Texas Football: Top 4 Big 12 Games That Will Make or Break the Longhorns Season

Taylor Gaspar@Taylor_GasparFeatured ColumnistOctober 18, 2013

Texas Football: Top 4 Big 12 Games That Will Make or Break the Longhorns Season

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    The race for the Big 12 Championship is still wide open for a number of schools, including the Texas Longhorns. The Longhorns win over the Oklahoma Sooners was the first of many tests the Horns will need to pass in order to reach their Big 12 title goals.

    The odds have stacked up against the Longhorns, with injuries to defensive leader Jordan Hicks and a nagging concussion, which has affected quarterback David Ash's status since Week 2. Somehow, the Longhorns have been able to maintain a perfect conference record, but the road ahead will pose more threats than what Texas faced against Oklahoma in the 108th Red River Rivalry.

    Here's a look of the top four opponents who could crush the Texas Longhorns Big 12 title hopes.

October 26 at TCU

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    Do not allow TCU's record fool you, the Horned Frogs pose a serious threat to Texas. Nobody in the Big 12 has played a tougher schedule or has faced more injuries than TCU.

    Horned Frogs Threat: Defense

    The Horned Frogs defense took a big hit when 2012 Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year Devonte Fields suffered a season ending foot injury, the defense still remains No. 16 in total defense and No. 21 in rushing defense. If Texas quarterback David Ash is not released to play against the Horned Frogs, the Longhorns will need to test the Horned Frogs run defense with Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown.

    Horned Frogs Issue: Offense

    As good as TCU's defense has played, the offense has not carried its weight. TCU was relying on quarterback Casey Pachall—who left the team in 2012 to enter rehab—to make a difference in 2013. But Pachall was replaced by sophomore Trevone Boykin in the Horned Frogs season opener against LSU and suffered a broken forearm in Week 2 against Southeastern Louisiana. 

    Boykin has been inconsistent in his sophomore season leading the Horned Frogs offense to ninth in passing and eighth in rushing in the Big 12. 

November 16 vs. Oklahoma State

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    The Oklahoma State Cowboys were a preseason favorite to win the Big 12 Conference. But a loss to a much lesser West Virginia opponent may have crushed the Cowboys Big 12 title hopes. 

    Regardless of their record, the talent on the Cowboys’ two-deep should not to be ignored.

    Oklahoma State’s Threat: Quarterback J.W. Walsh

    At Big 12 Media Days in July, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy said quarterbacks Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh would get equal reps to begin the 2013 season. That notion was quickly dropped and Gundy gave sophomore J.W. Walsh the reins to Oklahoma State’s offense. Great call Gundy.

    Oklahoma State is averaging 445.2 yards of total offense. Walsh accounts for 294.8 of those yards. But one of the more significant stats is Oklahoma State’s lack of turnovers. Through the first five games of the season, the Cowboys have only turned the ball over five times, which ranks No. 4 nationally in turnovers lost.

    Oklahoma State’s Issue: Running the ball

    Oklahoma State's stat sheets does not display many issues, but one area of concern could be the Cowboys ability to run the ball. Last season, Oklahoma State averaged 215 rushing yards per game, but that number has dropped significantly in 2013 to 148 yards rushing. The Cowboys have been known for being stout on offense under Gundy and Oklahoma State could very easily get back to being the impressive offense of recent years past if it can improve in the run game.

November 28 vs. Texas Tech

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    Good ol' Kliff Kingsbury. Things just seem to fall into place when he takes over control.

    The first-time head coach is having about as much success at Texas Tech as he had coaching Johnny Manziel in 2012. Kingsbury has helped rebuild his alma mater with an impressive 6-0 start to the season, including a 20-17 upset over a then Top 25 TCU team. 

    Texas Tech’s Threat: Offense

    Texas Tech ranks No. 6 nationally in total offense, averaging 544 yards per game, 408 of those yards were in the air. Kingsbury could not have had a more perfect situation than freshman Baker Mayfield walking on and picking up a starting role on the Red Raiders two-deep. Mayfield has accounted for 1,488 yards of the Red Raiders offense. But Mayfield's injury against Kansas has sidelined him for backup true freshman Davis Webb.

    In most instances, having to rely on two true freshman quarterbacks would be worrisome for a team. But not the Red Raiders. Webb accounted for 415 yards and three passing touchdowns in the 42-35 win over Iowa State.

    But the quarterback's numbers would look much different if he didn't have his trusty wideout's assistance. One of the most impressive week-to-week performances has been junior tight end Jace Amaro. Amaro accounts for 47 receptions and has shown he can pose a threat against just about any defensive back in the league.

    Texas Tech's Issue: N/A

    Through the first six games of the season, the Red Raiders have done pretty much everything right. Tech's offense is doing the best it could considering it is relying on two true freshman quarterbacks and the defense has stepped up to the challenge on third-downs, ranking No. 9 nationally in third-down defense. If a defense is great on the "money downs," success typically follows.

    Until the Red Raiders prove otherwise, the team as a whole is one solid unit.

December 7 at Baylor

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Oh Baylor, Baylor, Baylor. Where on earth did you come from? 

    The Baylor Bears have once again proven why Art Briles is one of the best college football coaches in the state of Texas. Briles has managed to turn his four-year average No. 40 Rivals.com recruiting classes into college football gold. And I'm not just talking about the Bears shiny gold helmets.

    For once, the Bears have become an threat on both sides of the ball, and opposing teams should be scared.

    Baylor's Threat: Offense

    Remember when Texas broke a school record of 715 yards of total offense against New Mexico State? Well Baylor is averaging 715.4 total offensive yards through the Bears first five games of the season. 715 yards PER GAME is absolutely absurd. 

    Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty leads the Big 12 in passing yards per game (338 yards), passing efficiency (230.6) and total offense (347 yards). Petty has two of the best wide receivers in the league in Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese, and let's not forget running back Lache Seastrunk, who is No. 9 nationally in rushing yards per game. 

    In recent years, Baylor’s offense has always been a strong point, but the defense was the weakest link. But 2013 is different.

    Baylor’s defense nationally ranks No. 24 in total defense, allowing 190.8 passing yards and 155.2 rushing yards per game. To put that into perspective, the Baylor Bears are just one spot behind South Carolina's defense. Yikes.

    Of all of the team's still in the running for the Big 12 title, Baylor is easily the leading favorite.

    Baylor's Issue: N/A

    The Bears have not shown many issues to date, but their schedule has also not been very difficult. Baylor still has to face Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas. If the Bears continue to put up the performances they have through the first five games of the season, expect the Big 12 title to head to Waco.