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ESPN releases FPI game projections for the Texas Longhorns

The ‘Horns have an opportunity to do big things in 2016, but it will have to come against a tough early schedule.

NCAA Football: Kansas at Texas Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

What odds do head coach Charlie Strong and the Texas Longhorns have of winning each game in 2016? With the release of ESPN’s FPI game projections, there is now another tool to assess those chances.

The metric predicts the ‘Horns will 7.4 games this season and rank No. 23 nationally against the 17th-most difficult schedule in the country, so if Texas is going to win eight or nine games, some of the close match ups that went in favor of opponents too often last season will have to turn into victories this year.

Here’s the game-by-game look:

  • Notre Dame (Austin) — 54.1%
  • UTEP (Austin) — 98.5%
  • Cal (Berkeley) — 57.3%
  • Oklahoma State (Stillwater) — 27.3%
  • Oklahoma (Cotton Bowl) — 18.6%
  • Iowa State (Austin) — 89.8%
  • Kansas State (Manhattan) -- 69.0%
  • Baylor (Austin) — 51.5%
  • Texas Tech (Lubbock) — 59.6%
  • West Virginia (Austin) — 62.7%
  • Kansas (Lawrence) — 89.4%
  • TCU (Austin) — 61.0%

The projection for the season opener might be the most surprising, as most Texas fans would be happy with better than even odds to beat Notre Dame, the No. 18 team in the preseason FPI rankings.

After that, road games against Cal and Texas Tech and the home games against Baylor, West Virginia, and TCU seem the most likely to define the season and whether Texas is able to get to eight or nine wins or finish with six or seven wins. Either of those latter numbers could certainly imperil Strong’s future, depending on whether the ‘Horns manage to stay close in losses.

And given recent history for the Longhorns, those games against the Cyclones and Wildcats are hardly locks, so this is a season that will be about consistency overall and overcoming the adversity of the difficult early schedule, which features four games among the first five that Texas could conceivably lose without any qualifying as an upset.