocre, at best, but Colt McCoy and Jamaal Charles have been just good enough to make up for it. The receiving corps isn't producing. Can it be a case of the Longhorns winning ugly and doing what's needed to get the job done, or is this just not that good a team? It appears to be a little of each.

Sept. 8
Texas 34 ... TCU 13
It took a little while, but Texas eventually got on a roll and put away a punchless TCU. The Horned Frogs got up 10-0 at halftime helped by a 45-yard Torrey Stewart interception return for a score, but Texas went on a 27-point run with Colt McCoy finding Nate Jones for a 33-yard score, Vondrell McGee rushing for a one-yard score, and Brandon Foster taking a fumble 20 yards for a score. Jamaal Charles put things away with a 39-yard scoring dash. TCU finished with just 251 yards with four turnovers.
Player of the game: Texas RB Jamaal Charles rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, and had a reception for four yards.
Stat Leaders: TCU
- Passing: Andy Dalton, 23-37, 208 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Ryan Christian, 10-41. Receiving: Donald Massey, 4-53
- Passing: Colt McCoy, 25-38, 239 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Rushing: Jamaal Charles, 22-134, 1 TD. Receiving: Nate Jones, 8-91, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Give Texas credit for coming up with the adjustments needed offensively to get past a tough TCU defense. The offensive line might not have been amazing, but it  helped crank out 176 yards and kept Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz off Colt McCoy's back. As good as this win might have been, the team has to keep progressing over the next few weeks. While the UT offense has been average, Oklahoma has been unbelievable. There's still a month before the Sooner showdown, but until then, Texas has to get sharper on offense. Don't be too fired up about the defense quite yet; TCU was without top RB Aaron Brown.

Sept. 1
Texas 21 ... Arkansas State 13
Texas was outgained 397 yards to 340, but the defense made it an easier win than it might appear, holding ASU to two Josh Arauco field goals until the final minute of the game when Reggie Arnold ran for a two-yard score. The Longhorns scored on their opening drive on a 35-yard catch from Limas Sweed, and got a second Colt McCoy touchdown pass late in the first quarter on a 16-yard play to Antwan Cobb. Jamaal Charles added a ten-yard scoring run late in the third quarter.
Player of the game ... Texas RB Jamaal Charles ran 27 times for 112 yards and a touchdown
Stat Leaders: Arkansas State - Passing: Corey Leonard, 23-36, 259 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Reggie Arnold, 11-68, 1 TD  Receiving: Levi Dejohnette, 6-92
Texas - Passing: Colt McCoy, 22-33, 223 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Jamaal Charles, 27-112, 1 TD   Receiving:
Nate Jones, 9-72
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Talk about going through the motions, Texas barely lifted a finger to try to beat Arkansas. State. The offensive line, a question mark coming into the season, was fine, but it'll have to play far better next week against a great TCU defensive line. It has to be a concern that the ground game only averaged 3.1 yards per carry, and the defense gave up way too many first downs (26). Call it the first game rust, but it would've been nice if this had been more of a blowout before the showdown with the Horned Frogs.

Sept. 1 - Arkansas State
Offense: Run, run and run some more. At least that's what ASU has done over the last several years, and it has the talent in the backfield to do it again with speedy quarterback Corey Leonard leading a loaded group of runners with several great backs to hand off to. Reggie Arnold is the best of the bunch, but he's one of just four good options to carry the load. Two problems with what ASU likes to do. 1. The line needs major revamping losing three key players and 2) the receiving corps might be the team's second biggest strength behind the running backs. The underutilized corps has speed to burn, but Leonard couldn't get them the ball on a consistent basis last season. That has to quickly change.
Defense: It's all up to the defensive line. The linebacking corps, despite some huge losses, will be surprisingly solid with Koby McKinnon returning with plenty of help around him. The safeties are tremendous with Tyrell Johnson and Khayyam Burns each on the fast track to All-Sun Belt honors. The corners are deep and potentially a major strength of the defense. And then there's the line, which has to figure out how to get to the quarterback at some point. The return of Brian Flagg and Brandon Rollins from injuries will be a huge boost. The 4-3 alignment works, and it should produce the league's best statistical pass defense.

