The Texas Longhorns look to rebound from 2014 with an experienced offense and a good 2015 recruiting class.
The Texas Longhorns and Notre Dame Fighting Irish, two names synonymous with college football. Two teams filled with tradition and accustomed to a culture of winning.
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This Saturday marks part one of the back-to-back season opening matchup between these storied programs. Notre Dame looks to bounce back from a disappointing finish last season when they dropped their last four games of the regular season before beating LSU in the Music City Bowl. The Fighting Irish come into 2015 ranked No. 11 in both the AP and Coaches’ poll and are picked by some to vie for a Playoff Spot.
Now flip the script.
Texas, a team in the first “real” year of the Charlie Strong era. They finished last season 6-7 and found themselves 5th in the Big 12 and fell to Arkansas 31-7 in the Texas Bowl. Last year the Texas offense averaged only 21 points per contest which ranked 109th out of 128 FBS teams. It was a team that struggled to find an identity on the offensive side of the ball and one that lacked the leadership of one standout player.
Starting QB David Ash saw his season and effectively his career end after 1 game in which he re-aggravated concussion symptoms that had plagued him his entire time at UT. To say last year was disappointing would be an understatement. But out of last year’s disappointment comes positives to look forward to in 2015.
Tyrone Swoopes, who took over after the loss of Ash showed solid stats for a sophomore thrust into a starting role. Swoopes finished last season with a completion percentage near 60% and a passer rating of 116.5. He showed some of the shakiness you would expect from an inexperienced quarterback, which was evidenced by his 11 interceptions to go along with 13 touchdowns.
Nonetheless, Swoopes showed potential and I expect him to be a quality player this year as a junior.
Swoopes also will have experience blocking for him as UT is returning all of its starting offensive line from 2014. Not to be overlooked is the presence of senior running back, Johnathan Gray.
Keys to the Game:
If the Longhorns want to pull off an upset Saturday night they are going to have to find their niche on offense, something they were unable to do in ’14 while averaging 337 yards per game, placing them outside the Top 100 in FBS.
Secondly, Texas has to take advantage of Notre Dame’s young QB, Malik Zaire. Zaire enters the game having only played in 5 games for the Fighting Irish last season. Strong is noted for his defensive wisdom and if the Longhorn defense can jump on Zaire early, it may give UT the momentum it needs to come away with a win.
Despite the positives for UT going into 2015, I expect Notre Dame’s overall talent to overmatch Texas. I see the Longhorns falling to the Irish, 31-17. Even though Texas may lose, fans will find promise in Swoopes who I expect to have a solid showing similar to his number from last year.
If not, freshman passer Jerrod Heard is waiting in the wings.
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