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ESPN’s way-too-early Top 25 has Texas entering 2019 season among Top 10

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The Texas hype is real, and deservedly so, but with numerous starters departing, 2019 could be a bit of an uphill battle.

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Georgia vs Texas Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

We may be only days removed from the 2018 season, but it’s never too early to look ahead to the 2019 campaign, and more specifically, the national pecking order that should be in place by the time September arrives.

ESPN did exactly that, releasing its 2019 way-too-early Top 25 and the outlet has Tom Herman’s rebuilt Texas Longhorns (10-4, 7-2) on pace to enter the season within the top 10 for the first time since the Horns opened the 2010 slate at No. 5 nationally following a national title run.

Seemingly certain to enter the 2019 slate nationally ranked, Texas would open the season ranked for the third time in as many years under Herman, as the Horns entered both 2017 and 2018 at No. 23 nationally. The former, of course, came after Texas parted ways with head coach Charlie Strong following a second consecutive 5-7 showing, but ended with the program’s first winning season since 2013 and first bowl victory since 2012. The latter then saw the Longhorns amass as much momentum as the program has enjoyed in recent memory, winning nine regular-season games en route to a Big 12 championship appearance, and ultimately, capping a 10-win season with a Sugar Bowl win over No. 5 Georgia.

As a result of last season’s success, Texas came in at No. 9 nationally in the final AP Top 25, marking the highest placement any four-loss team has ever achieved, and as seen with outlets such as ESPN, the Longhorns are now widely projected to enter 2019 within the top 10 nationally, as well.

If those projections come to fruition, it would signify the first time Texas has opened the season within the top 10 since Mack Brown’s Longhorns opened the 2010 season at No. 5.

Maintaining that status as a top 10 program will come with its fair share of challenges, though.

Per ESPN’s projections, the Longhorns are set to see a pair of fellow top 10 teams in No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 10 LSU, and Iowa State was ranked at No. 20, as well, but far more notably than Texas’ schedule is what will take place inside the Longhorns locker room. The Longhorns are set to lose eight, if not nine starters on defense, including Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year Charles Omenihu and first-team All-Big 12 cornerback Kris Boyd. On the other side of the ball, the Longhorns will lose three starters along the offensive line, their starting running back and starting tight end, in Tre Watson and Andrew Beck, respectively, and as of Tuesday, their starting slot receiver and arguably the team’s best player, as junior Lil’Jordan Humphrey elected to enter the 2019 NFL Draft.

Texas will enjoy the luxury of a small army of former high school All-Americans waiting in the wings, and more notably, star-caliber talent returning to starting roles in quarterback Sam Ehlinger, wide receiver Collin Johnson, and safety Caden Sterns. But nevertheless, the Longhorns will have their work cut out for them in hopes of maintaining their preseason ranking, whether it be within the top 10 or otherwise.