Storylines for the Longhorns as they face Ole Miss on Saturday:
1. Sharing the wealth
Thirteen players have caught a pass for Texas so far. The number of players and variety of positions that they play is a testament to the versatility of the offense. With the downfield passing game still struggling to take hold, Texas will once again look to go underneath against Ole Miss and will once against use a variety of receivers to do just that. Hybrid backs Daje Johnson and D.J. Monroe could see a lot of work in the passing game if Texas is able to successfully spread Ole Miss’ defense.
2. On the road
The odds are in Texas’ favor. The Longhorns have won 13 straight September road games and eight of those have come by 20 or more points. Plus there is the fact that Ole Miss was 2-10 last season. But still there is some worry by the coaching staff how a team with three senior starters will react to an SEC crowd and a more physical opponent.
"The older guys have to help the younger guys understand and keep their focus," said Texas head coach Mack Brown.
That might be tougher since for the first time in two years the team is not going to do a walk through at the opponents’ stadium. Texas will fly into Memphis and spend all of Saturday there before busing to Oxford. Still no sightseeing.
"We're not going to stop at Graceland," said defensive coordinator Manny Diaz.
3. Starting fast, finishing strong
Texas gave up 178 yards in the first quarter to Wyoming. The Longhorns gave up 112 yards on the first three drives to New Mexico. In both games the defense rallied to shut down the opponent. But Ole Miss has a more powerful offense than either of Texas’ first two opponents and a crowd that will a full day’s fuel to help stir their passion so to speak. If Texas gets off to a slow start, the crowd will get into the game and that might take a young Texas team out of the game.
4. Going deep
Texas was one of the nation’s top teams against the deep ball in 2011. After losing just one member of the secondary and beefing up the defensive line there was some thought that the Horns might even be stingier in 2012. That hasn’t been the case. Texas gave up and 82-yard touchdown in the first game. Texas didn’t give up a passing touchdown of 25 yards or more until week 12 in 2011.
Now here comes Ole Miss, a team that has three touchdown passes of 50 yards or more and a run offense that has produced 282 rushing yards per game.
"They've got [receivers] who can go down the field and win one on ones and get the football, and now they have a guy in the middle that can get it to them," said Diaz. "So it's quite a challenge for us."
5. Special teams
Anthony Fera remains a question at kicker. That means Texas might have to rely on Nick Jordan again for field goals. Jordan has missed three in two games. That’s the same amount Fera missed all of last year for Penn State. It’s also just one less than Justin Tucker missed in 2011 for Texas.