The Texas Longhorns have a chance to become a fringe top-25 team in 2016, according to ESPN's FPI rankings released on Thursday. The proprietary metric ranks Texas No. 29 nationally and No. 5 in the Big 12, behind Oklahoma (No. 3), Oklahoma State (No. 10), Baylor (No. 16), and West Virginia (No. 24).
So the FPI paints a picture of the Big 12 as a tough conference in 2016, especially . A non-conference slate that features No. 15 Notre Dame and No. 49 Cal won't do Texas any favors, helping push the strength of schedule for the 'Horns to No. 15 nationally. With no bye weeks during the conference season, the Big 12 slate won't place a premium on the team avoiding injuries.
Overall, the FPI projects Texas as a seven-win team in 2016, an improvement of two games over 2016, with a 3.0 percent change of winning the conference, compared to 65.4 percent for Oklahoma. Since athletic director Mike Perrin has said that there is no magic number of wins for head coach Charlie Strong to keep his job, whether Strong gets a fourth season in Austin will depend on a more holistic evaluation.
If the Longhorns do win seven games, the nature of those five losses could play a significant role, as Strong now has much less margin for error in regards to continuing to suffer the blowout losses that have been all too common through his first two seasons.
For those wondering how accurate FPI was last season, the assessment from ESPN is here.