College Sports

ESPN analyst not convinced Horns will win more under Strong

Texas football coach Charlie Strong has made headlines with his no-nonsense approach that led to the dismissals of seven players and ongoing suspensions for three others heading into the team’s Aug. 30 opener against North Texas.

Those departures, combined with a difficult nonconference schedule, caused ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit to question whether the Longhorns will match last year’s 8-5 record posted under predecessor Mack Brown.

“I think they’ll be improved but I’m not sure they will have a better record,” Herbstreit said in a Tuesday conference call. “If you win, you create a reason for kids to buy in. If you start 1-2, it’s a lot harder.”

Herbstreit said he has not been surprised by the attrition rate in Austin, calling it an inevitable byproduct of a high-profile coaching change.

“Any time you shock the system, players are going to leave,” Herbstreit said.

Chris Fowler, who will handle play-by-play duties for this season’s Saturday Night Football series on ABC, said: “I’d be a little concerned about the attrition and the number of guys not buying in (at Texas). But we’re still in a honeymoon stage for Charlie. If they don’t win big this year, that’s OK. There’s hope (for a better future).”

Herbstreit and Fowler will be part of ESPN’s College Game Day telecast on Aug. 30 at Sundance Square in Fort Worth (8 a.m. to 11 a.m.) to kick off coverage of the first full weekend of the season.

Mixon reaction: Fowler expressed surprise that Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon was suspended for the whole season by school officials for a misdemeanor charge of punching a woman on July 25 in a Norman restaurant “compared to what Ray Rice got” from the NFL (two games) for a punching his wife. He also noted that the Sooners’ ground game, which lost its top three rushers to graduation after last season, will feel a void from the loss of Mixon (6-foot-2, 216 pounds), a five-star signee.

“Mixon is a huge loss for Oklahoma,” Fowler said. “He’s a guy who could’ve been the starter and would have been in the mix every week.”

Miller departure: In the wake of Tuesday’s news that Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller had suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, the Buckeyes’ stock as national title contenders dropped markedly. At Las Vegas SuperBook, Ohio State was downgraded from a 12/1 choice to a 50/1 pick when news broke about the severity of Miller’s injury.

Herbstrieit, a former Ohio State quarterback, said the impact of Miller’s departure cannot be overstated for a team now left with two unproven quarterbacks vying for the starting job.

“Before Braxton’s injury, I picked them to win the national championship,” Herbstreit said of the Buckeyes. “Overnight, I think Michigan State is now the team to beat in the Big Ten. You could argue Braxton Miller was as important to his team as any player in college football in 2014.”

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