In the spirit of the Longhorns’ inconsistent performance in 2012, we find reasons to be both optimistic and pessimistic about their 2013 season. This Texas team -perhaps more than any team in the country- has the potential to become one of the best AND one of the most mediocre (by Texas standards). Let's take a look at the Longhorns' chances for 2013 in this college football early betting preview.
The Longhorns Against-the-Spread (ATS)
Predicting any team’s ATS success or their college football odds in the off-season is difficult, but we have discovered some correlations worth examining. In general, a team’s ATS season record usually stems from the difference between expectations and actual results. Those expectations can be measured by their variation in straight-up (SU) wins (from the previous season), their preseason ranking, and an extreme (either very good or very bad) ATS season immediately prior to the one in question.
Over the past 10 seasons, the Longhorns had five profitable ATS years. Four out of the five came after losing ATS seasons; the one that did not (2008) was the result of a 2 SU win increase from the prior year. In fact, over the past 10 years, every time Texas experienced an improvement in SU wins by two or more over the previous season, they had a profitable ATS year. Whenever Texas had fewer SU wins than in the previous season -as in 2006 and 2010, for example- they had losing ATS years. The Longhorns’ greatest drop-off in wins was from 2009 to 2010. Consequently, 2010 was their worst ATS year at 3-9 (25%).
As for preseason ranking, even though the Associated Press (AP) Preseason Poll has yet to be released, Texas has the 14th shortest odds to win the BCS, so it is reasonable to conclude that the 2013 Longhorns will be ranked in the preseason top-25. By that same measure, it is also reasonable to conclude that Texas will not be in the top-10. Over the past 10 seasons, the Longhorns have been out of the preseason top-10 just three times and had profitable ATS seasons in two out of those three years.
Looking for a profitable ATS year for Texas in 2013 starts with the likely favorable position of having a preseason ranking outside of the top-10. In 2012, the Longhorns were 6-7 (46.15%) ATS. Last season’s failure to show an ATS profit is another positive indicator for Longhorns’ bettors coming into 2013. Finally, Texas was 9-4 SU in 2012. By our model, Texas would need to improve on that number of wins, preferably by at least two games. Can Texas win 11 games SU in 2013? It is possible. Over the past two largely forgettable seasons at Texas, no team in the FBS played more true freshmen than the Longhorns and those green recruits are now seasoned veterans. In fact, no team in the FBS returns more starters than Texas does in 2013. According to the NCAA’s ranking system for strength of schedule, the Longhorns had the 24th most difficult schedule in 2012, when they won those nine games SU. The NCAA considers the 2013 schedule for Texas to be considerably “easier,” ranking it 62nd. With Kansas State, Oklahoma, and West Virginia all losing some serious star-power since 2012, Texas now has the advantage in upperclassmen leadership. Playing Ole Miss, K-State, Oklahoma State, and Texas Tech in Austin also provides a lift for Texas in 2013. TCU should loom pretty large on the 2013 Texas horizon, but the Longhorns can lose two games and still achieve 11 SU wins (assuming a Bowl game). In sum, there are good reasons to like the chances of Texas being profitable ATS in 2013.
2014 BCS National Championship Futures Bet
As this is being written, Bovada has Texas at 33-to-1 to win the 2014 BCS National Championship. In a previous article, we outlined our 60% Rule, where all BCS National Champions had at least three of the following five criteria before starting their championship seasons:
1) An upperclassman quarterback.
2) A top-20 scoring defense one year prior.
3) A preseason top-10 ranking.
4) Membership in the Southeastern Conference (the SEC).
5) A head coach who had been at the school for two to four years.
Junior quarterback David Ash has more career starts than any other QB in the Big 12. Of the 15 previous starting quarterbacks for BCS National Champions, 11 of them (73.33%) were juniors, so Texas meets the first criterion for the 60% Rule. They do, however, fail to meet any of the other criteria, the most important of which might just be scoring defense. Knowing that 80% of all BCS National Champions (12 out of 15 teams) had top-20 scoring defenses the year before they won it all, should give Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz a fit. After all, the Texas scoring defense of 2012 ranked an abysmal 72nd, and that ranking actually makes Texas appear better than they were. Against teams with winning records, the Longhorns ranked 92nd in 2012 scoring defense. A quantum leap is required of this defense, and that 2013 requirement marks the divergence of the Texas optimist and the Texas pessimist.
The Texas Optimist Versus the Texas Pessimist
Optimist: Everybody knows that defense wins championships, and Texas returns nine defensive starters! Only four teams in the country return more.
Pessimist: They return nine starters to a defense that ranked 121st in the red zone AND gave up more yards per game than any other Texas defense in school history. Should I be happy that that group is coming back?
O: It is not just that group. We will get back defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, and linebacker Jordan Hicks. Those guys are both blue-chippers (5-star recruits) who were beastly as sophomores in 2011 -both knocked out of the season early last year.
P: Since you bring up blue-chippers, do you realize this 2013 recruiting class is the first one in years NOT to have a 5-star recruit? Mack Brown has to go.
O: I thought we were talking about the 2013 season. The latest recruits will play a minor role, at best, this year when we have 19 total starters returning! When Coach Brown turns this thing around this year, you will be glad he stayed.
P: There is no way he turns this around when defense is the biggest problem and he just added an “up-tempo” component to the offense. That will put even more stress on the defense, since the offense will get off the field faster.
O: ...after they score.
P: ...or turnover the ball.
Pessimist or optimist? Share your thoughts on our forum!
Early Preseason Conclusions
Outlined above, there are some good reasons to think that Texas will have a profitable ATS year in 2013. As for the 2014 BCS National Championship, however, Texas only meets one of the five predictive criteria for the 60% Rule, therefore making them a bad BCS futures bet and not necessarily a good addition to your college football picks. If the optimist is right, Texas will return to Big 12 supremacy and a BCS Bowl game in 2013. If the pessimist is right, Mack Brown and Manny Diaz will not be wearing burnt orange in 2014.