Head Coach: Tom Herman
2018 Results: 10-4, 7-2 Conference
Bowl: 28-21 Win over Georgia in Sugar Bowl
O/U 9.5 Wins (O +155; U -190)
Texas is on the rise in its third year with Tom Herman. The team knocked off Oklahoma 48-45 last October, it reached the Big 12 Title Game (where it lost to Oklahoma), and it also dominated Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. It has recruited top-three classes over the past few seasons, and now it should all be coming together for the Longhorns.
The team won 10 games a year ago, but its schedule is a bit tougher this season. Week 2 sees the Longhorns take on LSU at home, and QB Sam Ehlinger has to at least be as good as last season despite losing three starters on his offensive line, and despite the Longhorns losing starters from its defensive unit.
Sam Ehlinger had 41 touchdowns last season in 2018, which was No. 2 in school history, behind only Colt McCoy in 2008. Ehlinger will contend for the Heisman this season. Ehlinger will have the handoff options of freshman Jordan Whittington and Keaontay Ingram, so his role as a rusher will be slightly eased with that duo. Ehlinger was injured and unable to play last year against both Baylor and Iowa State, due to injuries he sustained while rushing the football, and Texas was able to both those game due to the strong play of backup Shane Buechele, who transferred to SMU over the offseason. Redshirt freshman QB Cameron Rising also left for Utah. Behind Ehlinger this season will be dual-threat redshirt freshman Casey Thompson and freshman Roschon Johnson. Thompson has plenty of promise.
Last year’s leading receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey entered the NFL draft after his junior season, but the Longhorns still have Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay. Johnson is a 6’6” long receiving option capable of creating mismatches, and Duvernay is quick and could see a larger role this year. Five-star freshman Bru McCoy transferred from USC and will see a large role.
On the offensive line, Samuel Cosmi moves from RT to LT and senior Zach Shackleford is the returning center. Three new starters will be on the line, and Georgia Tech graduate transfer Parker Braun is a first-team All-ACC pick who may redshirt this season to work on his strength and pass protection while working on his MBA. If Braun does redshirt, the new starters for the unit will likely be the trio of Junior Angilau (LG), Derek Kerstetter (RG), and Denzel Okafor (RT).
Todd Orlando suffered a bit of a hit defensively last year after leading the nation in non-offensive TDs (seven) in 2017. He has to now replace nine starters including his entire front seven and both starting CBs. The safety spot will be a source of strength for the defense with Brandon Jones and 2018 Freshman All-American Caden Sterns returning. There is great depth at safety too, with sophomore DeMarvion Oversewn and nickel back DJ Foster both being tremendous playmakers last year.
The lien has returning ends Malcolm Roach and Ta’Quon Graham. Redshirt freshman nose tackle Keondre Coburn is another to keep an eye on. The LB position has some experience issues, with Joseph Ossai, Jeffrey McCullough, and Ayodele Adeoye. The CB positions will be manned by Jalen Green, D’Shawn Jamison, and Anthony Cook fighting for the roles. The toughest part will be matching all these pieces together and creating chemistry in the unit. Last season, Texas allowed 32.8 percent of passing downs to succeed and ranked just No. 95 in the FBS in that category. The stops have to come at a far greater frequency this season.
Cameron Dicker is a star at kicker, notably for his 40-yard field goal to win against Oklahoma with just nine seconds to go. Punter Ryan Bujecvski is the Aussie cousin of Texas’ Prow Bowler Michael Dickson, but he has to build some consistency this season. Jamison will return punts, and he had a TD punt return last season at K-State.
Ehlinger has to continue to improve for this offense to get better. Texas was one of only three FBS schools last year not to have a TD of 50 yards or greater, and though there is enough talent on defense, the unit has to gain experience and chemistry as the season goes on. Ehlinger is determined and the four-time defending Big 12 champs Oklahoma will be the favorite over Texas again this season. The Longhorns are making that gap closer, but it allowed 5.5 yards per play last year (No. 82) and had a -0.1 margin in that respect which was No. 7 in the Big 12 and No. 81 overall.
Prediction: 9 wins (under)