The Steve Sarkisian era for Texas football starts Saturday afternoon as the Longhorns host Louisiana — possibly better known by their mascot of the Ragin’ Cajuns — in a battle of Top 25 teams.
It is not an easy opener for No. 21 Texas and Sarkisian as No. 23 Louisiana returns almost all of its talent from a team that went 10-1 and defeated Iowa State.
There are plenty of questions and keys for the Longhorns heading into the game and here at Horns Illustrated we’ll take a look at it as college football is finally back on the 40 Acres.
1. How quickly can Hudson Card adjust to the college game?
Playing at nearby Lake Travis High School, Card showed all the talent and put up all the numbers that made him the target of the top college programs in the country. Choosing to stay home and go through a redshirt year last fall, Card is living out a bit of a dream as it was announced earlier in the week that he’ll be starting.
How quickly he adjusts may determine how well Texas does Saturday. Expecting Card to come out and throw for 300 yards against a good defense in his first start may be a bit much, but if he’s efficient and has more than 185 yards passing, that will be a good sign for Texas. Sarkisian noted that both Card and Casey Thompson will receive playing time, and that leads us to our next question…
2. How much will we see of Casey Thompson?
Last we saw of Thompson, he was carving up the Colorado secondary in the Alamo Bowl, but that was under the old coaching staff. If Card is throwing darts and lighting up the Louisiana secondary, will Sarkisian really take out the hot hand? It will be interesting to see. On the other side, if Card struggles, does Thompson get more playing time than most are anticipating?
If Card plays well, we’d expect Thompson to get no more than one series per quarter — and maybe even less. But if Card struggles, all bets are off. Both quarterbacks have the advantage of throwing to some talented skill players like tight end Cade Brewer and wideout Josh Moore.
3. Whoever is under center, will the offensive line provide enough time?
It can be argued the offensive line underachieved the last couple of years, and that was even with second-round draft pick Sam Cosmi in it. Cosmi is gone, but Texas’ starting lineup has a fair amount of experience, beginning with right tackle Derek Kerstetter. Right guard Junior Angilau, left guard Denzel Okafor and left tackle Christian Jones all have experience somewhere on the offensive line, but the hope is new offensive line coach Kyle Flood — who joined Sarkisian in moving West from Alabama — improves the unit as a whole.
4. Does Sarkisian turn Bijan Robinson into a feature back?
He should. Robinson is a star waiting to be born, and if he’s healthy, he needs at least 15 touches a game. Whether that’s from being handed the ball or catching it out of the backfield, this offense should revolve around Robinson, especially with the inexperience under center. Roschon Johnson is a nice backup and someone that can easily handle more than 10 carries a game, but the majority of the touches need to go to Robinson.
5. How big of an impact will the defensive transfers have?
If Texas is to win this game, end Ray Thornton (LSU), strongside linebacker Ovie Oghoufo and Oghoufo’s backup Ben Davis (Alabama) need to play at least adequate football. The defense is loaded with talent like nose tackle Keondre Coburn, weakside linebacker DeMarvion Overshown and safety B.J. Foster, but the transfers were brought in for a reason. New defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski likes to be aggressive, and that should show early on.
6. What will happen?
Louisiana is good, but Texas won’t be underestimating anyone. This Longhorns team has talent across the board, and even with a mediocre performance at quarterback should be able to be 1-0 when Saturday night rolls around. But it won’t be easy. Louisiana returns almost the entire team from a year ago. However, the Longhorns defense will force two turnovers and control the line of scrimmage, Robinson will rush for more than 100 yards and Card will throw for 197 yards and a score as Texas takes a 24-14 win.