Predicting the future

Oh, it's so very close.

The fall, with all its requisite oohs and ahhs and the smell of sunscreen in the air at DKR, is still almost a month away.

Until then, all there is to enjoy is speculation. What will Texas do this year? Has David Ash changed? Will Mack Brown pick a quarterback and stick with him? Has anyone found out about Carter's secret parking spot on game days?

We are here to provide a few answers. OK, educated guesses.

So, without further ado, here are the fearless predictions of the HornsNation staff. Please do not print and hold on to these as we refuse to be accountable for how wrong they were at season's end.

In which game will Texas pull an upset?

Sean Adams: Geno Smith will have a pretty good game and I can see a scenario of him running up yards between the 20s. Unless they score on long plays I have a hard time thinking that West Virginia will be able to sustain drives over the course of the game, especially from the later part of the third quarter on, where the defensive line might have stripped the Moutaineers' wills.

Max Olson: Kansas State: I'm calling it now: The K-State curse ends this year. The Wildcats should be just as good last year with "Blonde Tebow" and stud linebacker Arthur Brown returning. But the Longhorns win this game in The Little Apple because they absolutely have to. Why? It falls on Dec. 1. The Longhorns go into the game 8-3, maybe 9-2. If a potential BCS berth or conference title is on the line here, they'll take care of business.

Carter Strickland: WVU: Geno Smith is going to get his yards. But the turnovers are going to get to him. This is going to be like the LSU game last year; Smith had 463 yards in that game. But he threw two crucial interceptions and there were a couple of other fumbles. Texas will create those turnovers and win this game.

William Wilkerson: WVU. I realize the Mountaineers boast one of the nation's premier passing games with the likes of Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, and have a dual-threat quarterback in Smith who could test the discipline of Texas' secondary. But the Longhorns' secondary will keep them relatively in check and Texas' run game will exploit WVU's defensive front in its biggest home game to date.

Jeremy Willis: WVU. Talk about welcome to Big 12 country. It's roughly 1,400 miles from Morgantown, W. Va. to Austin. The heat, the travel, the Texas defense. All will be too much for the Mountaineers. Texas will have to have its offense somewhat figured out and score to really allow the defense to get after Smith and Co.

What game will Texas lose that it shouldn't?

Adams: This is a reach because I would usually think that a true freshman would have the Texas defense salivating, but I'm going with Oklahoma State. Their defense will be better and they are going to be able to run the ball. That stadium, that defense and a night game? It could happen.

Olson: I would take TCU here, but the Frogs finish their first Big 12 season with West Virginia, KSU, Texas and Oklahoma. Brutal. Instead I'll say Texas Tech or Baylor. I think Art Briles has his system in place now, and even without RGIII, he'll still find a way to win seven games.

Strickland: Texas Tech: Going way out on a limb here. It would be a humiliating loss. And I'm not saying it is going to happen. Just beware that it might.

Wilkerson: Oklahoma State. Texas should go into Stillwater feeling good about itself after a 'W' on the road against Ole Miss and will likely be a slight favorite against a Cowboys team that is searching for a quarterback and wide receivers to replace Justin Blackmon and Michael Harrison. But I worry how Texas' offense will respond if it falls behind early in that raucous environment. If it becomes a shootout, will an Ash-led offense be able to keep up?

Willis: Tech. I'm with Carter that is sounds crazy, but it has the makings of being "just one of those games." The Red Raiders took care of Oklahoma last season at home, and if they get a few things to go their way, rattle Ash a little, this could go their way.

Who will have the most rushing yards?

Adams: Joe Bergeron is a momentum back and when you couple that with his size and the fact that he will be the grind-it-out back, all of that will sum up to 900 or so yards and be enough to lead the team.

Olson: Honestly, I have concerns about the durability of all three backs. I'll go conservative here and take Malcolm Brown a little more than 900 yards.

Strickland: Joe Bergeron. He's bigger and stronger and will get most of the second half carries when the defense is worn down.

Wilkerson: Malcolm Brown: While I don't think he is going to lead the team in rushing touchdowns, I do think he will carry most of the load in getting Texas into scoring position. As long as he stays healthy I don't see any reason why he shouldn't rush for more than the 742 yards he had in 10 games last season.

Willis: I'm going to say Bergeron, but it's close. With injury history and the reliance on this running game, Brown and Bergeron might not get the chance to truly take control. However, Bergeron is the guy that could get the carries late in games when Texas wants to beat up and finish off an opponent.

Other than quarterback, where is Texas the weakest?

Adams: Depth on the offensive line. I would be willing to bet good money that the coaching staff is comfortable with the starting five. But after that? The depth gets really young in a hurry and the offensive line is probably an injury and a bad attitude away from being pretty average.