Sept. 8 - TCU
Offense: This won't be the offense of last year that finished second in the Mountain West in yards and scoring, but it won't be bad as long as there isn't a major injury problem among the starters. The line should be the strength with three returning starters and experience to count on at the other spots. Aaron Brown is about to shine now that he doesn't have to split carries. He'll be the do-it-all back who'll be the offense until the passing game, which struggled mightily in spring, comes around. The receiving corps has potential, but it needs Donald Massey to become a number one target, and it needs the quarterback situation to be settled with Marcus Jackson, who'll likely win the job, battling with Andy Dalton.
The Horned Frogs finished second in the nation in total defense, third in scoring defense, and led the Mountain West in several top categories. It'll be a total shock if they weren't even better. The only possible problems will come if injuries strike. Nine starters return, led by all-star ends Tommy Blake and Chase Ortiz, who make life easy for everyone else on the defense with the pressure they provide. The 4-2-5 has four good linebackers, an amazing group of safeties, rising stars at corner, and a good, active line. The only potential issue is a lack of raw bulk at tackle, but that's looking for a problem.

Sept. 15 – at UCF
Offense: Quarterback Steven Moffett and premier receiver Mike Walker have graduated, so logic dictates the Knights will lean on junior Kevin Smith for a while.  He's as good as any back in the league when he's healthy, and has the luxury of four starting linemen returning.  Don't expect any drop-off from Moffett to senior Kyle Israel.  In fact, the veteran of 16 games and five starts was so sharp down the stretch in 2006, some around the program feel he could be even better running the pro-style offense if a couple of the young receivers emerge.
Defense: Nothing typified UCF's collapse in 2006 more than the shoddy play of the defense, which finished 106th nationally and allowed almost 30 points a game.  The secondary was a particular mess, prompting George O'Leary to open up the competition at every spot, despite the return of four starters.  The coach had a chance to take the wrappers off some of his young kids late last year, which will benefit players, such as tackles Torrell Johnson and Travis Timmons and end Jared Kirksey, this season.  More than anything else, the Knights are looking to improve their team speed after looking a step slow throughout the 2006 season.

Sept. 22 - Rice
Offense: Todd Graham and his staff are gone, but the spread attack is alive and well at Rice, good news for an offense that returns its starting quarterback and All-American wide receiver.  Although Chase Clement to Jarett Dillard will be a familiar phrase this fall, the Owls are also developing a bunch of good-looking, young pass-catchers that are ready to contribute.  The quest for offensive balance, however, won't be so easy now that underappreciated running back Quinton Smith has exhausted his eligibility.  Last year was a painful transition for the offensive line, but with four starters back and a full year in the system, there are no excuses for not being much better in pass protection.   
Defense: In an attempt to bolster a run defense that allowed more than 300 yards to five straight opponents in 2006, Rice is shifting from the 3-3-5 to the 4-2-5.  The move puts another big body in the box, but also puts an enormous burden on a line that lost three of last year's best linemen to graduation.  The new scheme encourages constant pressure from a back seven that boasts the young athletes, such as junior linebacker Brian Raines and sophomore safety Andrew Sendejo, to create havoc for opposing quarterbacks.  Lost in last year's statistically awful season was the fact that the opportunistic Owls paced Conference USA in turnovers and sacks.

Sept. 29 - Kansas State
Offense: Call this another stepping stone season. The offensive line is ridiculously deep, but without much appreciable talent. The receiving corps has a slew of good prospects coming in, and four good tight ends, but can only count on deep threat Jordy Nelson to deliver. The 1-2 rushing punch of Leon Patton and James Johnson is scary-good, but there's absolutely no one behind them. And then there's the quarterback situation, which was a plus going into last year with several good players in a battle, but now is Josh Freeman and no safety net. Freeman has the talent to be a superstar, but hasn't been remotely consistent. When he's not on, it's over. It's not all doom and gloom. There's a ton of athleticism, and Freeman, Patton, Johnson and Nelson will have games when they're unstoppable, just not enough of them.
Defense: Raheem Morris lasted one year as defensive coordinator before moving on to the NFL. Tim Tibesar will take over and put in a 3-4 scheme, which might, at times, appear to be more of a 4-3 with star Ian Campbell playing outside linebacker and the occasional end. There's a ton of overall experience and depth, even with just six returning starters, with the strength to likely be in the secondary, where safety Marcus Watts leads a veteran cast. While the D likely won't be sixth in the nation in sacks and 18th in tackles for loss, there will be plenty of big plays made in the backfield with all the speed and athleticism across the positions. The overall net result should be better than last year, when KSU gave up 346 yards and 24 points per game.

