Three predictions for Texas

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

It's a heady time around the Texas Longhorns these days.

The return of Heisman Trophy runner-up Colt McCoy for his senior season and the controversial finish in the Big 12's South Division last season has arguably raised anticipation and excitement about the upcoming season among Texas fans to its highest level in history.

But with that excitement comes expectations. And it's clear that the majority of Texas fans won't be happy unless the Longhorns are playing for the national championship in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 7.

The Longhorns certainly have the weapons to make a second trip to the national title game under Mack Brown. But in order to get there, they have to be more productive on defense and cobble together some semblance of a running game to reduce the pressure on McCoy.

Here are three predictions I have for the Longhorns for the 2009 season.

1. Fozzy Whittaker will emerge as Texas' featured running back. Texas coaches rave about Whittaker's all-around ability. He is the best running/receiving threat they have. But he must stay healthy in order to become the kind of back who can rush for 700 yards, catch 40 passes and protect McCoy from some of the head-hunting linebackers in the conference. I think he'll get there.

2. Texas will surpass last season's total of 16 turnovers produced by Nov. 1. The Longhorns' 12-1 record in 2008 was amazing because of the lack of turnover production. I'm betting that the back seven will have more confidence in Will Muschamp's defense and come up with many more big plays. Turnovers are cyclical. And considering their struggles last season, the Longhorns figure to be going up this year.

3. The Longhorns will not go undefeated in 2009. Texas' loss might come Oct. 17 at the Cotton Bowl to Oklahoma. But I think a more likely time for a defeat will come two weeks later against Oklahoma State in a wild Halloween Night shootout. Texas has beaten Oklahoma State 11 straight times, including wild comeback victories the last two times they have played in Boone Pickens Stadium. They won't be quite as lucky this time around.