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August 27, 2012Game-week.
Say it to yourself, say it out loud. Hell, scream it out loud. After eight months of mostly silence and private development, the Longhorn football program goes public again this weekend with the first game of the season. The next four months is what it's all about ? your passion, this site and all of the pieces in our souls that awaken when the football season comes around.
No more second-hand reports. No more wondering if what you're reading and hearing matches up with reality. Ready or not, year-two of the Mack Brown Reclamation Project begins in a handful of days and it does feel a little like 2008 all over again, which is a good thing if you bleed orange.
I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm really looking forward to seeing this team up close , finally, without filter. While winning is obviously the most important thing, that seems like a forgone conclusion for almost everyone, so how the Longhorns win will tell us a lot. Everyone remembers the North Texas opener from a decade ago when the inability to block a sub-six-foot nose tackle loomed ominously for a team hoping to step up from very good to nationally elite. The goal coming out of this weekend is to eliminate as many worrisome subplots as possible in the first showing under the lights and send an unofficial memo that the 13-12 run from the last two seasons is behind one of the giants of college football.
Here's a look at the things I'll be looking to see on Saturday
Let's be honest about what we're going to see from Wyoming, which isn't a team capable of competing at an elite level in just about every area. While they've got some quality players, the Longhorns should absolutely control the pace, flow and outcome of the game. There won't be a single position on the field where Wyoming is expected to hold an edge, which means the Longhorns should look really impressive if they are going to be a different kind of football team. Let's see some style points.
2. Steps forward for David Ash
We don't need to see 300 yards or a 70 percent completion percentage, but the sophomore from Belton needs to pass the eyeball test. There were few months last year when Ash truly looked comfortable in his role as the starting quarterback. That has to change. Against Wyoming, he should look like a guy that belongs on the field.
3. Major Applewhite's creation
On paper, the running backs at Bryan Harsin's disposal look tremendous. Now we get to see what Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron and Johnathan Gray look like in reality. Two hundred yards from the trio would be a very nice starting point.
4. Steps forward from the offensive line
Again, it's the eyeball test. On paper, this group looks like the best in the Big 12, but there's been so much wolf cried at this position for so long that it's something we all have to see with our own eyes in a game. Not a single person in the stadium should need to look at the stat sheet on Saturday night to know whether this group has taken steps forward because we should all be able to see it with our eyes in the third quarter.
5. Alex King and Nick Jordan
Are we sure they even exist? Let's find out at some point.
6. Defensive line depth
There's not a single guy in particular that I want to see because I want to see them all, although I'd be lying if I said seeing Brandon Moore and Malcom Brown in action didn't fascinate me.
7. Steve Edmond
No explanation needed.
8. The true freshmen
It's too bad Daje Johnson is going to miss the opener because it should be a fun little party. From Johnathan Gray to Kendall Sanders to Marcus Johnson to Cayleb Jones to Brown to Duke Thomas to Dalton Santos to Nick Jordan to Shiro Davis, it should be a lot of fun watching the Longhorns unwrap their presents from under the tree.
No. 2 - Scattershooting on the Longhorns ?
? I don't know what to tell you about the injury situation. We've reached a point where every time there's an alleged minor injury, red sirens start going off because it sure seems like minor injuries end up being major around these parts as of late. Both Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley are supposed to be nursing minor issues, but there sure are a lot of whispers going around that one or both could miss the opener, with freshmen starting in their place. Meanwhile, Anthony Fera might as well be a unicorn because his injury has rendered him a mythical creature thus far. The good news is that while the offense has taken a few dents, the defense would appear to be in very good working condition going into the season ? we think. How would we ever really know?
? Smart move by the coaches to release the depth chart before the players took off for their final true free weekend of the year. On top of allowing David Ash a distraction-free weekend full of questions from every person he meets, the new starting quarterback can marinate in the position a little and get his mind right for the upcoming week. Same with the other players on the roster.
? Mack Brown didn't ask for my advice, but I wouldn't take David Ash out of the huddle on Saturday until the third quarter at the earliest
? Mack Brown didn't ask for my advice, but I'd sure like to see Johnathan Gray on the field during the first drive.
? First play from scrimmage? I say let's see what a counter with a healthy Malcolm Brown looks like behind this improved and zesty, new offensive line.
