Bean: Texas would like to cobble together a patchwork solution to keep the Big 12 together. What we are finding out is, they are not the ones driving the timeline. Most likely, a Pac-16 or independent scenario is going to happen. I could even see an alliance of independent teams with Notre Dame, BYU and Texas working in a cooperative rather than a conference.
What, if anything, are you hearing about BYU in conference realignment discussions?
Barnes: The old school or supporters of the Big 12 are looking at BYU as the simplest solution for keeping the Big 12 together. Most of that has to do with them already being independent. I think BYU would fit in fine in the Bif 12. This is no longer the old Southwest conference or just a Texas/Oklahoma conference, and BYU would positively increase the footprint of the Big 12.
Bean: BYU would fit in well with the Big 12. However, I think BYU likes what they have as a independent. I think they (would) turn down an offer to the Big 12, as everyone see it as a dying conference.
What has been learned about this Texas team after their 34-9 win over Rice?
Barnes: Texas is still in a transition period. Texas certainly did not dominate, and Rice was not good. Other Big 12 teams went out and dominated in their games. Some fans found the outcome eerily similar to the beginning of last year where Texas won at Rice 34-17 and then went on to finish 5-7.
Bean: Texas has a way to go in terms of execution. There are signs they can be good, as they have four excellent running backs that all bring different things to the table.
Texas also has a stout defense. They are fast, especially around the edges, although teams that run up the middle might have some success against Texas.
What is the Longhorns' biggest strength coming into the game?
Barnes: Texas has two solid senior linebackers in 6-foot-3, 240 pound Keenan Robinson and 6-foot-2, 245 pound Emmanuel Acho. These two are the key to the Longhorn defense and its success. On offense they have two running backs, senior Fozzy Whittaker and freshman Malcolm Brown. (Brown) was the most highly-recruited running back coming out last year.
Bean: Ability to take away a team's outside run game. They will make Heaps win it on his own in the air. The overall speed of the Longhorn defense should give them an advantage.
What is the Longhorns' biggest perceived weakness?
Barnes: Offensive line is the biggest perceived weakness. In their title run years, the Longhorns enjoyed some great offensive lines. Since then, the line has been young and not particularly strong. That might be changing as freshman center Dominic Espinoza was named the most valuable offensive lineman against Rice.
Bean: Quarterback Garrett Gilbert is shaky and having trouble with even the short and intermediate routes. He continues to demonstrate that he is a one-read quarter that doesn’t have a ton of confidence.
On defense, the secondary is green with cornerbacks that will make mistakes and have trouble covering the outside routes and passes. They were not tested at all by Rice.
Who are the Longhorns’ playmakers and team leaders?
Barnes: On defense, senior safety Blake Gideon leads the team and is very solid in the secondary. On offense, quarterback Garrett Gilbert is the leader with the playmakers being his receivers Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley.
Bean: Malcom Brown is the playmaker on offense. He is phenomenally gifted and has incredible vision. Mike Davis, a senior receiver, will be used by former Boise State coordinator Bryan Harsin, similarly to the way he used Titus Young at Boise State. Davis cannot be guarded one-on-one, and if you try he will beat you deep.
What are the keys to the game for Texas to be successful?
Barnes: Texas needs to be two-dimensional on offense with a nice mix of rushing and passing. They need to avoid turnovers against the BYU defense. They can’t give up any big plays against the BYU offense.
Bean: Texas has to stop the run and make BYU one dimensional. They need to put pressure on Heaps and make him beat Texas by himself. Texas needs Garrett Gilbert to have a good start keep the BYU defense honest so they can’t key on the run.
Texas has to protect the ball. They were atrocious last year, giving up a lot of turnovers. This game should be close so turning the ball over, and giving Heaps and his offense a short field could be a big deal.
Who do you think wins and give us a score?
Barnes: Texas, because it is a home game. If it where in Utah, I might go BYU. Based on last week's games I would say this will be a low-scoring affair with Texas winning 24-23.
Bean: I will say Texas because they are at home. I see this a low-scoring game with Texas winning 24-23.
Who do you think will be the game MVP?
Barnes: Malcolm Brown. Brown was the leading rusher last week. Fans knew when he was in the game, and there was electricity in the air.
Bean: Malcom Brown. He is the kind of back that will wear you out over an entire game. He can carry the ball 20 times in the second half and pound out a win.
Charles Kano is a senior writer for truebluecougars.com, a Deseret News partner. He is an avid sports fan with a particular interest in high school and college athletics.
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