Last Year: 46-42-2 (.523) ATS 67-23 (.744) SU
"What you look for in life, other than your friends and family, is respect." - Mack Brown, January 4th, 2006
If you want an explanation of what went wrong in Austin the last four years, go back to that single quote that Mack Brown uttered moments after capturing the first national title in 35 years for the University of Texas.
The Longhorns had just spent an entire season seeking validation from the national collective, only to hear in the weeks leading up to the national championship game that they were a very nice team, but not nearly as good as mighty Southern California. Four years later, Brown and the Longhorns almost captured another title, but those hopes went down when Colt McCoy exited the game.
It was then that Mack Brown and his staff lost respect for the best job in the land. Sulky complacency replaced fire and passion. Coaches simply stopped doing their job. And once they realized their grave error, it was too late. Once that respect for your craft is gone, it is gone forever.
Enter Charlie Strong, a man who coached at Notre Dame, South Carolina and Florida, a man that coached national championship-caliber defenses in the nation's toughest conference, a man that studied under Lou Holtz, Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer, but a man who wasn't quite respected enough to be given the keys to a college program until Louisville came calling before the 2010 season.
Lesser qualified candidates got jobs in the SEC and other major conferences, but Strong wouldn't be contacted, no matter one of the best resumes and best references in the nation.
And it followed him to Texas.
Strong defeated Will Muschamp's Gators and won 23 games in his last two seasons, but there are some Texas fans that wanted Nick Saban or Jon Gruden, and some that still want Nick Saban or John Gruden.
But he's here now, and what a job he has ahead of him.
Thus far the talk of Strong's first 230 days of tenure has not been of implementing a new offense, or of restoring a defensive mindset in the midst of the spread era, it has been of how far Texas has fallen in the eyes of the nation, and about how Strong promises to rectify that. Seven players gone. Frivolous amenities taken away. Organizational polices modified to emphasize football, not relationships with program stakeholders.
But ultimately it was the resume that got Strong hired, and it will be the resume that sinks or swims Strong at Texas.
Starting Saturday night, the narrative will shift from Strong's policies to Strong's results. We'll begin to find out if David Ash can be the man that this coaching staff thinks he is. We'll find out if Malcoand Johnathan Gray can stake a claim to one of the nation's most feared rushing duos. We'll find out if Cedric Reed and Malcom Brown (the one on defense), can anchor a defensive line that could be this team's best unit. And we'll find out if the back seven can cover anyone.
Not everything will be earned against North Texas, but first impressions are lasting and can be damning. One thing that can be earned is the foundation of respect.
And respect is everything.
On to the games...
Texas A&M @ South Carolina -10.5:
South Carolina has an 18 game home winning streak dating back to 2011 entering this game, against a Kevin Sumlin coached squad that is 10-2 on the road during his coaching tenure.
The Aggies, of course, are replacing Johnny Manziel with Kenny Hill, which takes their excitement level down several notches, but this is a Sumlin coached offense...there will still be fireworks (just do them outside the city limits to limit any further arrests).
Mike Davis returns at running back for the Gamecocks, and he's looking to build upon a 2013 season that saw him rush for more than 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The Aggies' offense will keep them in this one, but that defense is still there.
South Carolina 34 Texas A&M 27
ATS - Texas A&M
SU - South Carolina
Wisconsin v. LSU -5:
In Baton Rouge, Zach Mettenberger is gone, and sophomore Anthony Jennings and freshman Brandon Harris are in. If either one of them was worth a damn at this point, there would be no rotation, so that's that.
But at Wisconsin, they are starting a guy named Tanner, which is great for a movie about a little league team in California but doesn't exude confidence in their ability to make the college football playoff.
This will be a throwback tilt where two teams are actually interested in running the football, but LSU is LSU and Wisconsin isn't LSU.
LSU 31 Wisconsin 21
ATS - LSU
SU - LSU
Clemson @ Georgia -8:
Gone are Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins for Clemson, and in is Cole Stoudt, who sounds like a character on True Detective. Todd Gurley is back for Georgia, and that's who they'll ride in this one.
Georgia 38 Clemson 24
ATS - Georgia
SU - Georgia
SMU @ Baylor -33:
Baylor has a new stadium and even better, a new league title, while SMU can't even go .500 in a conference that sounds like one of those fake ones on a non-licensed video game, the American Athletic Conference.
The Mustangs haven't fared very well in these match-ups in recent years, and while they have some decent parts on offense, they aren't good enough to keep up with Bryce Petty, Shock Linwood and a solid receiving corps going against a secondary that has to replace three starters.
Baylor 58 SMU 24
ATS - Baylor
SU - Baylor
Florida State -18.5 v. Oklahoma State:
Oklahoma State is another team decimated by graduation, with only nine starters returning to a team that gave the Big 12 championship to Baylor with a pretty little bow last December.
And we all know what Florida State did.
J.W. Walsh is back for the Cowboys, but offensive line, wide receiver and the defense are major concerns. Not good.
Florida State 48 Oklahoma State 17
ATS - Florida State
SU - Florida State
North Texas @ Texas -25:
You know you are in for a fight when a Dan McCarney coached team comes to your town, and this year should be no different as nine win North Texas comes to Austin for the first time since Colt McCoy's first start in 2006.
Of course the bad news is that the Mean Green was decimated by that pesky graduation deal, as they only return 9 starters, tied for the second-fewest in the country.
But it does help them that three of those are on the offensive line so they have that going for them. They're blocking for JUCO transfer Josh Greer, who only threw for 1,205 yards and 8 touchdowns in six games at Navarro last year.
But of course there must be a counterbalance somewhere, and for North Texas it is in the defensive front seven, where they only return one starter. If Texas isn't going to play a Northwestern State or Buffalo in week one, at least this offense which figures to struggle for a while gets to ease into the season against a defense that might be well coached but is inexperienced.
What to expect? Expect a Texas offense that struggles at times, rolls off a big play in the run game here and there, and finally wears down a North Texas team that just doesn't have the depth to play at this level. On defense, expect a unit seeks to validate itself at the mercy of an inexperienced quarterback.
It might not be pretty at times, but Texas gets the job done.
Texas 34 North Texas 13
ATS - North Texas
SU - Texas
For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for mock turtlenecks.