The Texas Longhorns open the season with #10 Notre Dame for the second year in a row. What are considered two of the top all-time programs in the country, are both heading into a season without an entrenched starting quarterback. Texas head coach Charlie Strong won’t announce whether Tyrone Swoopes or true freshman Shane Buechele will start, vowing to play both. Brian Kelly has been equally non-committal on who will take the snaps for the Fighting Irish, saying both DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire will get reps.
After last year’s 38-3 drubbing in South Bend, UT will look for pay back against Notre Dame on their home turf in Austin.
Date/Time: Sunday, Sept. 4, 2016, 6:30 p.m. CDT
Where: Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas
Forecast: High of 90 degrees with 50 percent chance of rain
Betting Line: ND -3.5
The Texas Longhorns
Texas comes into the season with an uncertain quarterback situation, a new offensive scheme and a head coach that has to feel the pressure to win in his third year.
After a long courtship, Sterlin Gilbert finally joined Charlie Strong’s staff to implement his up-tempo offensive scheme and call plays this fall. Gilbert’s spread offense should produce more yards — which won’t be hard considering Texas only had a season-low of 163 yards in last year’s opener — while putting the playmakers in key situations to succeed.
More than just the offense needs to improve, though. The defense was equally as bad, and did their part in Texas missing a bowl game for the second year in a row. Just like last year’s game with Notre Dame, this season opener should give the coaching staff and fans an idea on the strides, or lack thereof, that the Longhorns are taking.
Keys To The Game
Who will end the game at QB? – A lot can be written about who is going to start at quarterback for Texas, but the key is who plays well enough during the game to get the ball on the last drive if Texas has a chance to win. Tyrone Swoopes’ accuracy problems could ultimately allow Shane Buechele an opportunity to show he’s the future of the program.
How will Notre Dame fair after the off-field issues? – Brian Kelly is ready to get his team on the field and take attention off all the off-the-field issues Notre Dame has gone through this summer. After the most recent two incidents resulted in six players arrested, Kelly needs to get this team focused. Speculation is that four of the players arrested will suit up for the game in Austin, but starting cornerback Devin Butler is not participating in any football related activities.
Is Texas’ defense improved from a year ago? – For Texas to have a better season in 2016 their defense has to get better. Last year was one of the worst defensive campaigns in Texas history, where the Longhorns gave up a school record 452.6 yards per game, and 30.3 points on average. This Longhorns defense will have a big test against the Fighting Irish, but a solid performance would go a long way to show that Strong has them team headed in the right direction.
This game will come down to two key factors: the ability for Texas to stop Notre Dame on the ground and turnovers, or lack-thereof, by whomever plays quarterback for Texas. Swoopes was a turnover machine last year, but if he or Buechele can limit the mistakes, Texas will have a much better shot than they did a year ago.
Texas has a good secondary and one of the best linebacking corps in the Big 12, but their shaky defensive line’s ability to stop the run and put Notre Dame into passing situations should dictate how the game goes.
I believe Buechele’s arm, specifically in the second half, keeps Texas in the game late, but ultimately a late fourth quarter drive by Notre Dame resulting in a touchdown puts them up for good.