Midway through UT's 2013 season, the mercurial Longhorns have gone the extra mile to keep Austin weird. Consecutive non-conference debacles in weeks two and three made a mockery of Mack Brown's big talk during the offseason and left many feeling he was dead man walking by mid-September.
Precarious as his long-term prospects may be, Texas (4-2, 3-0 in the Big 12) nonetheless flashes a three-game winning streak and sits tied atop the conference standings, alongside No. 6 Baylor and No. 10 Texas Tech, despite not being ranked since Sept. 8.
With a markedly improved defense refashioned from a base of historic ineptitude, Texas is contending in a Big 12 rife with growing pains from inexperienced underclassmen. The Oklahoma Sooner squad that the Longhorns upset on October 12 ia a good team in plain terms – as their No. 17 ranking illustrates – but their uncharacteristically weaponless offense makes them far more flawed than elite. Potential watershed moments don't come scripted any better.
For now, the OU win effectively freezes the storylines about whether Mack is coaching for his job on a weekly basis. Accordingly, Texas should manage to run the table against upcoming, unranked, and unwashed TCU, Kansas, and West Virginia, three teams who've combined to go 8-12 thus far.
UT returns to the Metroplex to tango with TCU on Saturday, marking Texas' first appearance in Fort Worth since 1994 and the follow-up to last year's 20-13 TCU victory Thanksgiving night at DKR. Mediocrity has beset head coach Gary Patterson's army since defecting to the Big 12 from the Mountain West Conference in 2012. This year they're flirting with their first losing season since 2004. The program sustained only 10 losses under Patterson from 2007-11 but are 10-10 over the last 16 months and plagued with a stagnant, turnover-prone offense that ranks 101st in the nation.
Inversely, TCU's menacing defense is statistically on par with Oklahoma's. Ranked second in the Big 12 and 19th nationwide, the Horned Frogs are stout against the run but middling in pass coverage – another bit of good news for replacement starter Case McCoy.
Fitting that McCoy, a true wild card, should ultimately lead these capricious Longhorns. If teams sometimes assume the identity of their quarterback, in what sense will the streaky, swaggering senior be infectious moving forward?