Oct. 6 - Oklahoma
Offense: If a quarterback comes through and shines, this could be the nation's most effective offense. If the offensive line isn't the best in college football, it's number two, the running backs are very fast and very talented, and the receiving corps, led by top pro prospect Malcolm Kelly, is very big and very fast. It all comes down to the quarterback battle between junior Joey Halzle and redshirt freshman Sam Bradford. Whichever one can be steady will get the plum gig with a chance to lead the loaded attack in a national title chase.
Defense: It'll be an interesting defense that has the potential to be a killer, but has some major concerns. The secondary should be among the best in America with enough size, speed, and talent to keep the NFL scouts buzzing. DeMarcus Granger is a rising superstar tackle who should combine with Gerald McCoy, Cory Bennett and Steven Coleman to stuff up everything on the inside. If the unknown ends come though with a halfway decent season, and the untested linebacking corps is nearly as good as last year's, look out.

Oct. 13 – at Iowa State
Offense: Bret Meyer might be the Big 12's best quarterback, Todd Blythe is an All-America caliber receiver leading a good corps, and in time, Jason Scales and JUCO transfer J.J. Bass will be strong runners. None of it will matter if the line doesn't go from abysmal to at least mediocre. That might be a problem with four starters gone and no developed depth whatsoever. The team will rely on a slew of JUCO transfer and career benchwarmers to patch together a front five that will try to allow fewer than the 38 sacks given up last year. Expect Meyer to be everything for the offense with the passing game front and center early on. Because of the concerns on the line, Meyer will use his mobility to try to buy time and get the ball out of his hands quicker while on the move.
Defense: A complete and total disaster last season, defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt has his work cut out for him with a mediocre collection of talents and few obvious stars to build around other than outside linebackers Alvin Bowen and Jon Banks. The defensive front should be more aggressive and better at getting into the backfield, but will the lack of size cost them in the running game? For a while, yes. The secondary is the bigger concern after giving up yards in bunches and without a true number one cover-corner to count on. Linebacker is the strength to build around, and it could be even better if Adam Carper returns ready to go from a knee injury.

Oct. 20 – at Baylor
Offense: After making the change to a Texas Tech-like passing attack, the Bears threw well, but did absolutely nothing for the running game, finishing dead last in the nation averaging just 40.17 yards per game. There will be more emphasis on running the ball, but this will still be a passing attack. First, BU has to find someone to throw, and someone to catch. It'll be a three-way battle for the starting quarterback job, with former Kent State Golden Flash Michael Machen the leader in the race, while the two star receivers of last season are gone. Several young players have to turn into reliable targets, while Brandon Whitaker has to try to provide some semblance of a rushing attack behind a line that should be a bit better.
Pass rush, pass rush, pass rush. Baylor didn't come up with any last year, and it affected the entire defense. With only 11 sacks and 51 tackles for loss, BU let opposing quarterbacks spend all day to throw, and the secondary struggled. Worse yet, the run defense was awful. Now, there's hope for improvement in the 4-2-5 alignment with promising tackles in Vincent Rhodes and Trey Bryant, along with tackling machine Joe Pawelek at linebacker. The secondary has more raw talent than last year, but not a lot of experience, so it'll be up to veteran ends Jason Lamb and Geoff Nelson to finally produce some sort of pressure on the quarterback.

