Texas' date with Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl will be the toughest test for the Longhorns this year
Texas fans are expecting signs of major progress out of their favorite football team in 2018, the second season under heralded head coach Tom Herman.
The Longhorns' schedule contains enough potential potholes to send UT to another disappointing record, especially in the first half of the season. On the other hand, if Texas can work through that rough stretch to start the year with minimal damage, the team could breeze through the home stretch.
Here are UT's 12 regular-season games in 2018 ranked from easiest to toughest.
12. Sept. 8 vs. Tulsa
Texas' first home game of the 2018 season comes against the Golden Hurricane, a team that spiraled to a 2-10 record last year. Look for the Longhorns to roll.
11. Nov. 23 at Kansas
The last time UT traveled to Lawrence, the team came home with one of the most embarrassing losses in the history of the program. The Longhorns got revenge last year, and chances are good that history won't repeat itself this time in the Sunflower State.
10. Oct. 13 at Baylor
Last season, the Bears were one of UT's few blowout victims. Unless the 'Horns get caught napping a week after the Oklahoma game, they should enjoy a pleasant walkover.
9. Sept. 1 vs. Maryland (in Landover, Md.)
The Terrapins are traveling about 10 miles to FedEx Field for this game, so this is no neutral site. The 'Horns might wish they were playing in College Park, though -- it would give them a chance to return the favor after catching a beating from the Terps on their home field in 2017.
8. Nov. 10 at Texas Tech
Kliff Kingsbury saved his job last season when the Red Raiders won in Austin over Thanksgiving weekend. A second consecutive victory versus the Longhorns would help ensure he gets a seventh season in Lubbock.
7. Nov. 17 vs. Iowa State
UT won a 17-7 slugfest against the Cyclones last season, but that was before Kyle Kempt replaced Jacob Park at quarterback. Assuming he stays healthy, ISU will get its shot at the 'Horns with Kempt under center come November.
6. Oct. 27 at Oklahoma State
Texas' defense played a superb game a year ago in Austin, stifling OSU's explosive offense. Unfortunately, UT couldn't muster more than 10 points in an overtime loss. The Longhorns will need to put more on the board this season in Stillwater to knock off the Cowboys.
5. Nov. 3 vs. West Virginia
The Mountaineers' 2017 season effectively ended when Will Grier broke a finger in the Texas game. The star quarterback will have some extra motivation this year when WVU travels to face the Longhorns.
4. Sept. 29 at Kansas State
Kansas State's mastery of Texas has helped burnish Bill Snyder as a coaching legend. Maybe Tom Herman changed the course of the series last year with UT's win against the Wildcats in double overtime. Winning in Manhattan might prove a little more difficult.
3. Sept. 22 vs. TCU
Gary Patterson always gets a kick out of embarrassing Texas. The Horned Frogs have now beaten the 'Horns fourth straight times, winning each game by an average of 30 points. As of now, TCU seems to have a psychological advantage in this series.
2. Sept. 15 vs. USC
The Longhorns and Trojans staged a thriller in Los Angeles in 2017 -- the level of play didn't quite live up to the level of "classic." With USC replacing key pieces such as QB Sam Darnold and RB Ronald Jones, Texas stands a good chance of getting payback when the two teams meet again in the third week of the season.
1. Oct. 6 vs. Oklahoma (in Dallas)
The Longhorns nearly knocked off their hated rivals last season in a classic grudge match in the Cotton Bowl. The departure of Heisman Trophy-winning QB Baker Mayfield should have UT feeling confident that it can take down the defending Big 12 champs and regain the upper hand in one of college football's greatest rivalries.
Right now, these two teams look about as evenly matched as they have been in years.
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-- 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.