We’re now a little more than a week away from the Texas Longhorns 2013 season-opener against the lowly New Mexico State Aggies at Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium on the Forty Acres and the level of anticipation grows by the day.
The 2013 Longhorns are the most experienced team Mack Brown has enjoyed since the 2008 team led by Colt McCoy which made a National Championship game appearance in January 2009, only to suffer a rough loss at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide. After the disaster of the 2010 season, Texas has turned things around through the slow development of upperclass talent, a completely overhauled coaching staff, and a metamorphosis that has seen the team land with a style mixing a high-tempo offense with a defense that must play its best football in 2013.
With a heavy load of starters returning on both sides of the ball expectations are huge for the Longhorns to return to conference and national prominence in 2013, and given this, there are consequences tethered to this very level of expectation. Where certain folks in the program — see Brown, Mack — have been given a hall pass and another chance to right the ship, if things go sideways in 2013 that hall pass will expire with haste.
The first game on the 2013 schedule for the Longhorns that is arguably a must-win comes on Saturday, September 21st when the Kansas State Wildcats arrive in Austin to open the team’s Big 12 Conference slate. Kansas State has owned Texas in recent history and to show the positive momentum which will be demanded by fans and alumni alike, the Longhorns need a win here that not only adds a number in the correct column, but does so convincingly.
A loss to Kansas State could begin a dangerous spiral in the middle of the season which could make the whispers about the future of the program become substantially louder. A Week Four loss to Kansas State should easily be rectified with a Thursday night victory over the Iowa State Cyclones on October 3rd leading up to the traditional Red River Shootout in Dallas on October 12th. Obviously, Texas would prefer to be undefeated going into their matchup with the Oklahoma Sooners — who, apart from a test against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in South Bend on October 5th — have a fairly easy early-season schedule.
A win against Kansas State and Oklahoma, with Texas being undefeated through six games is the best-case scenario for the current regime. The second-half of the Big 12 season isn’t demonstrably easier, but with six wins under the belt going into it the path toward another Bowl Championship Series appearance is much clearer.
And make no mistake, a win against Oklahoma and a BCS bowl appearance in 2013 are two of the contingencies which are closely tied to Mack Brown’s future at Texas regardless of what he’s telling the media about plans to be the leader of the Burnt Orange until at least 2020. His conception of how safe his job is in light of the expectations surrounding the 2013 season obviously exist within a fishbowl that doesn’t allow for absorption of that being discussed outside of his office in Moncrief-Neuhaus.
A loss against Oklahoma, a nine-win season, and another trip to the Holiday Bowl may be just enough to tip the balance toward some major changes in Austin, but only if DeLoss Dodds wills those changes to be. Because, make no mistake, no matter how much Texas fans may scream for change if the expectations of 2013 aren’t met with results, the choice about the future of the program lies in the hands of the long-time Athletic Director and those above him with the power to shift the situation out of pure force of will.
With expectations come a heavy price, and the price has never been higher than over the course of the next four months for the Texas Longhorns.