Back in the day the spread offense used to be more of a system for guys that wanted to throw the ball all over the field. Even the singleback guys that were adopting the spread to run the ball were guys in love with bringing pro-style, outside zone-based structures to the college game. Guys like Greg Davis
There was certainly some consternation over how well Texas would defend Missouri’s offense in the bowl game and then in turn what that might say about their prospects for 2018. Holton Hill, Malik Jefferson, and DeShon Elliott were all going to be missing after all and the Tigers had been throwing all over the hapless SEC East down the stretch of the season.
With a full year done and over, we can now evaluate Tom Herman’s strategy for getting Texas back to where they need to be. Let’s set aside the non-conference slate for a moment. Herman drew the ideal slate in his first pre-conference schedule with a “firm enough” challenge from Maryland that of course went disastrously wrong, a tune-up against San Jose State, and then a true test of mettle against a fellow blueblood power in USC. That kind of schedule will be beneficial to Texas if/when they’re “back” to being a national contender.
Texas is over .500 for the first time since 2013 and just won their first bowl game since 2012. There have been only four winning seasons this decade for Texas out of seven seasons total and only three bowl victories. Savor it Texas fans, but get used to the taste because I think we’re going to see a lot more wins coming out of this team moving forward.
The biggest factor in the Texas Bowl is more or less the same as it is for every other bowl game between power five schools who missed their goals of making a playoff, winning a conference, or winning a division. Will one of these teams be more motivated than the other to grind away and prepare for this game like it matters?
One of the enormous advantages of bowl practices is how they allow the coaches to get an early snapshot into the next season so they can work out how to make the most of it. Younger players get thrown into the mix and older players sit back or withdraw and the coaches can get a sense of what kinds of pieces they are working with the next season. The picture continues to clear up over winter workouts, spring practice, and so on but it’s invaluable for the coaches to be able to work out different contingencies that much earlier in the offseason process.
If there’s one thing about Texas’ play on offense in 2017 that met preseason expectations it was the prevalence of a season-long quarterback debate over whether Shane Buechele or Sam Ehlinger represented the brightest future for Texas football. There wasn’t much that was even bright about Texas’ play on offense in 2017 but major improvements in 2018 are going to need to come with one of these two young men at the helm.
After Texas’ victory on the road against West Virginia I detailed how the gameplan against the Mountaineers revealed a lot of the potential for the future Sam Ehlinger offense and a “four safety” dime philosophy on defense. Then both of those same features seemed to crash and burn in spectacular fashion against Texas Tech.
That was disappointing defeat, if for no other reason than the simple fact that it would have guaranteed Texas’ first winning season since 2013. That somehow unreached goal is still out there for Texas if they can win the bowl game. In the meantime they probably just helped Kliff Kingsbury secure another year as the head coach at Texas Tech
Texas’ victory over West Virginia was a bit fortuitous in that they finally got to face a diminished opponent when Will Grier broke his finger rather than yet another top quarterback and offense, but it was no less a breakthrough for this team. The defense smothered the Mountaineers throughout the day and held them to only seven points, but that wasn’t the big win for the day.