Herman will be debuting as head coach for the first time in the burnt orange. Which means everybody has a bunch of questions. What will Texas’ offense look like? How solid of a hold does Buechele have on the QB1 roster spot? Will the defense be improved? What is a realistic record going to be for this squad? How will the team react to its new coach? And, can Texas bolster the Big 12 by beating Maryland?
Maryland has fewer questions. A perennial mediocre team in the ACC, they are now a perennial mediocre team in the Big 10. On paper, Texas should have the edge based on recruiting rankings. However, both teams have posted a similar winning percentage over the past four seasons.
These teams have met three times in the past and Texas owns all the victories. The 1978 game that Texas won 42-0 must be the reason that these two teams have waited so long to reschedule each other, the Terrapins have not played in Austin since their first meeting in 1959. This will also be Maryland’s 125th season of football.
While many might be dismissing the chance of a Maryland win, they are a team that should not be taken lightly. Head coach DJ Durkin will be entering his second year at Maryland. In his first year the Terrapins went from three wins to six.
On offense, they are led by Ty Johnson who has 1,004 yards on 110 carries in 2016. Against Purdue he had 204 yards on just seven carries. And, he is not the only threat. Lorenzo Harrison is the type of running back that makes tacklers look foolish as they grab nothing but air. Into this potent mix, Maryland also landed the number two rated running back in the 2017 class. Tyrrell Pigrome will be taking snaps under center. He was not much of a threat with his arm in the backup role last year. But, he is a killer runner. If he struggles, four star freshman Kasim Hill could see some action.
Defensively, Maryland is best at stopping the passing game. They struggled against the run, however. Durkin did land a pretty solid class. If those players are ready to play (and freshmen are littered all over the two-deep), then it could take away Texas strength on offense. That is exactly what the Terrapins want.
DATE & TIME: SAT, SEP 2nd, 11:00 AM CST
LOCATION: Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium (Austin, TX)
FORECAST: Mostly sunny, winds at 4 MPH, 91° F
TV: FOX Sports 1
STREAM: Fox Sports Go
BETTING LINE: Texas -18.5, O/U +56.0
Texas is looking to start off…strong (pun intended). Three consecutive losing seasons lead to Charlie Strong being shown the exit. Tom Herman is now the new hope in Austin, and unlike when Strong rode into town, the cupboard is stocked full. Many of the players on the Longhorn’s roster are former four and five-star recruits. This is why many around the nation expect for Texas to have a breakout season this year, and is why they are debuting at #23 in the polls.
However, Herman has been trying to temper expectations. The offensive schemes of Strong were different from the ones Herman wants to run. Coach Herman has been fairly vocal lately of his unhappiness with the pieces he was given. And he waged a very public campaign in trying to land a grad-transfer quarterback.
Herman brings a different style to the 40 acres. An Urban Meyer disciple, Herman’s offensive blue print needs good tight-ends and dual-threat quarterbacks to go along with speedy receivers and running backs. The problem for Texas? They do not really have those type players at those positions.
Buechele may not be the style of QB that Herman was hoping for, but he delighted fans by lighting up the defense in the Spring Game. That was against the second stringers though, and Texas was not exactly great on defense in 2016. How will Buechele adapt going up against a defense that specializes in taking away the pass? And, will the pressure of having Sam Ehlinger, a QB closer to what Herman wants in his offense, waiting in the wings to take the starting spot?
Keys to the Game for Texas
Stop The Run – Whoever stops the run will likely be the winner of game. Last year Texas was 16th overall on offense, but that was mainly due to the run game. They averaged just shy of 240 yards a game. Maryland was bad offensively, but their strength was the run game, averaging almost 200 yards a game. Both teams stunk defensively. However, Maryland was fairly effective at shutting down the passing game. But, neither teams was able to stop the run. Whoever can stop it more in this match up should walk away with the W. Texas needs to be that team.
K.I.S.S. – Herman has only had a few months to install his system and get to know his players. It might be tempting to wow the fans. It also might be tempting to give USC some things to think about before their week three match-up. The wise move here would to just be to keep it simple. Buechele is not the style quarterback Herman likes for his system. Neither are the Texas tight-ends. Herman does not need to show a lot of razzle-dazzle. Just line the team up and keep to a fairly vanilla offense. Play within the strengths of the players and let them bring home the win.
Ride The Defense – Even in the last years of Mack Brown and Strong’s first two, the defenses were a force to be reckoned with. Everything fell apart in 2016. Players were frequently out of position. Texas plummeted all the way down to 94th in total yardage given up per game. And, worst of all, players forgot how to tackle. While the Big 12 is seen as an offensive conference, the best teams are ones that can field confident and competent defense. Herman might not have “his” players on the offensive side of the ball, but the defense is loaded with talent and potential. Herman needs to unlock that potential for Texas to seriously challenge for the Big 12 crown.
This will be Texas’ first test of the season. The Maryland Terrapins are not world beaters, by any means, but they are a Power Five conference team. There is a chance the Longhorns could be caught flat-footed and not take them seriously.
The Vegas spread on this is pretty surprising. At only a 56 point O/U, for Texas to be favored by 18.5 points seems a little high. Knowing Herman’s tendency for run heavy offenses and Maryland’s own run first style, expect this game to be over quicker than the 4-hour games we are becoming accustomed to.
I expect a closer game than Vegas does, but Texas gets the win. It seems crazy to say with the first game of the season, but this almost seems like a must win game for Texas. If it is a tight game heading into the fourth quarter Texas could fold under the pressure. It would turn what is supposed to be a promising season into a disaster on the 40 acres in Austin.