Scouting the running game: Texas wants to pound opponents on the ground, and its struggles late in the season came when it ran out of bodies in the backfield. Fozzy Whittaker is out for the year and won’t play in the bowl game, but if Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron can use the extra time off to heal their nagging injuries, the Longhorns should once again be able to run downhill most of the day.
Scouting the passing game: This is not a team that’s going to win many games relying on its quarterbacks to fire the ball down the field. Neither Case McCoy nor David Ash has been consistent in the passing game, and in their defense the receivers haven’t been either. Jaxon Shipley is a big-play threat who struggled with an injury the second half of the season, but he played well against Baylor in the regular-season finale and adds a big-play threat to the offense.
Scouting the run defense: You’re going to have a hard time trying to beat Texas running the football. It averaged allowing fewer than 100 yards per game, and while it’s had its down moments (the loss to Missouri being one of them), in general it has kept opponents from moving the ball on the ground.
Scouting the pass defense: By the numbers, Texas has a fine pass defense. On the field, not so much. The Longhorns have struggled against top teams when it hasn’t been able to force turnovers, getting torched by Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor. While the defensive line has gotten better at pressuring the quarterback as the season has worn on, the safeties aren’t quick and can get exposed by speedy wide receivers, which was particularly evident in the loss to Baylor that ended the regular season.
Scouting the special teams: Justin Tucker has made 17 of his 20 field goal attempts this season and was the hero of the victory over Texas A&M, but all three misses have been away from home. The Longhorns best returner is Fozzy Whittaker, out for the year with a knee injury. In general, its offense is better than its defense — it’s been solid on both punt and kick returns, but hasn’t always been great at keeping opposing special teams in check.
Intangibles: The Longhorns suddenly are having to listen to whispers about Mack Brown’s future in Austin, two years after his team played for the National Championship. Such is the life of a Texas coach. Brown’s team this season has done very well against the bottom of its schedule but struggled against top teams — it’s a legitimate Top 20 team if healthy, but can be beaten by anyone when it struggles.