Olson: Pass-catchers. Shipley and Davis are known commodities, the former more so than the latter. Goodwin will be back to full-time football eventually. But will anyone be surprised if Texas starts a redshirt freshman at tight end (M.J. McFarland) and a true freshman at receiver (Marcus Johnson or Cayleb Jones)? Any injuries to those front-line guys and UT will be relying on inexperience again this year.

Strickland: Leadership. OK, so that is a thinly veiled poke at the quarterbacks. But seriously I'm talking about from the top down. Texas has a head coach and co-offensive coordinator who cannot make the hard decision and that trickles down and affects the team.

Wilkerson: Depth at LB and safety. My original choice was the kicking game but Anthony Fera solved those issues by transferring from PSU. Depth at these two positions is young and unproven. Should injuries plague the starters the way they did last year, then that could be an issue.

Willis: Return game. So it might not be as glaring as others, but it is certainly an area where Texas struggled did not really produce last season. It will be sneaky important in 2012. Field position will be so crucial if Texas wants to keep its ground-control offense working and prevent its defense from having to defend a short field. If Daje Johnson or D.J. Monroe or Quandre Diggs or whomever can step up and make plays, it will go a long way to helping both the offense and defense.

What freshman, other than Johnathan Gray, will have the most impact?

Adams: Malcom Brown was, is and will be a beast in the middle of the Texas defensive line. He should be a staple in the five-man rotation (depending on defensive front) by the time Texas plays Oklahoma.

Olson: Duke Thomas. He is one of the sure things in terms of first-year impact. And slot receiver Marcus Johnson could be sneaky good. He's been getting rave reviews this summer.

Strickland: Daje Johnson is going to give Texas the explosive play-making ability it lacked in the past couple of years.

Wilkerson: Malcom Brown: Yes, Texas is stacked up front at defensive tackle, but Brown is the type of player that could and should find his way into the two-deep rotation early. His presence next to Brandon Moore and others will only make life easier for Texas' All-American DEs and give the LBs more freedom to the QB.

Willis: Shiro Davis. After the front line of defensive linemen, spots are up for grabs. With Manny Diaz's constant quest for QB pressure, I wouldn't be surprised if Davis comes into a multiple DE formation to maximize speed and pass rush.

Which player is most vital to Texas' success on defense?

Adams: Steve Edmond. It can be argued that everyone else in the starting 11 is a known commodity and everyone is waiting to see how Edmond performs under live competition. If he answers the mail, the Texas defense could be better than most of us think.

Olson: Great defenses have at least one impact guy at each level, and this year Hicks needs to be one of them. But if we're talking about vital guys, it's Okafor. From a leadership perspective, he's the most irreplaceable guy in that Texas defense.

Strickland: Alex Okafor. Texas has some backups who can take his place, but Okafor can dominate one entire side of the field and shut it down, forcing the offense to try the other side. It's not often a team has a player like that.

Wilkerson: Jordan Hicks. The defensive front should more than hold its own and the secondary is in great shape even without the presence of a head-hunting safety. So it's time for Hicks to play like the top linebacker in the nation that he was in high school. We've seen glimpses of it but that unit is his and he needs to control it through the type of leadership and statistics that Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson did in previous seasons.

Willis: Kenny Vaccaro. The secondary is somewhat in flux and needs a ringleader. That is Vaccaro. He grew up big-time last season and became a more complete player. His skill and leadership will solidify a secondary that will get contributions from many young players.

Who will be the offensive MVP?

Adams: Joe Bergeron. I could have gone Hawkins, Walters or Ash, but I still feel that Bergeron will be a steadying force for the Texas offense and when Texas needs to control the clock, Bergeron will be the cog in that machine.

Olson: The offensive MVP will be whichever running back takes over the offense, though I'm not so sure there will be a clear No. 1 by the end of the season. Also, there's no doubt in my mind Jaxon Shipley will assert himself as one of the most valuable assets in this offense. If he stays healthy, he could be in for a real breakout year.

Strickland: David Ash. Yep, you heard me. This is probably the farthest limb I've ever gone out on. He is not going to put up the best numbers or be flashy, but if he is just adequate then he should be the offensive MVP because an adequate David Ash equals a 10 or 11-win season for Texas.

Wilkerson: Malcolm Brown. Something tells me Mason Walters is going to have an incredible season, but I'll go with Brown even though his numbers won't reach their full potential due to the presence of Bergeron and Gray. He's not going to break off runs like Jamaal Charles could, but the consistent 4- to 7-yard bursts will add up quickly and push him close to 1,000 yards.

Willis: Mason Walters. He is one of the conference's best linemen, and like David Snow before him, he will be the anchor for this line. He'll have several still-young players around him, and a newcomer to the scheme in Donald Hawkins. If he's leading the way and Texas rolls up the rushing yards it expects to, it will be because of Walters.