The final question of our series, which will be handled by columnists Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden and staff writers Suzanne Halliburton, who covers the Big 12, and Kevin Lyttle, who writes about national colleges:
No. 1: Does Texas have any realistic shot of making this year’s four-team playoff field?
Depends on who you ask. Or, in the case of Charlie Strong, when you ask.
Strong shocked many in Longhorn Nation on April 21, when the first stop of his 13-city Comin’ On Strong Tour, he told patrons at a Fort Worth restaurant that Texas wouldn’t be playing for a national championship this year. Since then, he’s clarified that when he said it, he meant it at that time, coming right off the Orange-White Game and faced with injuries, including quarterback David Ash‘s fractured foot.
On July 23, during his day-long tour of various ESPN shows, Strong said this on “Mike and Mike,” when asked how he tempers the national championship expectations:
“I was just looking at our team after we were coming out of spring practice, and our quarterback David Ash didn’t finish out spring ball because he got injured, so at that point, I said there’s no way we’re going to go compete for a national championship with what I had just seen and the way we had practiced. And it was all about us just getting to get to know our football team at the time — I had no idea how guys were going to go compete. Now when the season starts, I will have a better idea because I know now with the competition coming, how well we’re going into these games and actually go compete.”
Also in late July, Strong told us: “Oh, no. I meant it. Where did they pick us in the conference? (Fourth) You’re reasonable people. You know what, I’ve won two national championships and we never, ever talked about winning the national championship. You go play the season and you wake up and you’re the national champion.”
Four teams make the playoff. There will be five conference champions from the Power Five leagues of the ACC, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the SEC and the Pac-12. Someone’s going to be left out.
So, is there some scenario out there that has Texas rising above the Baylors and the Oklahomas of the Big 12 to reach the playoff?
“Zero chance. If you threatened me with torture and denial of Tex Mex and BBQ, I could make a case for a 10-2 record. But I don’t even think that would get the Longhorns into the playoff. Texas would have to go 11-1 and hope, with its tough non-conference schedule of UCLA, BYU and nine-game winner North Texas, that there’s only one other undefeated team out of the four berths.”
GOLDEN: SO YOU’RE SAYING THERE’S A CHANCE.
“I would put it at 10 percent (so you’re saying there’s a chance?). The Horns may take some time to gel, and I don’t see them getting past No. 7 UCLA early. Even if they do, they’re still looking at games against two other Top 10 teams — No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 7 Baylor. I like the running backs and the defense, but I don’t think Texas has enough offense to run the table in an offensive conference.”
HALLIBURTON: JUST WIN, AND WIN, AND WIN.
“It seems silly to contemplate, given that Texas was 24th in the coaches poll and not ranked by the Associated Press media panel. But if Texas wins its games, it’ll make a playoff spot. That’s because they have a schedule, featuring Top 10 opponents UCLA, Oklahoma and Baylor, that will generate attention if the Longhorns begin winning tough games. It reminds me of 2008, when Texas made an unprecedented run toward the national championship. The Longhorns played Oklahoma, Missouri and Oklahoma State back to back to back. UT stumbled on the next-to-last play against Texas Tech to end its run. The Longhorns ended up third in the BCS, missing the national title game. But with this year’s new format, the 2008 team would be in. It remains to be seen whether this year’s team has Colt McCoy or Brian Orakpo kind of talent.”
LYTTLE: NOT THIS YEAR.
“The best teams in college football have either a dynamic quarterback and/or a suffocating defense. The Longhorns have neither. David Ash is decent, but the over/under on how many games he plays before he gets hurt again is about 5.5. And the defense is fairly pedestrian. However, there are plenty of examples of new coaches doing great with their predecessor’s talent. Larry Coker won a national title at Miami in his first year. Jim Tressel (Ohio State), Urban Meyer (Florida) and Gene Chizik (Auburn) won national titles in Year 2, and Les Miles (LSU) nabbed one in Year 3. So show a little patience, Longhorn fans.”
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