John Gutierrez-USA TODAY Sports Pictured: Texas Longhorns quarterback Shane Buechele
- After another down year in Texas, bookmakers have set the Longhorns' win total for 2018 at 8.5 games.
- There is reason for Texas backers to be optimistic going into this season, but there are more questions than answers.
Over the eight years from 2002-2009, the Texas Longhorns went 90-14, won a national-championship game, played in another, won two more BCS Bowls and tallied eight 10-win seasons.
During that stretch, the Horns averaged 11.25 wins a season.
Back then, setting Texas’ season win total at 8.5 would have been laughable.
Over the past eight years (2010-2017), the Texas Longhorns have gone 53-48, have had four losing seasons, gone through three coaches and have yet to tally one double-digit win season.
During this stretch, the Horns have averaged only 6.625 wins a season.
This season, things look to be trending up for the Longhorns, as the bookmakers have set their season win total at 8.5 games.
With what we’ve seen from Texas since 2009, I understand any and all hesitation on putting your hard-earned money on Texas winning at least nine games in the regular season.
Having said that, this is a Longhorn team that has everything in place to hit the over and put some extra holiday spending money in your pocket at season’s end.
First, and foremost, the talent is there, as Texas is one of just nine programs that has recruited three or more top-10 classes in the last four years.
While talent is incredibly important, experience might be just as crucial to the success of any college football team, and the ‘Horns have it in spades; 19 of the 22 projected starters in this Saturday’s season opener against Maryland are upperclassmen.
The Big 12 appears to be in a “rebuilding year,” but that doesn’t mean Texas doesn’t have some difficult games this season.
After opening with very winnable games at Maryland and home against Tulsa, Texas goes through a brutal four-game stretch from mid-September to early October.
- Sept. 15: vs. USC
- Sept. 22: vs. TCU
- Sept. 29: at Kansas State (Texas hasn’t won in Manhattan since 2002)
- Oct. 6: vs. Oklahoma
It is a good thing that Texas has some continuity with its offensive coaching staff, but the problem is that group didn’t give Longhorn fans a whole lot to be excited about last season — the offense finished seventh in the conference in both total and scoring offense in 2017.
One season after D’onta Foreman rushed for more than 2,000 yards and took home the Doak Walker Award, the Longhorns’ leading rusher in 2017 was quarterback Sam Ehlinger with 385 yards.
Ehlinger started only six of Texas’ 13 games.
Speaking of quarterbacks, neither Ehlinger nor Shane Buechele was able to play well enough consistently to keep the starting job in ’17, as they both dealt with injuries.
And that’s without getting to the worst part of the Longhorns’ offense, which was unquestionably the offensive line.
Preseason All-American OT Connor Williams got injured against USC and missed seven games. Once he went down, it was open season for defensive linemen.
In an effort to fix the offensive line, Tom Herman brought in former Auburn and Penn State coach Herb Hand. Williams is off to the NFL, so Hand will have to find a way to get the most out of a unit that has no big names.
You wouldn’t think replacing a punter would be that big of an issue for any college football team.
Then again, you wouldn’t think a punter could win MVP of his team’s bowl game.
Ray Guy Award winner Michael Dickson is off to the NFL, and Texas will have to find a way to replace its best player from a season ago.
Dickson was an absolute weapon for the Longhorns, and he deserves a good amount of credit for the success the Texas defense had in 2017.
In comes true freshman Ryan Bujcevski, who just so happens to be Dickson’s cousin from Australia. The true freshman has some big shoes to fill.
More importantly, Texas needs to find a kicker. The incumbent Joshua Rowland went just 11-of-18 on field goals during his first year with Texas.
Because of the inconsistencies in the kicking game, the Longhorns were forced to go for it on fourth downs way too often inside the 30-yard line.
Rowland will be challenged by incoming freshman Cameron Dicker. One of those two needs to provide a consistent kicking game for the Horns in 2018.
As for the return game, the Longhorns’ leading punt returner from a year ago, Reggie Hemphill-Mapps, has transferred out of the program.
The 2018 Texas Longhorns might be one of the most unpredictable teams college football has seen in a long time.
Depending upon whom you ask, Texas could finish anywhere from first to seventh in the Big 12.
Some people out there are pegging Texas to play in a New Year’s Six bowl game, and there are even a couple of folks out there who believe Texas will be in the College Football Playoff in 2018.
There’s no doubt that Texas has enough in place to hit the over and win more than nine regular-season games in 2018, but that doesn’t mean you should be confident enough to back it.
There are too many uncertainties with this year’s squad, and I’m not sure these guys truly know how to win just yet.
I expect 2019 to be a big year for Texas. As for 2018, I’d advise you take the under on 8.5 wins for the Longhorns.