? For those that blocked it out of their mind, the Longhorns led Rice by a score of 13-6 at halftime last season. They forced one turnover (zero interceptions), had only one tackle for loss from their defensive line and zero sacks. Just a few pieces of randomness on a Monday.
? I have a feeling one of the stories next Monday is going to be one of the true freshmen wide receivers. I just don't know which one.
? Prediction: Duke Thomas will be one of the best freshmen in the country that nobody talks about. His time will come.
No. 3 - Can we start the regular season, already? ?
I have seen enough of the NFL pre-season and I don't need to see a second more. With the third pre-season game complete, the Cowboys need to take every single player of significance on their roster and put them in a glass case that's not to be broken until the first Wednesday in September in Gotham.
As far as pre-season games are concerned, Saturday's 20-19 win over St. Louis at The Death Star was as fulfilling as pre-season games can be for about 15 minutes. Although you never quite know what to make of pre-season results, there's no way to get around the fact that the group of players that make up the starting line-up on both sides of the ball for this team has looked really sharp in dress rehearsals the last two weeks.
Tony Romo looks ready. The starting defense looks ready. Overall, this team looks ready, well ... fairly ready. Now it just needs to get healthy and that seems like a curious proposition 10 days away from the opener. When DeMarco Murray seems like the most durable key offensive piece on the field, it gives you an idea of how snake-bitten the Cowboys have been in training camp with some of their personnel.
Jay Ratliff was the latest casualty last night, going down with an ankle injury that might keep him out of the game against the Giants.
Again, I've seen enough. I don't care if the Cowboys field a team in their final pre-season game on Wednesday night. Just let Stephen McGee go out there with all of the undrafted rookie free agents and have a party, but I don't want to see a single key player dressed in uniform.
I've seen all I need to see.
While we're talking Cowboys, a few other notes of interest from the third pre-season game?
1. For all the grief he receives, Tony Romo is a bad-ass NFL quarterback. Without any of his primary toys on the field to play with and an offensive line that scares the hell out of me, Romo was still the most dominant player on the field and he made the Rams look like a pretty sorry outfit. When he left the game in the first quarter, Romo was on pace for 800 yards and eight touchdowns in four quarters of action. He's not Brady, Rodgers or Brees, but the list of guys better than him is pretty short once you get beyond the truly elite players. He's the guy keeping this whole thing together.
2. Perhaps the greatest testimony of Romo's ability is the fact that it seems like it never matters who his receivers are on the field. Miles Austin went from a JAG to one of the richest receivers in the league because of Romo. Laurent Robinson went from JAG to a multi-millionaire with less than a year with Romo. This weekend he was out there with a bunch of nobodies and still looked like a Pro Bowler. As long as he's the quarterback, they should never pay top dollar at wide receiver or waste time in early rounds of the draft. Just bring in a dozen JAGs and let him figure out which ones work.
3. Dallas needs to keep two quarterbacks on its roster.
4. Felix Jones looked like a guy worth keeping and Jamize Olawale looked like a guy they were trying to limit snaps with in hopes of stashing him on the practice squad.
5. Hello, Dwayne Harris. I believe you just secured a roster spot ? now do it in the regular season.
6. I'm perfectly fine with Kevin Ogletree, Cole Beasley and Andre Holmes as back-up receivers because of Romo.
7. The Cowboys have very quietly assembled an elite-level set of linebackers to run their 3-4 defense. Demarcus Ware is at the top of the NFL mountain at his position and Sean Lee is quickly playing at a level that suggests he'll soon join him. When you consider the other upgrade inside with Bruce Carter taking over for Bradie James/Keith Brooking, along with the solid play from Anthony Spencer, it's clear that the Cowboys have improved at a very key position for them.
8. I'd like for them to find a place on the roster for Adrian Hamilton. That guy has a little something about him that I really like.
9. Morris Claiborne is getting closer to where we want him.
No. 4 - Can we start the regular-season, already? (Part II)
Speaking of teams that look like they are ready to put in the "Do Not Break Until the Regular Season" glass case, the Houston Texans can step on down and climb inside.
