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Q&A With Burnt Orange Nation

Wescott Eberts over at Burnt Orange Nation was kind enough to answer some questions this week about Kansas' upcoming game against the Longhorns in Austin. I did the same for BON, so be sure to check out my answers over there as well.

1) Texas has been all over the place this year, with a few ugly losses, a couple of ugly wins, and some truly solid performances. Has there been any pattern to this at all? Have Texas fans been able to get any feel for what they're going to see on a week-to-week basis with this team?

In terms of the week-to-week performance level, there hasn't really been a pattern to it -- it's extremely difficult to make any educated guesses about how the team will play from game to game. The one thing that has remained constant is that Texas struggles if they get behind. Under head coach Charlie Strong, the Horns are 0-11 when the opponent scores first. From the players to Strong, there's been a lot of talk in the last few weeks about the "here we go again" moments that the team experiences when dealing with adversity.

If something does go wrong early in the game, Texas hasn't had the resiliency to bounce back from it. Quite the opposite, in fact, as one or two negative plays generally turn into a number of them and that is a big reason for all of those blowout losses.

2) Kansas comes in to this game 0-8 with only two truly close games to date. Are the Longhorns more likely to smell blood in the water and use this opportunity to prove themselves after an embarrassing game in Ames, or is there some concern that they'll see this as as their first truly easy game since Rice, try to take the week off, and give an inferior opponent a chance at pulling off the upset?

The narrative emerging from the team this week is that the team wasn't prepared to play against Iowa State and didn't take the Cyclones seriously enough. Strong reportedly cussed out his assistants in the aftermath of the shutout loss and that trickled down to the players, as both coordinators made it known that they were unhappy with their players.

There's always the potential for this team not to take an opponent seriously -- it's happened way too often in the last few years -- but if the coaches had any impact at all and if the players have any sense of pride after that bad loss, they should respond this week. It's just impossible to say for sure that the Horns will actually respond in that matter given the track record.

3) Kansas has been dreadful running the ball and I don't see that changing this year because of the o-line play. While the passing game hasn't been anything to write home about either, freshman QB Ryan Willis has fans excited for the future and he has some young, if inconsistent, talent at receiver to work with as well. How has Texas' secondary looked this year, and is there any chance KU's young receivers could break away for some big plays to keep Kansas in the game?

The cornerbacks struggled early in the season, which prompted defensive coordinator Vance Bedford to rapidly increase the playing time of highly-touted freshmen Davante Davis and Holton Hill. Both have had some growing pains, but are physical tacklers and haven't given up the same level of separation allowed by the former starters. There are occasional coverage busts from those two that can lead to big plays, so it wouldn't be a shock to see Kansas get a big gain or two out of attacking them.

In the secondary, the real weakness is at safety. Texas has been playing both safeties deep this year to reduce the likelihood of giving up big plays, but in red-zone situations, junior Dylan Haines has been picked on a lot in coverage and he's giving up number of touchdowns as a result. The former walk on just doesn't have the athleticism to maintain contact and has showed some questionable awareness, too, so he's the player that the Jayhawks will look to exploit in that area of the field.

4) I'm sure this isn't what Texas fans wanted or expected from Charlie Strong in year two in Austin. How much support does he have from the fanbase despite being 9-12 as a head coach to date? Is there a feeling that things are turning around, or did the Iowa State game last week put a damper on that?

As the bad losses have piled up, there's been a little bit of fracturing within the fan base. There are some people who believe that Strong can't get the job done and should already be showing more progress. I think the rational elements understand that he undertook a massive rebuilding job and had to eliminate some questionable character from the team in order to do that.

Going into the Iowa State game, there was definitely a growing feeling that Texas was starting to get it figured out. There was an identity emerging offensively with the running game and the defense was playing better across the board. All of that optimism disappeared extremely quickly in Ames, so now the Horns seem to be back to square one -- still trying to develop that identity and still trying to put things together from the standpoint of playing with mental and physical toughness every week.

5) Texas is, well, Texas. They have a lot of built-in advantages in both financially and geographically. From an outsider's perspective, it seems like just about any decent football coach should be able to come in, do his job, and field a team that can compete for the Big 12 title more often than not. With that in mind, why do you think the program has had so much trouble getting back to national prominence since the Championship Game appearance in 2009? Is it a situation where Mack Brown had fallen off toward the end of his tenure, and Charlie Strong is having to clean up the mess? Or are there external factors in play making things tougher than they used to be in Austin?

Mack Brown definitely fell off at the end of his tenure -- he wasn't able to find consistent quarterback play, took too long to re-boot key elements of his staff and program, did a poor job of evaluating and developing some highly-ranked recruiting classes, and left things in such poor shape that many of his players couldn't follow basic rules. As a result, Texas almost certainly won't have a single member of the senior class drafted this year, which is a historically remarkable occurrence in Austin.

There are certainly a number of outside factors that are influencing the continue issues, most notably the rise of the SEC. With Texas A&M's move, the state has suddenly become much competitive, especially with the Aggies becoming a major destination and other SEC West schools making major progress in landing key recruits. The rise of Baylor and the strong early evaluations by TCU have resulted in an in-state recruiting landscape that is more competitive than it has been at any other point in the history of the Big 12.

Between Mack's mess and those recruiting factors, it was always going to be hard for Strong to turn things around quickly and he didn't do himself any favors by botching a number of his early hires on the offensive side of the ball. If he can't get those right this offseason, he may not last long as the head coach at Texas.