Texas’ schedule does new head coach Tom Herman no favors in his first season with the Longhorns. In addition to the Big 12’s round-robin slate, his team has a road date with USC and a home game against an improving Maryland program.
It sounds like a can’t-lose scenario from a perception standpoint for Herman. Unfortunately for his team, there are plenty of can-lose games on the docket this year. Here are the Longhorns’ 12 regular season contests ranked from easiest to most challenging.
12. Sept. 9 vs. San Jose State
UT needs to make the most of this home date with the Spartans, the only non-conference reprieve on the schedule this year. SJSU will actually have an extra game under its belt at this point thanks to an Aug. 26 tilt with South Florida. That shouldn’t stop Texas from making quick work of new head coach Brent Brennan’s team.
11. Nov. 11 vs. Kansas
Insert joke here about not getting distracted by the fact that Texas lost to the Jayhawks last year. If anything, that should actually help the ‘Horns stay focused for this visit from KU, a perennial cellar dweller in the Big 12.
10. Nov. 24 vs. Texas Tech
Kliff Kingsbury could use a turnaround this fall to solidify his hold on his job. Texas, however, could put a nail in his coffin in the season finale at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
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9. Sept. 2 vs. Maryland
Herman would surely prefer a gimme in his debut game, but taking on a solid Maryland squad to start the season does have some advantages. Primarily, it forces the ‘Horns to stay focused in preseason practice. It also provides a decent barometer to help Herman and his staff see what they’re really working with.
8. Oct. 28 at Baylor
You’ll find more than a few fans from around the American Athletic Conference who will tell you that Baylor actually hired the better coach from their ranks this offseason. Herman holds a 1-0 head-to-head advantage over Matt Rhule from their days at Houston and Temple, but Rhule managed to win 20 games at Temple in the last two seasons. Anyone familiar with the Owls’ history knows that’s a huge accomplishment.
The Bears are going through their own rebuild, but Waco has become one of the most inhospitable environments in the Big 12.
7. Sept. 28 at Iowa State
A Thursday night game in Ames – hard to imagine anything weird happening, right? The last time Texas traveled to Jack Trice Stadium, the Longhorns came away 24-0 losers. It was one of only three wins for Paul Rhoads in what turned out to be his final season as the Cyclones’ head coach.
ISU started a new era last year under Matt Campbell. His team played hard, even if it didn’t have many wins to show for it. This season, the ‘Clones will almost assuredly sneak up and bite someone in the Big 12. Texas seems as likely of a candidate as any.
6. Nov. 18 at West Virginia
The Mountaineers enjoy a formidable home-field advantage in the remote confines of Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown. They also appear to have the Longhorns’ number, winning three of five matchups since WVU joined the Big 12. Notably, the ‘Eers throttled UT the last time the two teams met on WVU’s turf, 38-20.
Texas also has to guard against the letdown factor playing a week after the revenge game versus Kansas.
5. Oct. 7 vs. Kansas State
Speaking of having Texas’ number...
The Wildcats have beaten the Longhorns in five of their last seven meetings, and each win has come by an average of nearly 14 points. A year ago, UT enjoyed a turnover margin of plus-three against KSU - and still lost.
K-State comes to Austin a week before the Oklahoma game, which sounds like a perfect opportunity for Bill Snyder to spring a trap on the ‘Horns. On the other hand, if Texas gets a W, that may give the team a little extra confidence heading into the grudge match in Dallas.
4. Nov. 4 at TCU
TCU head coach Gary Patterson seems to take a special measure of satisfaction in whooping the Lone Star State’s 800-pound gorilla. The Horned Frogs have won their last three matchups against Texas by 22, 43 and 38 points. Two of those games took place at DKR.
This game comes on the back half of consecutive road games, which ups the degree of difficulty a smidge for UT, and Patterson will have his team way up emotionally for this one.
3. Oct. 21 vs. Oklahoma State
Even though OSU has to come to Austin, that hasn’t fazed the Cowboys lately. Mike Gundy’s team has won four consecutive times at Texas.
If the Longhorns want to end that streak, they will need to do better than allowing the Pokes to gain nearly eight yards per play, as was the case a season ago. OSU isn’t losing much in the way of firepower from last year’s squad.
As an added bonus, UT gets this game the week after OU.
2. Oct. 14 vs. Oklahoma (Cotton Bowl)
Talk about a segue. The Red River Revolving Name isn’t necessarily Texas’ toughest game every year. But it’s still the most important.
Despite their overall putridity in the last four years, the Longhorns are in the middle of strong run of games against their blood rivals. In addition to upsetting OU in 2013 and ‘15, they played to the wire in ‘14 and ‘16.
Herman had his Houston team psyched to play the Sooners last season. If he can coax the same kind of effort out of his new outfit, UT has a good chance to knock off the consensus Big 12 favorite again.
1. Sept. 16 at USC
The first road game of Herman’s tenure will find his team at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for a date against ballyhooed USC. The ‘Horns will almost certainly be kicking off in prime time so keeping players’ emotions in check could be tough.
For the Longhorns to pull off this upset, Texas needs to figure out how to slow down USC quarterback Sam Darnold and his array of weapons. That’s a tall order for a team that is adjusting to a new coaching staff.
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.