It’s that time of year when the All-Big 12 preseason polls and teams are coming together across the league’s media. There are generally two major influencers on which players get selected: which players had obvious stats in 2019 and which players are getting talked up coming out of spring practices? Without a spring practice, there's going to be a lot more of the former than the latter reflected in the list this year.
Let’s play a game called, “guess that player.” I’m going to give you individual seasons from three Longhorn skill players of the past two decades and you try to sort out who the players are and what season the stats are from.
Ultimately, Texas needs to win the Big 12 in 2020. This team’s confidence, judging by the tumultuous offseason and their track record under Tom Herman in the last few seasons, probably needs some early wins against LSU and Oklahoma. The goals of the season though shouldn’t necessarily be impacted by either of those outcomes.
Back in the early 2000s Texas teams all followed a very similar pattern for the season. They’d lose to Oklahoma in October and drop one other game either in the non-conference or toward the end of the year that would invariably be the difference between having a Big 12 title/BCS season or not. The three-game stretch following the Oklahoma game could always be counted on to supply a three-game winning streak as the Longhorns adjusted to whatever deficiencies Bob Stoops had made apparent for them.
The 2019 Texas schedule was one of the more fortuitous set-ups the Longhorns have had in some time. They only had to leave the state of Texas twice, including the bowl game, and from the beginning were encountering a down Big 12 that lacked many high level passing and receiving combinations. The best receivers, Tylan Wallace and Ceedee Lamb, lacked high level passers and the best passers, Sam Ehlinger and Brock Purdy, lacked either a topline outside receiver or the opportunity to play against Texas.
Tom Herman’s first complete recruiting class in 2018 was nearly an ideal group for competing in the Big 12. There were multiple promising athletes on the offensive line, weapons like Keaontay Ingram and Brennan Eagles, edge-rusher Joseph Ossai, and a horde of impressive defensive backs that included 5-star safeties Caden Sterns and B.J. Foster.
LSU’s 2019 championship run, which included multiple top 10 wins and quarterback Joe Burrow throwing for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns, was a line in the sand moment in college football. It’s now clear that the highest level of offensive football that can be achieved right now is running pro-style passing schemes from spread formations. From here on out, programs that don’t pursue a “pro-spread” approach on offense are essentially run game truthers.