Often when I begin a rankings list I'll mention schematic fit as something I account for. I'll say something like, I'm not going to let a kid's bad choice sink my evaluation. Or if they make a good decision, I'll happily ride those coattails. Often with the elite players fit doesn't matter as much, but I will account for how well a program has been developing talent. No fan base has learned this simple lesson harder or more resolutely than Texas: development really matters.
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.
I don't need to sell y'all on the importance of winning this Big 12 home opener against a dangerous Cowboy football team with a first rate offense and some really good offensive coaches. Though Texas leads the overall series 24-9, Texas hasn't won since 2014 and the Cowboys have won 7 out of the last 9. By the way, that 2014 Texas win was when Mike Gundy was saddled with Dax Garman as his starting QB. I won't get into the 2015 loss in Austin as I'm not Blame It On The Refs Guy, but I'm getting pissed off just thinking about it and I'm white knuckling and about to punch an object really, really hard.
That's the question I'm wondering after absorbing as much football over the first three weeks as I could. I think certainly the floor and middle are stronger than many, myself included, expected. The ceiling will be decided by Texas and Oklahoma. Then maybe decided by Texas and Oklahoma again. But the the middle-tier programs may need to be expanded and the worst teams may prove better than we thought even if they finish where conventional wisdom expects them to.
In the Monday press conference prior to Texas’ loss against LSU, Tom Herman appreciated the significance of the match up with the visiting Tigers but noted it would not detract from the team’s remaining 2019 goals.
The Texas defense dominated a bad Rice offense early, allowing only two first downs and 56 yards of offense at the half. That 31-0 lead is exactly what Texas needed to play everyone, save some powder for OSU, and notch the kind of easy dominating win that had been a struggle in the early part of the Herman Era.
The Longhorns came out firing against an overmatched Rice defense, scoring touchdowns on their first four possessions on drives of 82, 90, 73 and 79 yards, respectively. When your first four drives yield >300 yards of offense and 28 on the scoreboard, the game is going to go a certain way if the Texas D shows up. The first drive really told the tale, as Texas converted three 3rd down situations on their way to the score, proving that even if Rice could inflict negative plays in the running game with shifting fronts and overloads (and Texas did a poor job getting out of a couple of bad runs early), the Longhorns could still convert based on Sam Ehlinger's play, OL pass blocking and better skill athletes.
We showed up ready to play. The game is fun when your guys work their way into displaying their talents on center stage. We have our share of good players. Many were back home---hometown heroes from back in the day. Rice fought gamely but this was a mismatch. Here are the grades: