The Texas Longhorns come into 2019 with a fighting chance at reaching their first College Football Playoff.
After beating Georgia in last season’s Sugar Bowl, the Horns’ hopes are as lofty as they’ve been since they last reached the national championship in January of 2010. But is the hype real? Are they worth betting on to reach the “over” on their win total in 2019?
Currently, 5Dimes has Texas situated at over/under 9 ½ wins. With a Heisman contender at quarterback, possibly the best safety duo in the country, and an innovative coach, they have a chance to get to 10 wins or more.
But they also have a few tough games on their schedule, which could throw them off course.
Today, I’ll be taking a glimpse at their roster and then breaking down each game on their schedule. In the end, I’ll determine the final record for the Horns and which way you should wager.
Texas Longhorns Roster Breakdown
Ever since he arrived at Texas, Herman has regrown the Texas Longhorns’ brand and has done so by recruiting well nationally.
He has pulled in consecutive top-three recruiting classes, and some of that talent could start to take shape this season.
He will be on a lot of Heisman shortlists going into this season.
He came up big in some important games and had a good deal of help from the guys in front of him. That offensive line is even better this season, and can almost contend for the best unit in the league.
Parker Braun, a transfer from Georgia Tech, is an absolute monster to have in the run game. He showed as much back in the triple-option for the Yellow Jackets.
Zach Shackleford, the anchor at center, and Samuel Cosmi at left tackle could both be All-Big 12 selections if all goes well. They’ll be blocking for a running back that intrigues me.
That’s Keontay Ingram, who had 708 yards on the ground as a freshman last year. He had his on and off days while compiling five yards-per-carry. His progression this year will tell a lot in just how balanced this Longhorns offense is.
They have weapons in the passing game. It’s just a matter of how matured they will be. Collin Johnson is a 6’6” behemoth to cover and was a game-changer in the Sugar Bowl. Lil’ Jordan Humphrey not being in the fold any more does hurt the Horns though.
They’re hoping the loss of Bru McCoy doesn’t sting too much. He was a prized five-star wideout who transferred to USC after signing. He was essentially a tight end with better wheels, standing at 6’6” and 245 pounds.
I’m not sure how much depth this unit has without him, but it will be one worth keeping your eye on.
With the defense, there are several questions. They’re replacing nine starters from this group, including their entire front seven.
The former compiled four interceptions last year, an absolute ball-hawk.
Jones is also very instinctive with the ball in the air. But he also can rush well to go with his skills patrolling centerfield. Mix in a talented cover-man like 6’2” corner B.J. Foster, and Texas will be able to contend with all the strong QBs in the conference.
If they will dominate those passing games is another story. That depends on the pass-rush they get with it. And losing their one major sack-maker from last season, Charles Omenihu, is a huge depletion.
Malcolm Roach should be able to put back some of that production. But no one else on this roster had more than 2.5 sacks last season.
The linebackers will also be looking for a leader with Charles Johnson moving on. He had 6.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for a loss in 2018 and was the team’s leading tackler overall.
This front-seven could make or break Texas’ season.
August 31st: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
The Bulldogs aren’t the easiest first opponent Texas could have on its slate. Louisiana Tech has been a perennial power in Conference USA for the latter half of this decade. But they may regress a bit this year.
Their strengths lie in the secondary, with four returners there. CB Amik Robertson, in particular, can turn some heads. But I don’t think the offensive line of Texas will get enough of a test here. Ehlinger will have the time and eventually, the targets if plays become prolonged.
And I’m not sold on LA Tech’s QB, J’Mar Smith, staying away from mistakes against world-class DBs.
September 7th: LSU Tigers
The next Louisiana team Texas will play is a much more talented one, a national title contender in fact.
The Longhorns will get the LSU Tigers at home, at least that’s a little bit of an edge. But this will be the most suffocating defense Ehlinger has faced.
There are multiple All-American-caliber defensive backs to break down the passing game and linebackers who know how to fill rushing gaps better than most. The game will be much more confined and boxed in, meaning the Texas QB will have the match of his life.
The help over top will keep this game from getting blown out of proportion.
But the Longhorns don’t have the beef on D-line. And LSU has their best unit in the trenches offensively in years.
I think the game will slow down, the trench wars will begin, and I like LSU’s chances in that type of situation. Texas will have to rely on a lot of possession receiving with their big guys. And if true freshmen McCoy and CB Derek Stingley Jr. are matched up, that is going to be one fantastic battle.
But I’m done underestimating the coaching staff of LSU and the way they can fluster some pretty great offenses. I’ll take the Tigers 20-17 in this one.
September 14th: at Rice Owls (in Houston)
This is a bit of a weird come-down game since the Longhorns are technically the road team. But Rice remains one of the FBS cellar-dwellers, so this should be over by halftime.
September 21st: Oklahoma State Cowboys
Texas goes the entire month of September without leaving the state of Texas. And they get a bye after they play the Cowboys.
They have an amazing receiving group, led by Tylan Wallace, to accomplish that against anyone this year too. But I like this setting for the Longhorns.
They’re at home, wanting revenge against a team that beat them last year. They’re better equipped in the secondary and are coming off a less-than-daunting matchup.
Oklahoma State will have Tulsa the week before, so that’s not much worse. But by this time, the Longhorns will have regrouped from the LSU loss and should be able to push around Oklahoma State’s defensive line.
I like for Keontay Ingram to take this game over and provide Texas with a resounding victory to start Big 12 play.
October 5th: at West Virginia Mountaineers
Finally, the Longhorns have to go out of state, to the farthest reaches of the conference.
