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Texas has faced the nation’s second-hardest schedule

This helps explains the team’s record.

NCAA Football: Kansas at Texas John Gutierrez-USA TODAY Sports

A difficult schedule hasn’t done the Texas Longhorns any favors this season as the ‘Horns have stumbled to a 5-5 record with two games remaining to become bowl eligible — Texas has played the second-hardest schedule in the country, according to the FEI rankings.

Only the Florida State Seminoles have faced a more difficult slate of opponents. And head coach Jimbo Fisher’s team has paid for it as well — the ‘Noles sit at 3-6 on the year.

Why has the schedule been so hard for Texas? The ‘Horns have faced four of the nation’s top 12 teams in the latest version of the College Football Playoff rankings. Oklahoma ranks No. 3, with Oklahoma State, TCU, and USC sitting in the spots 10 through 12.

All the injuries suffered by Texas and the fact that only one of those four games against top-12 opponents was played at home makes the struggles less surprising.

It’s also the case that the programs playing the most difficult schedules have generally struggled this season — the top five schools in strength of schedule are currently averaging 4.4 losses in 2017.

Still, the first step towards improvement since the Maryland game has been winning games Texas was supposed to win, which wasn’t always the case in the past.

“I did have a couple players tell me, hey, this game started off a lot like last year's game against Kansas,” Herman said on Monday. “But this year there was never any doubt on the sideline. There were a couple bumps in the road there in the second and third quarter, but we were going to be just fine.”

The area for improvement is finally winning a game as an underdog.

“Well, we've got to win one that we're not supposed to,” Herman said. “I think right now, save for the very first game, we've won the ones that we're supposed to, and we haven't the ones that people said we weren't supposed to. So I think that's got to be the next step.”

With West Virginia sitting at No. 25 in the College Football Playoff rankings, Texas has a chance to take that next step this weekend.