Oct. 27 - Nebraska
Offense: From possibly losing star receiver Maurice Purify for being a knucklehead off the field, to losing leading rusher Brandon Jackson to the NFL, promising runner Kenny Wilson to a broken leg while moving a TV, and starting guard Matt Huff to a blown out Achilles (though he might be back), it's been a rough off-season for the offense. Even with all the problems, the offense will roll if, and it's a screaming if, the once-promising tackle prospects come through and the starting 11 stays healthy. Top back Marlon Lucky can't be counted on for a full season, while backup Cody Glenn is already hobbling with a foot problem. There's no one of note behind them. The line had to do some shuffling after a variety of injuries, meaning the ground game could struggle at times. Fortunately, former Arizona State mad bomber Sam Keller is at the helm with a speedy, veteran receiving corps to work with. Don't be shocked if the attack becomes one-dimensional at some point this year. That might not be a bad thing.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove is about throwing different looks at offenses over the last few years, and while he loses all four starters off a great front four, he has more talent and depth to work with. The strength is in the linebacking corps, where Bo Ruud, Corey McKeon, Steve Octavien and Lance Brandenburgh will control the defense. There's speed to burn in the secondary, but the defensive backs haven't played up to their potential or athleticism over the last few years. This will be one of the Big 12's better defenses, but it still might not be close to the killer of some of the great Husker teams of the past.

Nov. 3 – at Oklahoma State
Offense: The potential is there for the nation's 16th best offense and seventh best scoring attack to be even better. Quarterback Bobby Reid lived up to the hype last season and proved he could be a star. While he loses a great target in D'Juan Woods, he gets Adarius Bowman back to go along with a slew of speedy but unproven receivers to stretch the field. The 1-2 rushing punch of Dantrell Savage and Keith Toston is among the fastest and most dangerous in America running behind a decent line that has experience, but will be a work in progress to find the right starting combination.
Defense: If nothing else, the defense was certainly interesting with an aggressive style that produced a ton of sacks, plenty of tackles for loss, and gave up too many big plays. New defensive coordinator Tim Beckman will tone things down a little bit while still taking the fight to the offense. The back seven will be terrific with a fantastic linebacking corps, even with top middle man Rodrick Johnson playing end and star Chris Collins trying to get through knee and off-the-field problems, while the secondary will strong as long as injuries don't hit the safeties. Experience on the line, especially at tackle, will be an issue early on, but the starting ends, Marque Fountain and Nathan Peterson, will be all-stars.

Nov. 10 - Texas Tech
Offense: On the surface, there might appear to be a world of problems. The quarterback situation is allegedly up for grabs, the star running back practiced like he was too secure and got booted to third string, almost all the top receivers are gone, and four starters have to be replaced on the line. Don't shed too many tears. Graham Harrell had a great spring and will be the staring quarterback once again, Shannon Woods will get back in everyone's good graces this fall and be a top back, and Michael Crabtree might be the best receiver the program has had in several years. Of course, it all goes kaput if the line doesn't come together quickly, but Mike Leach and his coaching staff have dealt with worse. There might be question marks, but there's also a whole bunch of talented prospects. This will be one of the nation's five best passing offenses once again, but it might not be consistent.
Defense: This D will be a major part in several shootouts, and not in a good way. The secondary will be the strength, and it's not even close, with a pair of all-star safeties in Darcel McBath and Joe Garcia, along with star corner Chris Parker. The front seven is a major problem, especially the defensive line, with no depth and only one starter returning. The linebacking corps isn't all that big, but it's fast and should be good in time. Expect good running teams to be able to rumble at will.

Nov. 23 – at Texas A&M
Offense: Run, run, and run some more. The Aggies finished last year eighth in the nation in rushing, and now the line should be even better with four legitimate All-Big 12 candidates paving the way for the devastating rushing tandem of Jorvorskie Lane and Mike Goodson. QB Stephen McGee was better than anyone could've hoped for last year taking over for Reggie McNeal, and while he might not throw only two interceptions again, he'll be one of the league's best all-around quarterbacks. The tight end tandem of Martellus Bennett and Joey Thomas would get all the conference attention if it wasn't for Missouri's tremendous pair, but the receivers are suspect and could be the Achilles heel if there Earvin Taylor doesn't have a huge season.
Defense: First of all, realize what amazing strides the defense made under defensive coordinator Gary Darnell. The pass defense was the worst in the nation in 2005 and became more than just respectable last season in a 4-2-5 alignment that led to a solid year until the Holiday Bowl meltdown against Cal. There wasn't enough of a pass rush outside of Chris Harrington, but that could change if tackle Red Bryant is healthy again and occupies two blockers on the inside. There aren't any all-stars in the back seven, but it's a good, sound group that will do just enough to get by.


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