There is a lot of excitement with the new coaching staff in Austin, but will reality live up to the hype? Texas said adios to Charlie Strong at the end of last season who, let’s remember, also came in with some hype of his own and a “get tough” mentality. So what should expectations be for the Longhorns in 2017? We’ll take a look at the schedule to find out.
Before we do that though, there are obvious differences between coach Strong and new head coach Tom Herman. Strong was known as a defensive coach, and in at times during his tenure Texas had one of the best defenses in the Big 12. However, a complete collapse on that side of the ball led to his eventual ouster. Tom Herman is known for offense; having studied under one of the best in Urban Meyer. Herman brings in a spread system that is reliant on a mobile quarterback. So that is to say, we have an idea of what the Longhorns will look like this season, but until they take the field, we won’t fully know what the potential is.
What we do know is that on paper, Texas should be one of the best teams in the Big 12. Even in their slump the Longhorns have consistently brought in talent on National Signing Day. So, why have the results not been there? The answer to that question is why a new head football coach now roams the 40 acres.
2017 Football Schedule
SEP 2 – Maryland
SEP 9 – SJSU
SEP 16 – at Southern California
SEP 30 – at Iowa State
OCT 7 – Kansas State
OCT 14 – Oklahoma (Dallas)
OCT 21 – Oklahoma State
OCT 28 – at Baylor
NOV 4 – at TCU
NOV 11 – Kansas
NOV 18 – at West Virginia
NOV 25 – Texas Tech
Warning: if you are a Texas fan thinking this is the year the Longhorns return to the top of the Big 12, you might not want to read the rest of this review.
I am not going to sugar coat it, Texas stunk it up last year. How bad were the boys in burnt orange? Let’s put it this way. Since 2014 Kansas has won two Big 12 games. The first, against Iowa State in 2014. The second, against Texas last season. TEXAS! A school that gets more blue chip prospects in a single recruiting class than Kansas has on its entire roster.
Despite this, Texas has been a trendy dark horse pick to win the Big 12 Conference in Tom Herman’s first year in the saddle. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me seven seasons in a row, shame on me. Texas has not competed for a conference championship since it last beat Nebraska in 2009. (And no, I’m not counting that the Longhorns almost backed their way into a conference title in 2013. They finished that season with five losses, and coach Mack Brown was fired at the end of the year.) To put that into perspective, that means this year’s signing class has not seen an elite Texas football team take the field since they were 11 years old.
Herman brings a lot of promise, and for good reason. His created a beast in his two season at Houston. He also coached some potent offensives at Ohio State. However, while Houston pulled off some impressive upsets, including over Oklahoma last year, they also had a penchant for losing to teams they had no business losing to (Navy, SMU, San Diego State, and UConn). Herman might bring some big game hype, but there is reason for concern.
This is a team that can assume absolutely zero guaranteed wins when it comes to the schedule. Acknowledging that fact, there are quite a few toss-up games on the season. Maryland is no juggernaut themselves, but this game will be exciting just to see the debut of Herman’s head coaching tenure. San Jose State is the closest thing to a guaranteed win, but with a road trip to USC the following week, Texas could be caught looking ahead.
Conference wise, Iowa State, Baylor, and Kansas are games the Longhorns should win. Out of those three the most interesting match is the Baylor game; since the Bears will have a new coach and there is no love lost between these two programs, especially in recent years. While Iowa State is outclassed on paper and Texas should be favorites, the Cyclones could easily pull the upset since this game is in Ames and, as is a common theme across the conference, they are a program trending up.
And, while most teams consider Kansas akin to a bye, last year in Lawrence proved otherwise for the Longhorns. I fully expect Texas to be locked in for this game in Austin, but one can never know how the ball will bounce.
The next tier up in competition is Texas Tech, TCU, and West Virginia. This bracket is called the “less than even, odds”, and these three games could determine where the Longhorns end up in the standings. Texas, on paper, should have the talent to matchup. However, Texas Tech’s offense always makes them a tough out. Also, UT has to travel to West Virginia and TCU and the Mountaineers and Horned Frogs are legitimate dark horse contenders. While Texas could win these games, they will have to play lights out.
The last group is the “one shot in a million”. Yes, there is a chance, but they will also need a few lucky bounces to realistically have a chance. Kansas State, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State are the Big 12’s preseason contenders. To add to that, these three games all come one right after another to start October. If you are a Texas fan, you can find some solace in the fact that both K-State and OSU have to travel to Austin, and UT has pulled off some impressive upsets over the Sooners before. However, it is highly likely that by the end of the day on the 21st of October, Texas will have at least four losses.
While many (especially those in Austin) are ready to crown the Longhorns as Big 12 champs, they will have to earn it on the field before the doubters believe. This is a team that has been a mystery since the 2009 loss to Alabama. Talent wise, they should be competing for championships every season. However, what has happened has been an exposure of poor evaluation and even poorer development by two coaching staffs now. Can Herman bring back the glory days of America’s richest athletics program? Only time will tell.