Texas hasn’t decided on a quarterback yet and fans joke that wide receiver Jaxon Shipley has a better arm than both candidates, but that didn’t prevent Phil Steele from ranking the Longhorns as the No. 1 surprise team in his 2012 preseason annual.
Steele likes the Longhorns to bounce back strong after a pair of sub-par seasons. The Longhorns went 5-7 in 2010—the worst record in the Mack Brown era—before finishing 8-5 in 2011, capped off by a Holiday Bowl victory over California.
“Texas has a top-10 defense again with six returning starters back but get a big upgrade on offense with my No. 4 set of running backs, No. 11 receivers and No. 8 offensive line and they will get the best QB play since Colt McCoy left after 2009,” Steele writes. “Keep in mind, Texas finished in the top 10 seven of nine years from 2001 to 2009 and that included five top-5 finishes.”
Steele accurately points out that Texas has one of the Big 12′s most favorable schedules, as its two toughest games will be played before mid-October: A road game at Oklahoma State on Sept. 29, and a neutral-site game against Oklahoma on Oct. 13.
Outside of that, Texas figures to be favored in its 10 other games, meaning a national title run isn’t completely out of the question.
“Remember,” Steele writes, “four national champs the last 12 years have been off five-loss seasons.”
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PHIL’S 2012 SURPRISE TEAMS
3. Oklahoma State
8. Virginia Tech
9. Michigan State
12. South Florida