As an NFL fan, I enjoyed the hell out of the Texans/Saints game on Saturday night. Both teams had their game-changers on the field and they did game-changing things. As far as I'm concerned, the Texans shouldn't sweat what Drew Brees did to them in the first half because Brees is a beast and will do that to many an opponent this season ? plus, we know that the Texans weren't at full strength.
The key for the Texans in my mind was an offense that looked scary good at times in the first half. Either this group is about to wreck some shop this season or the Saints do have some issues on that side of the ball. Maybe it's a combination of both, but damn the Texans looked awesome in the first half, youthful turnovers aside.
Honestly, I don't remember Matt Schaub looking like that many times in his career, so I'd be pretty psyched as a Texans fan.
A few other thoughts from the game:
1. It doesn't get much better than the Arian Foster/Ben Tate/Justin Forsett trio at running back in the NFL. All three players have skill sets that really complement each other perfectly and all three range from fairly versatile to very versatile.
2. Just stay healthy, Andre.
3. Ummm ?. Who the hell is Garrett Graham and where did that come from? Am I crazy or did that four receptions for 97 yards come out of nowhere? Man, he looked like someone that can play when the lights come on.
4. KeShawn Martin had the kind of night that will make Gary Kubiak lose a little sleep when wondering how much he can lean on the youngster.
5. Trindon Holiday was once again "must-see-TV" but this time it was for all of the wrong reasons. The ball can't be on the ground. Two steps forward, one step back on Saturday.
6. If Andre goes get hurt at some point this season, the depth at receiver will be a big issue. Schaub really has to bring those youngsters along.
No. 5 - It's the sport of kings, better than diamond rings, That's why we're here to sing, football Sunday in the snow, referee's whistle blows, We've been warriors toe-to-toe?
? Huge props to ex-Longhorn Justin Tucker who went into Baltimore and ripped the starting kicking job away from former Pro Bowler Billy Cundiff. Yes, some of it was financially motivated, but Tucker was better than Cundiff every step of the way the last month per almost every Ravens insider on the Internet. I can't wait to watch his this season on those key, cold, brutal AFC North showdowns.
? Being a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line must feel like you're living a real life Final Destination scenario. First-round pick David DeCastro was the latest casualty, seemingly injuring his leg in every way possible with a mixture of a torn MCL, a dislocated kneecap and damage to the patellar tendon. That team can't be taken as a serious Super Bowl contender unless that group can remain in some sort of one piece.
? Peyton Manning looked a lot more like Peyton Manning on Sunday and Eric Decker looked like a guy we all need on our fantasy teams if available in the right spot in fantasy drafts.
? As far as rookie quarterbacks are concerned, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson all look really legit heading into the season, while Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill have both displayed flashes, but look like train wrecks waiting to happen this season.
? It might be a battle of the walking wounded next week when the Giants face the Cowboys, as the Giants could enter the showdown with two of their top three cornerbacks on the shelf. First, Terrell Thomas went down (again) and now Prince Amukamara landed in the ice tub with a high ankle sprain over the weekend.
? Every quarterback Andy Reid touches seems to turn to gold. Have you heard the city of Philadelphia losing its collective mind over Nick Foles, who ran circles around Weeden this weekend on the same field?
? Ced Benson could be poised for the best year of his life. Green Bay is a perfect fit for him.
? The Bills look like a mess. Ryan Fitzpatrick might be the biggest piece of fool's gold the NFL has seen in a long time.?
? Something seems off with that New England offense. It'll be interesting to see if they can snap it together when the lights come on like we all expect.
No. 6 - Six more pieces of sports randomness ?
? If I had said 12 months ago that the Boston Red Sox would need and receive a financial bailout in 2012, from the Los Angeles Dodgers of all teams, there's not a person on the planet that would have believed it. The knowledge of that fact makes what happened over the weekend between the two teams even more spectacularly eye-opening. Frankly, I'm still trying to process what it is that the Dodgers have done to themselves. On some level, it feels like they've given a somewhat declining Adrian Gonzales a $260 million contract because so much of what went their way is full of question marks. All I know is they better win because they are throwing money around that would make Ruben Amaro Jr. blush. As for the Red Sox, I can't believe they basically get to hit the reset button on their team without having to take on more dollars in this deal, while getting prospects back in the deal. Did that really happen? Where's the bailout for my Phillies?
