Texas football is no stranger to lofty expectations. The Longhorns have had plenty of hype in recent seasons, but haven’t won more than 7 games in a single year since going 8-5 in 2013.
There was no shortage of excitement around Texas upon coach Tom Herman’s arrival for the 2017 season. But amid hopes of Texas finally being “back,” the Longhorns lost their home-opener vs. Maryland in Week 1 and stumbled to a 6-6 regular season finish.
So will Herman’s second season in Austin be any different?
One expert says it can be, but it’s time to tap the breaks on hopes of Texas winning the Big 12 title.
In a recent interview with the Dallas Morning News, Dave Campbell’s Texas Football managing editor Greg Tepper said its far-fetched to expect the Longhorns to emerge as a favorite to win the Big 12 in 2018. That doesn’t mean, however, that there won’t be signs of significant improvement:
“I think they can be in the hunt. I don’t think it’s realistic right now to expect them to be the favorites right now. But, I do think that a realistic expectation is to play meaningful games into November. To be playing games that matter in the Big 12 chase … I don’t think that 2018 is the year Texas is going to be back, but I do think they could be setting themselves up for an interesting run in 2019 or 2020.”
Tepper’s prediction may be one of the more realistic outlooks for Texas as many outlets have hyped the Longhorns to be right back in the Big 12 title race this season. ESPN’s FPI projections have Texas winning the second most games of any Big 12 team this fall — edging out Oklahoma State and a full two wins ahead of both TCU and West Virginia.
Texas begins the 2018 season with a three-game non-conference schedule that includes the same two Power 5 teams which they lost to in 2017 — Maryland and USC. The Longhorns also have an early test in Big 12 play as they open their conference slate vs. TCU — a team that has dominated the Longhorns ever since coach Mack Brown departed from Austin.
If Texas somehow manages to go 4-0 through the TCU game, or even 3-1, then it could be time to give the Longhorns some serious consideration as a Big 12 contender. Other potentially noteworthy games down the stretch for Texas include the always-entertaining Red River Showdown vs. Oklahoma in October and a home game vs. West Virginia on Nov. 3.
Herman, however, has had plenty of concerns to voice during the course of spring practice. Herman told reporters in March that there have been too many fumbles in the backfield and that he had resorted to “open tryouts” at running back.
It’s also uncertain as to whether or not Sam Ehlinger will be the primary starting quarterback for Texas this fall after splitting time with Shane Buechele as both battled injuries during the 2017 season. Tepper wrote that he expects Ehlinger to receive his “shot to impress the coaching staff,” but will have to improve his passing game after taking more than his fair share of big hits on the ground last year — including a hit vs. Oklahoma that put him in concussion protocol.
If anything is for sure, the Longhorns are trending in the right direction after enduring one of their worst 4-season stretches in program history from 2014-2017. But for those expecting Texas to be cracking the College Football Playoff this season, don’t be surprised if you’re left disappointed come early December.