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Texas Prepares for Tough Test Against Notre Dame

The Texas Longhorns kick off the 2016 season with a tough matchup against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Austin Saturday.

Last year's matchup between these teams in South Bend ended in a 38-3 wipeout for Notre Dame.

Despite that lopsided score and Texas coach Charlie Strong coming off consecutive losing seasons to start his tenure with the Longhorns, there's hope for Texas (5-7 last season) because this opener is in Austin.

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These are two teams needing a positive start — the No. 10 Irish (10-3 last year) are expected to contend for a playoff spot — and both have quarterback options.

The Longhorns did beat Oklahoma and Baylor away from home last season, and three of their losses were by three points or fewer.

Time: 6:30 p.m. Sunday
Line: Notre Dame by 3½.
Series Record: Notre Dame leads 9-2.

What's at Stake
Texas coach Charlie Strong's future. After consecutive losing seasons — no Longhorns coach has had three in a row since the 1950s — the third-year coach has a national stage to sink or make a statement the program is turning around. Notre Dame can't afford early stumbles to struggling programs if it wants to be a national playoff contender in December.

Key Matchup
Notre Dame freshman S Devin Studstill vs. Texas WR John Burt. Studstill must protect the secondary against the deep ball, which is sure to come in new Texas offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert's game plan. Burt is Texas' top target, a 6-foot-3 speedster who finished second in the Big 12 in the 110-meter hurdles. Texas will look to him to stretch the field.

Players to Watch
Texas: LB Malik Jefferson. The Texas defense was among the worst in school history and desperately needs a big year from the sophomore who is already slated as one of the top players in the Big 12. His pass rushing and run-stuffing tackles will be important to getting Texas off the field on third down.

Notre Dame: QBs DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire. Both are proven playmakers. Only one can start.  Coach Brian Kelly has been mysterious about that and it hasn't set well with either one. Kelly's approach could be bold or backfire if neither player developed good chemistry with the offense around him.

Facts & Figures
Texas is 3-8 against ranked opponents the last two years ... Notre Dame is starting the season with a true road game for the first time in 10 years ... Texas will introduce its new live longhorn steer mascot Bevo XV after his predecessor passed away last year from cancer.

The Associated Press' Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report.

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