Last year the TCU game came as the Big 12 opener and a big test of whether Tom Herman’s Longhorns were ready to take another step in realizing the latent potential of the program. Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs had delivered a number of stinging defeats to Texas over the decade since they joined the Big 12 and making a case as the No. 1 contender against Oklahoma in 2018 meant overcoming the Frogs. TCU predictably had a good plan in place for the Texas run game but were overcome by young quarterback Shawn Robinson committing something like a half dozen turnovers while Sam Ehlinger threw for 255 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 31-16 victory.
Obviously Vegas thinks rather highly of Oklahoma given the -10.5 opening line. Vegas hasn’t had a great feel for this game in a while though, as you can see from the lines and outcomes of this game since the 63-21 thrashing in 2012 that led to the famous “When you write a piece like this” column from Scipio Tex regarding Mack Brown’s tenure.
The bye week for Texas came at a great time. The injuries were piling up so a week to heal and drill down some special teams specifics were unquestionably valuable for this team. Texas was also lucky with how things fell into place for October. Next up is the road trip to West Virginia, who doesn’t have the high end talent nor the infrastructure of previous seasons, and then the Red River Shootout.
Mike Gundy is the one problem in the Big 12 that Tom Herman has yet to solve. In 2017 the Longhorns caught Oklahoma State with a surprise haymaker, unveiling the 3-2-6 “lightning” package as a base defense and combining it with Michael Dickson’s punting to shut down the Cowboy offense. However, the Texas offense came up with next to nothing and the ‘Horns went down 13-10 in overtime when a dazed Sam Ehlinger threw an interception into the end zone.
There’s no turning back from third-and-17. That was a decisive moment in history for Tom Herman’s time at Texas when it became clear that Todd Orlando is not “getting it” in the way that it appeared he did in 2017. The Longhorns had a fantastic chance on that down to play respectable defense, receive a punt, and then allow Sam Ehlinger to go win the football game against a worn down LSU defense. Instead he called that fateful zero blitz that played man coverage on all four wideouts while asking safety Chris Brown to hang shallow to play hot routes or the QB scramble.
The 2019 Texas Longhorn offense is likely to be historically unique. The 2018 offense was fairly unique in its own right, they essentially ran a 21 personnel spread a year ago with Andrew Beck serving as a part-time fullback and occasional flex tight end while Lil’Jordan Humphrey was a nearly full-time flex tight end. Those two players defined the offense with their hybrid utilizations.
Running back evaluation is pretty tricky. It is for me at least, the driver of the Kyle Porter bandwagon. I believe Dana Holgorsen is about to steer us into a casino for a “pit stop” and that will likely be the end of our journey. The top prospects tend to have outstanding measurables in terms of 40 times or track times, but if you’re playing RB at all you’re probably a great athlete.
After Texas’ “gauntlet” stretch where they face TCU, K-State on the road, and then OU in Dallas without a break, comes a much more favorable stretch. They draw Baylor in Austin, a bye week, and then they face Oklahoma State on the road and West Virginia back in Austin. This is the obvious point on the schedule for Texas to rest and recuperate and for Todd Orlando to figure out what his best combinations of players and tactics are for handling Mike Gundy, Dana Holgorsen, and the back half of the schedule.
The 2008 Red River Shootout was the second of three consecutive I attended. It was easily the most exciting and rewarding live game I’ve attended in any sport. Because of the scarring that had resulted from five consecutive defeats to Bob Stoops’ Sooners, there wasn’t a ton of confidence going into any of these games even though Texas ended up finishing 3-1 against OU during the Colt McCoy era.