A critical 2016 football season for Texas Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong began to take shape with the release of the conference schedule on Tuesday afternoon.
The slate opens with a return date from the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in Austin as the Longhorns attempt to exact revenge for the beatdown in South Bend this year, followed by the first contest against the UTEP Miners since the 2009 blowout. With the Cal Golden Bears likely to lose star quarterback Jared Goff to the NFL Draft, the hope is that Texas can avoid two non-conference losses for the first time since 2012.
The conference schedule won't be as difficult early in 2016 as it was in 2015, but a trip to Stillwater followed up by the Cotton Bowl showdown could make for a rocky start.
Overall, not having to go through a long stretch of difficult opponents should help avoid the type of prolonged losing streak that could end the Charlie Strong era in Austin and getting both Baylor and TCU at home in even years is a boon given the issues beating both of those schools recently.
However, if the ordering of the schedule does Texas some small favors, the grind of the conference season will not -- the Horns only have one bye week all season, coming after the conclusion of conference play. Without no game during the season's final week, that means no bye week before the Thanksgiving game, leading to a short five-day turnaround after traveling to Lawrence.
For Strong's third team to win enough games to keep him around for a fourth season, the Longhorns will have to avoid injuries because there won't be any time to heal once the Big 12 schedule kicks off.
2016 TEXAS FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
(Home games in bold CAPS; all times TBA)
Sept. 3: NOTRE DAME
Sept. 10: UTEP
Sept. 17: at California
Oct. 1: at Oklahoma State*
Oct. 8: vs. Oklahoma* (Dallas)
Oct. 15: IOWA STATE*
Oct. 22: at K-State*
Oct. 29: BAYLOR*
Nov. 5: at Texas Tech*
Nov. 12: WEST VIRGINIA*
Nov. 19: at Kansas*
Nov. 24: TCU*
*Big 12 Conference game