After failing to check both boxes throughout Charlie Strong’s tenure at Texas, the Longhorns notched a winning record and a bowl victory in 2017 to begin the Tom Herman era. Progress has undeniably been made, but 7-6 isn’t the standard at Texas.
Taking the next step forward won’t exactly be an easy chore, though.
According to Athlon Sports’ Allen Kenney, the Longhorns will face the toughest schedule of any Big 12 member next season.
“Outside the league, in addition to a home date with the Trojans, Texas has to play a de facto road game versus Maryland,” Kenney said. “Going to Kansas State, which is usually a snakepit for the Longhorns, right before the rivalry game with Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl is a particularly unfortunate break for UT.”
If preseason rankings play out as Athlon Sports projects, with Oklahoma (No. 6), West Virginia (No. 21), USC (No. 23), and Kansas State (No. 24) ranked within the top 25, the first nine games on Texas’ schedule could prove to be especially daunting. In addition to those tests, Texas will open the season on the road against a Maryland team that left Austin (Texas) with a 10-point victory in 2017, will also host a TCU team that’s had the ‘Horns number as of late, as well as a Oct. 27 trip to Stillwater (Okla.) in hopes of snapping a three-game losing streak to the Pokes.
This isn’t to say things get much easier down the stretch, either.
On Nov. 10, Texas will travel to Texas Tech in hopes of avenging last season’s regular-season finale loss before returning to Austin on Nov. 17 to host an Iowa State program trending upwards under Dave Campbell. Finally, Texas will cap the 2018 regular season on the road against Kansas, and we all know what happened the last time the Longhorns visited Lawrence (Kan.) — Texas suffered a 24-21 overtime loss.
While there is a case to be made that Texas could benefit from a schedule that isn’t quite so heavy at the top, as Oklahoma, USC, TCU, and Oklahoma State will each likely regress from their 2017 versions, there’s also a case to be made that Texas can’t be too confident entering each matchup based on recent history.
If the ‘Horns hope to build upon their first positive momentum in recent memory, they’ll have to do so against quite arguably the most daunting schedule in the Big 12.