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In his first year in Austin, Coach Charlie Strong spent 2014 cleaning house and establishing his brand of football. It was a rough start as the Longhorns finished the season 6-7 and closed the season with an embarrassing loss to Arkansas in the Texas Bowl. Coach Strong hopes that 2015 will mark the beginning of the return to greatness for the Longhorns, but the turnaround won’t be easy. Texas starts the season against the Irish in South Bend, followed by Rice, and then California. So, not the weakest non-conference schedule we’ve seen so far.

Notre Dame

After losing their last four games in 2014, Notre Dame will be looking to make a statement against the Longhorns and thrust themselves back into the national conversation. They could have the talent and experience to do it too. The Irish return a ridiculous amount of talent from last season with nine starters on offense and ten on defense coming back. Returning signal caller Everett Golson will be well protected behind one of the top offensive lines in the country, and will be throwing to a talented and experienced wide receiving corps that could give the Texas secondary a handful in week one.

Can Golson limit the turnovers? Is this finally the Irish team that’s too talented to keep underachieving under head coach Brian Kelly? We won’t have to wait long to find out!

Rice

After a slow start in 2014, Rice turned it around with a six-game win streak, and is coming off of a 8-5 season.

It’s hard to know which Rice team the Longhorns will get though. Will it be the team that dominated Fresno State 30-6 in the Hawaii Bowl, or will it be the squad that was embarrassed by LA Tech 76-31 the game before?

At this point we can only guess, but with all of their major offensive and defensive production coming back this season, the Owls should be improved. With a high-powered offense coming into Austin, the Longhorns cannot afford to be caught in a trap between two marquee opponents.

California

Last season was one Cal would like to forget. The Bears went 5-7, but two of those wins were a 60-59 shootout with Washington State and an overtime 59-56 squeaker against Colorado. Not exactly wins to feel comfortable about.

This isn’t a matchup the Longhorns should underestimate though. Texas should be the better team, but when you take a closer look at strengths and weaknesses, this matchup could be interesting.

Cal featured a top ten offense a year ago, and they have the ability to score. Junior QB Jared Goff should finish his career as Cal’s all time leader in every major passing statistical category. Where they struggled was the defensive side of the ball. It’s an area the Longhorns didn’t consistently show they could take advantage of.

It’s expected that the California defensive line will be improved, but can the secondary show signs of life in 2015? By the time Cal arrives in Austin we should have a better understanding of how this Bears team will perform. If expected Texas QB starter Tyrone Swoopes doesn’t play well though, this game could be closer than Longhorn fans would like.

We should have an early indication of how the season is going to go down in Austin, and if Longhorns can contend in 2015.

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