Offensive: The Colt McCoy era ended with an NCAA record 45 victories. What’s next? We got a preview in the BCS title game when McCoy was injured and Garrett Gilbert was forced into a pressurized situation. Gilbert, a sophomore, got better as the game progressed, and coaches feel he will develop into an excellent leader. He will have lots of help. The Longhorns have four returning receivers with at least 30 catches, including junior Malcolm Williams and senior James Kirkendoll. Sophomore running back Tre’ Newton, last season’s leading rusher, returns to a backfield with lots of possibilities. It might work best by committee. Two starters return to the offensive line, but the three departures combined for 111 career starts, so it’s definitely a new look.
Defensive: The Longhorns have lost plenty of muscle up front the past two seasons, but senior defensive end Sam Acho, who had 10 sacks last year, is more than capable of becoming an All-American. Likewise, junior linebacker Keenan Robinson will be among the Big 12’s best defensive players. The secondary features excellent lockdown cornerbacks in seniors Curtis Brown and Chykie Brown.
Specialists: Junior Justin Tucker, who handled kickoffs and punting last season, is the new place-kicker, and he has a difficult act to follow (the Longhorns were 24 of 27 on field-goal attempts last season). Senior John Gold becomes the new punter. The Longhorns had six special-teams touchdowns last season, including three on kickoff returns.
Coaching: Mack Brown is 128-27 and just missed winning his second national championship. The Longhorns are one of the most solid programs in America right now — and who can see that changing in the foreseeable future?
Heisman hopefuls: The Longhorns are in transition with players at the skill positions. Someone might emerge, but a Texas/Heisman campaign doesn’t seem likely right now.
Overview: It seems natural to expect the Longhorns to take a small step backward this season, perhaps retooling for a future run at the national title. Ah, but that’s not how they view things in Texas. If Gilbert is up to the task — and other young players mature quickly — the Longhorns could be in the thick of things. More likely, the Longhorns will be a tough out in the Big 12 and a good bet to again reach a BCS bowl.
Next up: No. 12 Virginia Tech
CFT: The University of Nevada is honoring longtime coach Chris Ault, who stepped down in the fall, by renaming the school's football field after him.
CFT: The Detroit Lions are expected to own and operate their own bowl game at Ford Field, starting play in 2014, according to a report by ESPN.
NBCSports.com's Preseason Top 25
Video: Football from NBC Sports
HBO Real Sports: Bill O'Brien
Penn State football coach and 2012 National Coach of the Year shares the challenges in turning around a program shattered by scandal. Real Sports premieres Tuesday, May 21 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.
BCS title game
Pregame color, key plays and other moments from 'Bama's blowout win.
Check out the action from the postseason.
Check out which players were best of the best at each position.
Check out some of the college football cheerleaders from across the country.