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Top 25 preview: New Mexico St. at Texas

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KICKOFF: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET

GAMEDATE: 8/31/13

SITE: Royal-Texas Stadium, Austin, Texas

TV: Texas Longhorn Network

SERIES: Texas leads 4-0

RANKINGS: Texas No. 15, New Mexico State unranked

GAME SNAPSHOT

Sizzling daytime temperatures should at least drop below 100 on a day when the forecast high is 105 degrees and the Longhorns are out to make a statement. Quarterback David Ash, in his third season at Texas, is one of 19 returning starters for the Longhorns. Texas keeps the accelerator to the floor on offense, rating as one of the top 20 teams in the county in plays per game. Coach Mack Brown is embracing the track meet approach. New Mexico State hired Doug Martin after losing its final 11 games in 2012 by an average of nearly four touchdowns.

KEYS TO THE GAME

Texas has three capable running backs in Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron. Gray will get the start, but all three should get snaps. The key will be to balance the workload and keep everyone healthy -- both Brown and Gray have struggled with injuries as a Longhorn.

This game should give David Ash the chance to spread the ball around and start getting newcomers like Jacorey Warrick a low-pressure look at Division I football. With Jaxon Shipley's status uncertain thanks to an injured hip, veteran Mike Davis should be a steadying force to ho with John Harris and Daje Johnson.

The Longhorns should be better against the run with a healthier defense. Jackson Jeffcoat and Jordan Hicks are both back from injuries that crippled the defense a year ago. Texas should dominate New Mexico State in the trenches.

The Aggies have lost 18 straight against ranked opponents.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Texas

--QB David Ash is going to be the starter, and while Case McCoy is still backing him up Ash no longer has to look over his shoulder. But the expectations are higher for him this year, with the coaching staff expecting a big jump in his junior campaign. Playing smart but aggressive football against New Mexico State would be a positive early sign.

--LB Jordan Hicks saw his 2012 season end almost before it began with an injury three games into the campaign. It's probably no accident that the defense struggled without him, and his return immediately adds a huge boost to a unit that struggled a year ago.

--DB Duke Thomas has seen action on both sides of the ball, but looks to have settled into the defensive backfield. He's set to start at cornerback in formations where Quandre Diggs shifts into the nickelback role.

--WR Daje Johnson is listed as a starting wide receiver, and the coaching staff will be looking to make him a greater part of the offense. Coach Mack Brown specifically cited Johnson as someone whose great camp earned him the spot atop the depth chart, which is helpful considering the injury issues the Longhorns have at the position.

New Mexico State

--QB Andrew McDonald is a run-first type, and he won the job almost by default when expected starter Travaughn Colwell was moved to wide receiver two weeks ago. The Aggies will run, and run the option, with McDonald as the trigger man.
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