On Nov. 27 of last year, the hype machine was turned on and has been running at full capacity ever since. That was the day Tom Herman became Texas coach. The expectations are high for a sudden return to the glory days.
The high hopes will turn to stark reality when the Longhorns open their season on Sept. 2 against Maryland. That reality is that the Longhorns have finished in the top 25 once in the last seven years; they were ranked 19th in 2012 when they finished 9-4.
Herman’s arrival, coupled with a talented roster – former coach Charlie Strong’s three recruiting classes ranked 17th, 10th and sixth – makes Texas a hot stock. UT’s national brand always attracts those assuming that it’s past time for the Longhorns to dilly dally around the .500 mark and struggle to become bowl eligible.
For instance, Phil Steele, the Mr. Detail of College Football, ranked Texas has his most-improved team for 2016. The Longhorns made Steele look foolish with a 5-7 finish.
So, with preseason practices fast approaching – Big 12 media days are next week – here’s a look at how the experts/analysts/scribes are forecasting the fortunes of Texas for 2017.
The aforementioned Mr. Steele, whose in-depth research typically leads to accurate predictions, isn’t letting last season’s folly dissuade him from believing the Longhorns will improve their record. Steele lists Texas as his No. 9 surprise team. (Big 12 foes Oklahoma State at No. 4, TCU at No. 7 and Kansas State at No. 11 are on the 14-team list).
“The Texas Longhorns do not have a clear path but they do have talent and a new head coach that wins big games,” Steele wrote in his preview magazine. “They are in all eight of my Top Unit rankings … Tom Herman is known for getting the most out of his teams.”
Steele predicts that Texas will finish third in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
“Most of my Power Ratings call for nine wins for the Horns and honestly I would have picked them higher had I not been burnt last season,” he wrote.
Steele ranks Texas’ wide receivers as the 10th best in the nation with the Longhorns’ offensive line ranking No. 7 and its defensive backs No. 14.
Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, which is a must-have, must-read for fans in the Lone Star state, picked Texas to finish fourth in the Big 12, behind OU, Oklahoma State and TCU.
The comment on the Longhorns perfectly summed up what’s to come: “Welcome to the Big 12, Tom Herman! Your task: take one of the nation’s most storied programs and bring it back to the top. Oh, and do it quickly.”
If Texas has a stand-out star, it will be offensive tackle Connor Williams. Three of the four pre-season magazines have him listed as a first-team All-American. Steele has his listed as a third-teamer. Sadly for Texas fans and Herman, the 6-foot-6, 320-pounder is likely playing his last season for the Longhorns as he is a likely NFL first-round selection if he skips his senior year.
Three national preview magazines offer three different predictions.
Street & Smith agrees with Texas Football and has the Longhorns finishing fourth. Lindy’s pegs Texas to finish fifth and offered this summation: “Decent days are here. Great days might be a year or two away.”
Athlon Sports is high on the Horns. The magazine picks Texas to finish second behind Oklahoma with a projected record of 7-2 in the Big 12. Athlon also has Texas facing Stanford in the Alamo Bowl. Here’s the magazine’s summation of the upcoming season:
“Texas fans can’t take any more hype only to be let down again. But things may be set up for Texas and Herman to crash the Big 12 party this season thanks to a veteran roster, including experienced offensive and defensive lines and a laser-accurate quarterback.”
For a team coming off three consecutive losing seasons for the first time in school history, Athlon’s prediction of a 9-4 overall record, if accurate, would be quite the turnaround. But that’s more of what’s expected for the team representing Burnt Orange Nation.
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