LAS VEGAS – There isn’t a hotter head coach in college football in 2017 than the Texas Longhorns’ new leader, Tom Herman. The first-year Longhorns head coach takes over a program that went 5-7 last year and once again failed to be a player on the national scene.
Herman replaces Charlie Strong after an impressive two-season run as the head coach of the Houston Cougars. Amazingly, there was legitimate national championship playoff talk swirling around the Houston program last season compared to crickets at Texas. UH beat then-No. 3 Oklahoma on a neutral field and then No. 3 Louisville at home to rocket Herman into the conversation among the best coaches in college football.
It made total sense for Herman to take over Texas once the job became available.
I first covered Tom Herman when he was the offensive coordinator at Iowa State and I was working in Des Moines covering the Cyclones. Herman is a soft-spoken guy, but his play-calling was loud and explosive in the three years he spent in Ames. Coach Herman is only two years older than I am, and I’ve been a fan of his abilities for while now.
When someone calls him a genius, well, Herman is a member of Mensa International. That’s the oldest society of high IQ individuals who score in the 98 percentile for intelligence. This guy could easily be a professor at Texas instead of leading the football program.
But what should we expect from Texas in year one under Herman?
At Houston, Herman took over a program that had been outstanding under Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin but had struggled under Tom Levine in the years before Herman arrived.
Houston was electric in Herman’s first season as head coach after he won the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant at Ohio State. UH won the AAC Championship by beating Temple to end the year 12-1 and set up a monster 2016 season that ultimately got him the job at UT.
The Longhorns have seen their win total be bet up to 8 (-125) after opening at 7.5 at most books around Vegas, including at Stations. The belief in Texas has a lot to do with Herman’s instant success at Houston, so it will be interesting to see how he handles the added pressure in Austin.
The schedule is favorable, as No. 23 Texas will open up at home against Maryland on Saturday, where they are 18-point favorites according to CG Technology. UT will then take on San Jose State in Austin before traveling to No. 4 USC. A win in Los Angeles would have Longhorns fans talking about the playoffs, but that’s probably too much to ask this early. Yet, most expect a 2-1 start.
UT has very winnable conference games against Iowa State, Kansas State, Kansas and Texas Tech. If the Longhorns take care of business in those games, they will need only two more wins against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, TCU and West Virginia to get to eight wins. That’s extremely possible if Herman shows off the offensive firepower he is known to bring out on the field no matter what team he is coaching.
In case you need more proof of how good this guy is:
- Herman’s offense crushed nearly 40 offensive records in his first year at Rice as offensive coordinator.
- Herman’s offense at Iowa State put up 52 points against Texas Tech in 2010, the most points in a conference game for the Cylones in 38 years.
- Herman’s offense at Ohio State played two backup QBs and won the National Championship game aginst Alabama in 2014.
I went to UMass, literally the worst FBS football program today. Because of that, I’m all-in on Texas this year and Coach Herman. He’s the real deal.
No.23 Texas -18 vs. Maryland
The Big Ten East is bad. UMD, Indiana and Rutgers will all be awful this season, and the Terrapins ended last year 1-5 against the spread and 0-6 ATS on the road. I like UT to cover in Herman’s debut.
O/U 8 wins
As I discussed above, the schedule is right for a nine-win season in Austin. UT hasn’t won a bowl game since 2012-13. Coach Herman will need QB Shane Buechele to take a big step forward, but there is talent on that roster. I will take the over.