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Texas slogging to the finish with bowl eligibility still two wins away

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After losing three of the last four games, Texas will need two wins in three games to secure its first bowl berth since 2014.

Texas v TCU Photo by Richard W. Rodriguez/Getty Images

4-5 through nine games almost certainly isn't the effort most expected upon Tom Herman’s arrival at Texas.

That’s the reality, though.

The record doesn’t exactly do justice for how close Texas has come against elite opponents and the defense’s resurgence to championship levels under Todd Orlando. But the fact remains that entering the final three-game stretch of the regular season, Texas has endured a one-game regression from 2016’s 5-4 effort through nine attempts and a mere bowl berth of any kind is still two wins away.

If your glass is half-full, two of the ‘Horns remaining three games will come against a Kansas team that’s 1-8 and hasn’t won since opening week against an FCS foe and a 4-5 Texas Tech squad slogging through a four-game losing streak. After being dubbed as the underdog throughout the majority of its games this season, Texas is currently considered the favorite in each of those two matchups and with a road trip against West Virginia and a potent Mountaineers offense wedged in the middle, the ‘Horns may need both of those wins just to secure a bowl bid.

But in any case, with games against No. 4 USC, No. 12 Oklahoma, No. 10 Oklahoma State and No. 8 TCU in the rearview — all of which were losses — the more manageable portion of the schedule awaits.

If your glass is half-empty, it’s quite likely because you’ve been drinking to drown out of the direction Herman’s debut season has slowly, but surely headed.

There was a time not too long ago when a 3-2 Texas team captured a fourth quarter lead over Oklahoma in the Red River Showdown and that elusive turnaround win appeared imminent. The Sooners responded, however, held on for the win, and paired with the ‘Horns falling to Oklahoma State and TCU since, Texas has finished on the wrong side of the scoreboard in three of its last four games.

More notably, although Orlando’s defense didn’t have its best game against the Horned Frogs, Texas did allow just 24 points to another top-10 foe. Nevertheless, the ‘Horns fell tremendously short on the heels of the offense’s worst effort in recent memory — a seven-point showing just two weeks after adding only 10 points against Oklahoma State.

Now entering the final three-game stretch, Texas averages just 28.5 points per game — thanks in large part to six non-offensive scores — and will be tasked with outscoring two teams providing considerably more desirable scoring results in West Virginia (40.2 ppg) and Texas Tech (38.2 ppg).

If we’ve learned anything throughout the first 75 percent of the season, it’s that Orlando’s defense is going to hold the opposition well below its previous scoring average. That’s been the case all season, though, and all the while, the offense has faltered and regressed down the stretch.

The result is as many losses through nine games as Herman suffered throughout his entire two-year tenure at Houston.

That’s almost certainly not what the burnt orange nation expect to prove true upon Herman’s arrival, but a 7-5 finish and bowl berth is still well within reach.

Given the nature of this season, though — the 4-5 record, the tremendously difficult schedule and the multitude of injuries that have plagued Texas along the way — just don’t expect that concluding the season on a high note will come easily, if at all.