The Texas Longhorns started their 2011 season with three wins in three games. The start to their 2012 season has been no different, with wins over Wyoming, New Mexico and Ole Miss.
Invigorated by its 66-31 victory over the Rebels, Texas enters its weekend off with confidence as it gears up for the start of conference play.
Mack Brown's Horns face a stretch of four games that figures to be one of the toughest rides in the Big 12, so with games against Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Baylor, the Longhorns would do well to start strong.
With a quarter of the season in the books, Texas has showcased its dynamic offense and potent defense, but the Longhorns are not without their inconsistencies and weaknesses.
So as the Horns get back to work during the bye week, we can take a look back and examine the good, the bad and the ugly.
Here is the first of the things that went right for Texas in the young 2012 season: The Longhorns displayed what looks to be one of the more dynamic ground games in the Big 12.
Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown top the list of talented running backs for Texas. To complement their size and power, the speedsters in D.J. Monroe, Johnathan Gray and Daje Johnson provide an edge to the running game that lends to explosive plays.
The passing game has taken some strides after struggling to develop anything down the field in Texas' first two games. Against Ole Miss, the Longhorns exploded for 326 passing yards as quarterback David Ash showcased signs of something extra in his offensive game.
Another development in Ash's maturation is his minimizing turnovers. With no interceptions on the season, Ash's lone giveaway was a mishandled snap against Wyoming; otherwise, his care for the ball has been superb.
Above everything, the entire offense is beginning to come around as a unit. The offensive line looks powerful against the Rebels, the trio of receivers in Jaxon Shipley, Mike Davis and Marquise Goodwin are all productive in both phases and for the first time, the offense looks confident moving forward.
Defensively, the front four are playing at a high level. Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor are potential All-Americans on the edge, and a turntable of diverse tackles fronts a dynamic look along the interior.
On special teams, the punting game and kick coverage are strengths, as Texas ranks best in net punting and 27th in opponent kick return average.
And at the root of everything is quality talent and a strength and conditioning program that looks to be paying nice dividends in its second year under Bennie Wylie. The true signs of those payoffs may not show up until late in the season, however.
A three-game summary of any team would not be complete without some bad to go with the good.
So while Texas improved from game to game offensively, the Longhorns have struggled with some fundamentals on defense. Tackling and positioning have been the catalysts for big plays, and they are keeping the team from completely turning the corner as a group.
We saw poor tackling in all three games so far, with the worst against Ole Miss, and if it continues down the road against some of the Big 12's best offenses, it will only spell trouble.
The play from the linebackers has been buoyed by veteran Jordan Hicks, as Steve Edmond and Demarco Cobbs are just starting to come around. The hip injury to Hicks in the Ole Miss game challenges the linebacker position.
Kendall Thompson and Tevin Jackson look to lead the charge to see more snaps, but without that veteran presence, who knows where the linebacker play will go.
The kicking game for Texas has been a huge blemish on what has been an offensive strength for almost a decade.
Freshman Nick Jordan has struggled, having converted just three-of-seven field goal attempts.
The Bottom Line
As with most teams, the Longhorns have shown steady improvement over their first three games, though there are legitimate concerns for the back seven on defense.
But the best bet would be to have Texas come out strong in the Big 12 following its bye week. The progress made on offense is encouraging, and the defense is a sort of sleeping monster that is just waiting for the right pieces to fall before waking up.