West Virginia may be a shell of its former self. Dana Holgorsen bolted to coach Houston. Will Grier is no longer flashing his canon arm at quarterback. Two of the school’s all-time best receivers, David Sills V and Gary Jennings, are both gone.
So a lot will depend on how good QB Austin Kendall (Oklahoma transfer) is and if he’s molded into this offense that well at this point of the season. He will have a reliable running back in Kennedy McKoy behind him. And T.J. Simmons is one of the wide receiver holdovers that can significantly impact a game.
But I don’t see if there’s enough skill pieces in place yet for them to beat Texas. New coach Neal Brown will get the defense panned out more than in years’ past. It won’t be in the first couple months of his first year, though. I think Ehlinger will have a very accurate game, while Johnson and Bru McCoy do the rest.
And no, I’m not so worried about them getting upset because they were looking ahead to the next game.
October 12th: Oklahoma Sooners (in Dallas)
Although this matchup is always going to be big, there will likely be another rematch in the Big 12 Championship Game anyway.
The Longhorns will be up against another Heisman hopeful at QB, this time Jalen Hurts. And he may just have the greatest assortment of skill players around him. And that’s after the Sooners lost top receiver and first-round NFL draft pick Marquise Brown.
I don’t think Texas will have the front-seven presence to keep the Sooners from putting up 40 points. Despite how strong their secondary is compared to the others in the Big 12, not even they will be able to stop the slew of depth Oklahoma has at wideout and tight end.
If anything, the Longhorns should be able to slow the game down a bit more and maybe keep Hurts on the sideline a bit longer.
Still, this game could simply come down to who has the ball last. There may be some defensive stops early on, but this game will eventually break loose. And when it does, I trust Oklahoma’s firepower a little bit more than that of the Longhorns.
Texas will have a bit more desperation to win with Oklahoma being undefeated to this point. With that said, I’ll still take the offensive juggernaut of OU.
October 19th: Kansas Jayhawks
Even with Les Miles bringing back some zest to this program for the first time in over a decade, likely they’ll win only a couple of games this year.
Unless Texas has a horrible attitude following the loss to Oklahoma, they should be fine here. With a Big 12 title appearance and a chance to reverse what Oklahoma did to them last year, I think they’ll stay motivated and win handedly at home.
October 26th: at TCU Horned Frogs
The Horned Frogs had a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes defensively at the beginning of last year.
Even though they still finished first in total defense in the conference, it wasn’t up to coach Gary Patterson’s standards.
I think TCU has a lot of upward potential in the Big 12 standings, but also the ability to fade off into a seven-win season.
But they have a lot to improve offensively to take down Texas. They were 124th at finishing drives last year and ranked outside of the top 100 in explosiveness. That can get a team buried in this conference.
They’re equipped in the secondary to combat the Longhorns passing game, but for how long?
With quarterback play being as big of a question as it is, I have to stick with Texas here on the road.
November 9th: Kansas State Wildcats
There’s nothing much to see here either. The identity of K-State might be off a little with Bill Snyder finally retiring again.
And even if they stay the same, they’re not complex enough to take on Tom Herman’s strategizing.
There are a lot of returners on the offense for the Wildcats. How great is that news, I’m not sure since they finished 2018 96th inefficiency. Their defense was even worse (117th), and there are mysteries still to be figured out in their secondary and LB groups.
I think with the Texas passing game maturing at this point, they’ll breeze past the Wildcats.
November 16th: at Iowa State Cyclones
Texas controlled the Cyclones well last year with a flurry of big plays by the defense.
With that said, Iowa State’s offense is on a steady climb with Matt Campbell at the helm. Brock Purdy is getting more and more precise with his passing and should get a fair deal of time with all five starting o-linemen returning. With a clean pocket, this changes the whole game.
Better decision-making against a tough secondary will put more points up on the board for ISU. And this was a team that only gave up 24 points to Texas last season, the third-lowest number the Longhorns had all year.
And where does that defense go from here? Will, they bring back almost their entire front seven?
The talent is at the point of matching the coaching of Campbell. There are all sorts of playmakers on defense and an ever-progressing passing game. With Texas finally meeting their match in the trenches, I think this game starts to sway to the home team.
It will be a nail-biter, but I like Iowa State to win a gritty matchup.
November 23rd: at Baylor Bears
This game could prove to be just as tough, even if it’s different. Win or loss against ISU, this game is going to be hard to win. Partially because it’s their second straight road game against a Big Ten dark horse, it’s also because Charlie Brewer could by this time be putting his hat in the ring for Big 12 player of the year.
It may sound crazy with Ehlinger, Hurts, and Wallace in the conference. But with the weapons he has at his disposal, Brewer will be having a fantastic year. And coach Matt Rhule has plenty of experience and physicality on the roster now.
I will still give the Longhorns the edge due to the question marks on the back end of Baylor’s defense. But this will be a one-up sort of contest between Ehlinger and Brewer until the end. I just don’t like Brewer’s chances as much with the safeties Texas has.
November 29th: Texas Tech Red Raiders
The Red Raiders will be excellent in passing the ball like they always do. But they will probably be just hoping to get bowl eligible again this year in Matt Wells’ first go-round as head coach.
Somehow, the Red Raiders have won consecutive contests against Texas in Austin. But I don’t expect that to continue, even if Texas isn’t going to the Big 12 Championship.
There are simply too many holes on defense for the Red Raiders.
But even with that win, Texas will have been bitten by the early loss to LSU, the back-and-forth against the Sooners, and the crushing blow against ISU. So they will finish with nine wins. With that said, I’m taking the “under” on 5Dimes.