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Despite Dallas struggles, Texas still on right path

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Texas Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The mood in Dallas following Oklahoma’s 34-27 win over Texas was one not typically associated with the State Fair surrounding the Cotton Bowl: Sobering.

Through six games, the No. 15 Longhorns are 4-2 — the highest ranked two-loss team in the Associated Press poll — with its toughest games already played.

But it’s the two losses against LSU and Oklahoma — both potential playoff contenders — that have Texas fans reeling — unnecessarily concerned about the direction of the program.

That’s not to sugarcoat either loss. In both games, Texas was clearly the inferior opponent. And while the final score in each contest might illustrate to outsiders that Texas is playing competitively against top talent — the Longhorns were never really in either game.

But it’s not time to reach for the panic button. Not even close. It’s time for a reality readjustment.

Texas is right on track to where it’s supposed to be. It’s merely achieving this season — winning the games it’s supposed to win and losing the games it should probably lose. While that’s not an exciting indication of the current state of the program, it also isn’t regression.

As Texas coach Tom Herman pointed out in July, the Longhorns overachieved in 2018.

“We’re probably a bit ahead of schedule, to be honest with you,” Herman said. “In terms of getting us back to consistently being where we expect Texas to be. But I do think there is an element of patience.”

And while a fun Sugar Bowl victory against Georgia — a program truly dealing with an identity crisis — made for an off-season of enjoyable hype, the fact is Texas probably made that game a year early.

The ceiling for this roster — full of young potential — is probably the same New Years Six bowl the Longhorns won last season.

While it was nice imagining Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger hoisting the Heisman on his way to leading the Big-12 champion Longhorns into its first playoff berth in its history, that was never in the cards this season.

Herman and his staff have done a great job providing young players with significant early season playing time. A secondary full of underclassmen will only get better after facing LSU quarterback Joe Burrow and Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts.

The future of this team — built around back-to-back top-five recruiting classes — is extremely bright. But it isn’t happening this season.

Progress in 2019 looks like this: Texas wins every game it’s supposed to win.

That hasn’t happened since 2009.

If the Longhorns win-out in conference play — a Big 12 championship is gravy. Three straight years of progress — 6-6 to 9-3 to 10-2.

And with so much returning talent in Austin next season, it’ll be time to elevate the expectations once again.

It isn’t time to panic. The opposite, in fact. Texas is right on schedule.