? Josh Hamilton in Boston? First thing I thought of when the trade went down. The second thing I thought was that I hope Gonzales is single because he has a chance to be the most popular Mexican-born male in the entire city.
? The Phillies put a butt-whipping on the Nationals this weekend with a three-game sweep, as Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee looked vintage in victory. For one weekend in the year, life was good as a baseball fan.
? Jon "Bones" Jones is a better man than Dana White , if we didn't already know it. Pretty mature of Jones to be the only guy in the sport willing to take the sword for an unfortunate situation. Stay classy, Dana.
? It feels like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are doing everything they can to keep me from watching golf right now.
? Buying or acquiring fake Twitter followers is lame and it's rampant in my business right now. You'd be surprised at apparently how easy it is to make yourself look really big.
No. 7 - Tweet tweet: The best on my timeline this week ?
10. " Slap on some diapers "
@Rihanna (in response to criticism from Joan Rivers)
9. " Now that camps over I can entertain my friends on Twitter again. "
8. " Every Gonzalez in LA is hoping trade happens. Get their own jersey "
7. ""I shared "turk" duties during my first 2 yrs with the Ravens. Players wouldn't make eye contact with me during cut da
As I was walking down the hallway, Matt Stover said to one rookie, "you never want to see this guy on cut day"? I was there for that rookie
Stover felt terrible.. apologized up and down to the poor rookie.""
6. "Big trade involving Dodgers, USC is #1... Only thing a couple of guys in the store were talking about was how Nash & Kobe will play together"
5. "Todd Akin: "RAPED FEMALE PERSON CAN NO HAVE TUMMY HUMAN CAUSE BAD MAN SCARE STORK AWAY!!!"
4. "LL Cool J went haywire when he caught that burglar trying to scurry off into the pale moonlight with his cherry chapstick collection"
3. "Last year I left my sick wife laying on floor of the bathroom because I had to get to my fantasy auction. I won the league. #StandStrongGuys"
2. "(314): I want you to come over here and spit coffee in my mouth like a momma bird feeding a baby bird. That hung over."
1. " So, does Bama claim Lance Armstrong's stripped Tour de France titles? "
No. 8 - Pop goes the culture because the culture goes pop.?
? Movie Trailer of the week: This bad boy looks like one hell of a tear-jerker . Holy cow.
? WTF Headline of the weekend: Tayor Swift crashed a wedding?. This is not nearly as cool as you'd think.
? Sign that the apocalypse is upon us: Katy Perry & John Mayer Are No Longer Dating. I really thought they had something special.
? Declaration: I think I might finally be done with American Idol.
? Hottie of the Week: Nicole Freaking Kidman
? 100-Words Movie Review: Premium Rush (C)
I don't know what to tell you other than my wife made me go because Josh Gordon-Lovett is apparently in her current top five. It was exactly what I thought it would be, a combination of Speed, 500 Days of Summer and Showgirls without the nudity. Give it up to JGL because whatever redeeming value in the movie is there because he's such an interesting actor. It's too bad Michael Shannon was an awful bad guy. Overall, it's fast, cheesy, awful and occasionally fun. Oh, and in the climax scene, the phrase "Suck it!" is immortalized.
No. 9 - The List: Keeping it Trill with UGK (Very not safe for work)
Just so everyone knows, the Mount Rushmore of rap groups in my mind is NWA, Outkast, Run DMC and UGK.
Some might look at the inclusion of the Port Arthur duo as a bit of Texas homerism, but when you consider their two-decade run of greatness in the rap game, their resume is as strong as any other contender you bring to the table.
Let's get to the list? You can subscribe to the list via Spotify
Others under consideration: (in no order) Hi Life, Wood wheel, Da Game Been Good to Me, Quit Hating the South, Chrome Plated Woman, Don't Say Shit, Use Me Up, Still in the Grind and Pinky Ring
10. The Pimp and the Bun
Two decades after their first album, UGK 4 Life dropped in 2009 and it's amazing that Pimp C and Bun B could still be on top of their game. This song is mellow, this song is rough and this song has two legends still creating magic.
9. Life is 2009
This is another personal favorite. Life is Too Short is one of my favorite songs of all-time, so this spin on the Too Short classic (with a special Too Short appearance) is a song I'll play a lot.
