Texas will be going into the national championship game with more questions than any team in recent memory when it squares off with Alabama on Jan. 7.
The 13-0 Longhorns were lucky to escape the Big 12 championship game after a wild 13-12 victory over Nebraska settled by a 46-yard field goal by Hunter Lawrence on the last play of the game. Some questionable clock management on the play before the kick left the Longhorns agonizingly close to not winning the title.
That subpar performance stripped some of the luster from Colt McCoy’s bid for the Heisman Trophy after he was sacked nine times and harassed into three interceptions. The Longhorns' rushing game again struggled as Texas produced season-lows in rushing, total yards and points.
Earlier in the year, McCoy had sparked a late charge by the Texas offense that led the Longhorns to average 44 points in their final six regular-season games before the title game to help spark an unprecedented 12-0 regular-season record.
Will Muschamp’s defense emerged throughout the season to be the backbone of the team. The unit led the nation in rush defense and ranked in the top 10 in total defense, scoring defense, turnover margin and sacks. The D capped the season by limiting Nebraska to 106 yards, six completions and five first downs in the championship game.
Offensive MVP: QB Colt McCoy
Despite his struggles against Nebraska, McCoy had a fine season for the Longhorns. McCoy finished his senior season as the Big 12’s most efficient passer, throwing for 3,512 yards and 27 touchdowns. With the victory in the Big 12 championship, he also boosted his career won-loss record to 45-7 to beat the record previously held by David Greene.
Defensive MVP: S Earl Thomas
He emerged as the Big 12’s most solid defensive back in his second season as a starter, setting a school record and leading the Big 12 with eight interceptions. Thomas also ranked second nationally with 18 pass deflections and provided balance for a secondary that quadrupled its number of interceptions from six last season to 24 this year.
Turning point: Oct. 17 vs. Oklahoma
As so often happens, the Red River Rivalry served as a crucible to test the mettle of both teams. This time, the Longhorns rebounded from a disappointing first half to run the ball consistently enough to claim a gritty 16-13 victory that helped kick-start them to their first Big 12 championship game appearance since 2005.
The Longhorns will be doubted by most as they prepare for Alabama in the title game. Mack Brown has to love that emotional position as he gets his team ready. The Texas offense, particularly McCoy and the offensive line, will have something to prove in particular. It will represent a changing of the guard next season for the Longhorns who will rebuild under heralded freshman quarterback Garrett Gilbert and some other talented but unproven elements. Texas should be in the hunt for another Big 12 title next season, but has a 17-game winning streak in Pasadena and some pride to defend first.