Had things gone accordingly to plan, the Texas Longhorns would be comfortably positioned within the top 25 behind the program’s second 2-0 start in the past six seasons. Those expectations, of course, didn’t come to fruition in the fashion projected by many, myself included.
After opening the season as a 13.5-point favorite over Maryland, Texas fell to the Terps for the second time in as many tries, and just seven short days later, after trotting onto the field at DKR as a 23-point favorite, the Longhorns escaped from a Tulsa team that won only two games in 2017, 28-21.
The early returns point towards a program underachieving out of the gates, although message boards, comment sections, and social media paint a far more pessimistic picture. “Fire Herman,” one might have seen 25 times following Saturday’s win, despite that fact that that Texas did win to improve to 1-1, just as it would have if the final score read 50-0.
“Any time we win, we’re going to celebrate it,” Tom Herman said during his post-game press conference. “If we ever get to the point in our program where we don’t celebrate wins, then we haven’t done a good job as coaches.”
“Winning is hard, really, really hard,” Herman added.
As negative as the narrative seems to have become in a matter of just two weeks, though, the reality is that it can be altered entirely for the better by the time Saturday ends.
After failing to exact revenge on Maryland, Texas will be presented with the same opportunity on Saturday when No. 22 USC steps foot inside Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
this is real:— Kegan Reneau (@KeganReneau) September 10, 2018
Texas opens up as 3.5 point favorites over USC.
If Texas is on top when the final whistle sounds, it will mark the Horns first ranked win of the Herman era and a one-win improvement over the first three-game stretch of 2017 (1-2). More notably, after failing to do so against the likes of USC, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and TCU in 2017, in the minds of the masses, Texas may have finally gotten over the metaphorical hump against a formidable foe after failing to do so the first four times around.
Suddenly, the public perception surrounding the program switches from pessimism to praise.
Suddenly, those attempting to foretell a 1-5 finish to the first half of the season following the Tulsa game are now back in abundance on message boards, in comment sections, and on social media. Meanwhile, ESPN’s FPI believes that maybe — just maybe — Herman’s Horns should be favored at home against TCU and on the road the following week against a Kansas State program that’s fighting through early issues of its own.
If that happens, all of a sudden the season isn’t over in mid-September as some may currently believe, and a 2-1 team fresh off of a nationally-televised win over a ranked foe amasses the most momentum the Texas program has enjoyed in recent memory.
If that happens, beating Tulsa by only seven points doesn’t really matter because Texas beat USC.
At the least, a home victory over a talented, ranked opponent would provide that much-needed optimism in the midst of the season’s most critical stretch.