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Can Longhorns Leap Forward in Tom Herman’s Second Season?


Austin hipsters often wait four hours or more at Franklin’s to get what I think of as pretty run-of-the-mill Texas barbecue. Fans of the Longhorns are far less patient when it comes to their football team, and they want to see significant improvement in head coach Tom Herman’s second season running the show.

Texas will improve if college football futures are any indication, though maybe not enough for many of its fans. Coming off a 7-6 campaign after three losing seasons under Charlie Strong, the Longhorns earned their first bowl win since 2012 under Herman last year and head into 2018 with an 8½-win total. Beating that number might happen, but winning the Big 12 title would be a big upset with Oklahoma the decided favorite in the conference.

DB Depth Could Be An Issue
Herman and his staff enter the season with an experienced depth chart that includes 10 upperclassmen on defense and seven more on the offensive side of the ball. In order to take that next step and have a realistic shot at the 10-win plateau, the offense has to take a giant leap forward under sophomore QB Sam Ehlinger. The line in front of Ehlinger is crucial after allowing 34 sacks in 2017 (108th nationally) and ranking 96th in rushing (139 ypg).

With all of the returning experience on defense, the stop unit could be among the elite on college gridirons this fall. Losing DeShon Elliot early to the NFL Draft was a blow to the defensive backfield, especially with so many freshmen backing up the starting four, but Texas should be on the ‘under’ watch list after going 3-10 O/U against NCAA football odds a year ago.

’Horns Host Trojans In Rematch Of 2005 Title Game One relatively easy way Texas could top the win totals is by defending its own Austin turf. The Longhorns lost half of their six home contests a year ago, covering the spread in just two of those. They’ll open on the road in Baltimore against the Maryland Terrapins, seeking revenge from a 51-41 setback at Memorial Stadium a year ago as 18-point chalk. Bookmaker has Texas favored by 10 in that Week 1 matchup.

A Week 3 battle in Austin against USC should serve as a good indication of how far Texas is ready to move forward in the national spotlight, and that’s followed by the conference opener at home against TCU. A date with Oklahoma in Dallas follows two weeks later as the Red River Showdown returns to the first Saturday of October for the first time since 2010.

The conference road slate includes games at Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and the season finale in Lawrence against Kansas. If the Longhorns go into that game with the Jayhawks needing a win to become bowl eligible, Herman will be on the hot seat this time next year. I don’t believe that will be the case, however, expecting Texas to turn some of last year’s close defeats into victories to send my free college football pick ‘over’ 8½ wins.

Willie Bee
Saturday, August 11, 2018 12:04 PM CDT

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