Depending on who you ask, the level of expectation for this season's Texas team varies wildly. It's reasonable -- and a case could be made -- that the Longhorns could finish anywhere from 7-5, to 9-3, to 10-2 depending on where the chips may fall, not only in the tough pre-season slate, but also in a Big 12 Conference which may not be as deep as it has been over the course of the past few seasons.
Charlie Strong's team was left out of the initial Associated Press pre-season Top 25 today, earning 86 total votes. The Washington Huskies were No. 25 in the poll with 130 votes.
Three other Big 12 teams made it into the pre-season rankings, including Oklahoma at No. 4, Baylor at No. 10, and Kansas State at No. 20 in the poll. The Sooners are most pundits' pre-season favorite to take home the conference title, but just as many believe Baylor are 1a to Oklahoma's 1, separated only by little. Kansas State is a little more of a dark-horse, with uncertainty at several key positions, but with more offensive punch available on the roster than in 2013.
So where does this leave the Longhorns?
Obviously, it's not reasonable to put much credence into any pre-season poll given how rarely they tend to be a solid prediction of how things will actually pan out. Is Texas' omission from the poll merely a reflection of the depth concerns and regime change which have many concerned about 2014, or, is it a sign that even with the regime change, there's little confidence across the country much is changing on the Forty Acres?
In all likelihood, it's a combination of the two, and trying to suggest one over the other isn't very reasonable.
What's more important is how Strong and the Texas coaching staff uses this as a motivational tool. Not being among the country's Top 25 programs prior to the initial kickoff isn't familiar territory for Texas, and you can bet this year's Horns will do everything in their power to ensure it's the last-time it happens.
It's just one opportunity of many sure to come for Coach Strong to rally his team, to provide some locker-room fodder, and something to keep in the front of their minds.
With the sea change that's happening, it'll take a while to earn respect back. There's been plenty of talk of a new attitude around the team which will lead to a new collective desire to bring things back to the traditional level of success, now that has to be delivered on.
There's no time like the present, especially when the country's writers have expectations for Texas as low as represented by today's AP poll.
Low expectations provide plenty of opportunity to over-achieve.