We continue our series today by looking at No. 24 – Texas.
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Nuts and bolts
Coach: Tom Herman (second year, 7-6; 29-10 overall at Houston and Texas)
2017: 7-6, 5-4 in the Big 12 (defeated Missouri 33-16 in the Texas Bowl)
Last league title: 2009
Three things to know
1. Offensive issues. The Longhorns are coming off a forgettable offensive season. They weren’t consistent in any aspect, ranking 53rd in scoring offense, 95th in rushing offense and 41st in passing offense.
Sam Ehlinger is expected to win the starting quarterback job over Shane Buechele, but the issues run deeper than that. This team doesn’t appear to have a standout running back, although it should be better up front with the arrival of left tackle Calvin Anderson (a graduate transfer from Rice) as well as guard Elijah Rodriguez and tight end Andrew Beck returning from injuries.
2. Defensive reinforcements. A question facing the Longhorns this season is whether they’re rebuilding, or reloading, a defense that lost linebacker Malik Jefferson, safety DeShon Elliott and defensive tackle Poona Ford to the NFL.
Those are all difficult players to replace, although there are options. Linebacker Gary Johnson uses his speed well; cornerback Kris Boyd led the Big 12 in passes defensed a season ago and has the ability to become a shutdown corner; and Chris Nelson has the ability to fill the interior void left by Ford.
The defense has a chance to replicate what it did last season when Texas ranked second in the Big 12 in defense (365.6 yards per game).
3. Needed strides. Texas expects to contend for national championships. That’s the bar. Charlie Strong didn’t take the necessary strides and got booted after three seasons.
So Tom Herman has to show signs of getting the Longhorns on the road back to national prominence. Herman gets the benefit of the doubt after his first season, and the Longhorns don’t appear too far off.
This is a team that lost four games by five points or less last season. If he wins those, Herman shouldn’t have to worry about his job security.
Three games to watch
1. Sept. 15 vs. USC. Texas had a heartbreaking loss to USC a year ago, falling 27-24 in double overtime. This should be another thrilling game between two powerhouse programs who are hoping to have settled on a quarterback by then.
2. Sept. 22 vs. TCU. Texas is searching for its first win against its I-35 rival since 2013. TCU has gotten the best of UT of late, but this has plenty of intrigue. Both teams will be coming off signature non-conference games – TCU-Ohio State and Texas-USC.
3. Oct. 6 vs. Oklahoma (Cotton Bowl Stadium, Dallas). The Red River Showdown is always must-see and the last four have been one-possession games. Oklahomashould be the heavy favorite, but Texas won’t go down without a fight.