8. Take The Hood back
This song is just hard. It's the fellas at their uncompromising best on one of their most underrated tracks.
7. International Players Anthem
It's two of my favorites on one gloriously original track. All of the titans carry their weight.
6. Swishas and Dosha
In a lot of ways this song served as the official "We're baaaaack" moment for the group as it serves as the lead-off song for one of their best albums, five-years between their last and more than a decade since Ridin' Dirty first dropped. It has a little piece of everything that makes the group what they are.
5. One Day
When UGK was at their very best, they could haunt you with their lyrics of what life on the streets truly looked like. It wasn't some glorious portrayal of the gangsta life, but a grimy, view of what surrounded them.
4. Front, Back and Side to Side
There's just a soft-spot in my heart for this song because it blared from the crummy speakers in my first car for most of my junior and senior year in high school.
3. Diamonds and Wood
Seriously, was Ridin' Dirty a masterpiece, or what? This song has everything you need for a UGK all-time classic. Pimp C and Bun both throw it down and there's a song that makes you want to get in your call, turn up the music loud and just drive. From the moment I first heard the song, it felt like the true Texas country rap anthem.
This song ages like a fine wine. Whatever Bun B was as an artist before Ridin' Dirty was almost forgotten the first time you heard this track. This was the album that saw UGK truly ascended to the mountaintop and this was song that turned Bun B into a franchise star. All these years later and I still feel like the second half of this song represents one of the best mic-dropping moments in the history of rap. It has held up over time as strong as the day it dropped. If you are an old school UGK fan that missed a lot of their newer stuff, start right here.
1. Pocket Full of Stones
There are other songs with better beats and better lyrics, but this is the jam that started off the UGK experience. I really can't remember if the first place I heard it was on Too Hard to Swallow or the Menace II Society soundtrack because I played both albums in my Walkman pretty much non-stop while in high school. In a lot of ways, this song (along with everything from the Geto Boys) represented my introduction to non-West Coast/East Coast rap music. Its place at the top is pretty much unshakable at this point.
Previous Lists: 2-Pac, Beastie Boys, Beethoven, Biggie Smalls, Boyz II Men, Chuck Brown, Jeff Buckley, Cartoon themes, Eva Cassidy,Phil Collins, Sam Cooke, Joe Ely, Al Green, Guns N' Roses, Hall and Oats, HBO Shows, Jimi Hendrix, Whitney Houston, Kool and the Gang, Metallica, George Michael, Mo-Town, Bill Murray, Willie Nelson, Stevie Nicks,Pink Floyd, Prince, Outkast, Queen, Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones, Scarface, Sexiest Women of All-Time, Snoop Dogg . Gary Stewart , George Strait, TV Themes, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Hank Williams Sr.
Previous Lists on Spotify: 2-Pac, Beastie Boys, Beethoven, Biggie Smalls, Boyz II Men, Jeff Buckley, Phil Collins, Sam Cooke, Joe Ely, Al Green, Guns N' Roses, Hall and Oats, Jimi Hendrix, Whitney Houston, Metallica, George Michael, Mo-Town, Willie Nelson, Stevie Nicks,Prince, Prince (After Hours), Outkast, Queen, Otis Redding, The Rolling Stones, Scarface, Snoop Dogg . Gary Stewart , George Strait, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Hank Williams Sr.
No. 10 - And finally ?
We couldn't let 10TFTW go without a special mention to Neil Armstrong (Come on, NBC. Be better than this), who passed away on Saturday at the age of 82.
If there's ever been an American hero that every little boy in America knew of, it had to be Armstrong, the first man to realize the dream of walking on the moon.
Of course, in 2012 it's hard to have a conversation about walking on the moon without acknowledging that we haven't evolved much on that giant leap for mankind front. We've gone from vinyl to 8-track to tape to CD to digital and we've gone from VHS to DVD to blue-ray, but we just haven't seen the kind of progress with space technology that we've seen in almost every area.
Be honest, if you are near the age of 40, didn't you think when you were a kid that we'd be sporting ray-guns and flying to new frontiers by now? I digress.
R.I.P, Neil. Hopefully, one day we'll make your famous words truly prophetic.