The Tom Herman era didn’t get off to the start many may have anticipated, but there’s still plenty of football ahead, beginning with San Jose State on Saturday.
We talked about that, among other things during this week’s Burnt Orange Nation roundtable.
Considering two of the last three Texas games have been losses to Kansas and Maryland, it's impossible to take any game for granted. That said, Texas is the heavy favorite against San Jose State, but what should fans expect?
Cody Daniel: Fans should expect a win and a fairly convincing one, assuming the team and coaching staff have learned from their latest reality check. Anything less would be tremendously concerning considering the grueling stretch that’s ahead, beginning next week with No. 6 USC.
Curry Shoff: Texas fans should no longer have any sort of expectations of any sort at any time - especially when the Longhorns are going into a game as a double-digit favorite. Chances are, there is an unknown player on San Jose State who - next week - will be in contention for the Heisman trophy.
Jeff Haley: The last few years of Texas football have helped me to better appreciate the time that I spend with my friends and loved ones. My marriage is better and I eat better and get more exercise simply because I don't watch as many Texas football games, or at least redirect my attention to other things midway through the game. I expect to spend Saturday evening with my wife and friends. Texas football is helping me to find greater meaning and more fulfillment in my life.
Gerald Goodridge: Against San Jose State, cautious optimism is the order of the day. Texas outclasses the Spartans in talent, so expect flashes of brilliance and a few big plays. However, it's unrealistic to expect the them to have ironed out every issue that surfaced against Maryland.
Wesley Watts: I think expectations have to start and end at improving from the Maryland loss. Expecting UT not to beat themselves and put together a pretty clean game is reasonable. Anything outside of that and you're setting yourself up for failure.
Wes Crochet: Unfortunately, the expectations will be lower than many Texas fans would like right now. Texas fans should expect a win. I just don't know what the win will look like.
Place blame where you wish — special teams, the secondary, the defense as a unit's inability to tackle, the lack of a running game or offensive play-calling. Each of these were issues against Maryland, but which one is the priority that must be fixed ahead of Saturday and beyond?
Cody: For all that went wrong on the player’s part, better play-calling could have still led to a victory. Texas went for it on 4th and Goal and the play-calling on the 4th and 2 situations didn’t make any since. Kicking the field goal and ball off to Chris Warren III may mean overtime. The staff put the team in a position to fail there.
Curry: Play-calling. Texas found itself in a 20-point hole against Maryland and never established a run game because most of the game was playing catch-up. This week, Texas will have to run the football against a middle-of-the-pack Mountain West team to get these backs some reps before USC next week.
Jeff: I am no football expert, but I don't see how this team turns around this year without better play from the linebackers. That is my one serious response; I will now resume being a jackass.
Gerald: The offensive line has to play up to their level of talent if this offense has any hope of finding its rhythm this season. Any passing attack is at its best when a defense is forced to respect the run, so creating running room is a must. Shane Buechele has proven that off of play-action, he can get a catchable ball to his playmakers at receiver.
Wesley: I would go with offensive play-calling from this list, but would venture to say penalties were the biggest culprit. Texas reached the redzone three times last Saturday and did not score. Play-calling was bad, but if you eliminate the penalties, Texas beats Maryland pretty handily in my opinion.
Wes: I expected more from Todd Orlando. And as we saw with the last coaching staff, if you can't fix the defense then you're in for a long season.
More specifically, which players need to perform at a higher level for Texas to resemble the kind of team it was hyped up to be all offseason?
Cody: I’d go with both lines. The ‘Horns offensive line allowed five sacks, which could have easily been more and their inability to get a push resulted in Texas’ run game failing completely. Flip the field and the unit that ranked fifth in the nation in sacks last season got just one against the Terps.
Curry: Chris Warren, Kyle Porter, Connor Williams and Patrick Vahe. If Texas can't run the ball or pass block this season, this team is doomed. But don't get me wrong: Every single player needs to perform at a higher level if Texas wants to go to a bowl game this Christmas.
Jeff: I am not sure this question has an answer, because I am really questioning the hype in general. I read all of the preseason stuff, started to buy in, but now am not sure if I want to complete the life-sized, anatomically correct paper mache replica of Tom Herman I have been building for inspiration, burnt-offerings, and sex stuff.
Gerald: If the defensive line can control the point-of-attack, the rest of the defense gets better. Poona Ford must continue to win his battles in the trenches, while Chris Nelson and Malcolm Roach/Charles Omeninu must keep contain, allowing the linebackers to read and react without blockers in their face.
Wesley: How about Connor Williams struggling down the stretch of the game? That was surprising. I would go with him, PJ Locke, and Kris Boyd. Locke and Boyd both were on the wrong side of big plays all afternoon.
Wes: Last season, the offensive line was a bunch of guys and Connor Williams. After one game in 2017, the offensive line is a bunch of guys, period. Offensively, Connor Williams — and he will. On defense, I say Malcolm Roach, but I blame the staff more than Roach.
Shane Buechele is clearly the starter, but in instances like the two 4th and 2 cases Texas failed to convert, is it worth burning Sam Ehlinger's redshirt if it means keeping Buechele healthy and concerting those opportunities?
Cody: After what we saw on Saturday, I’m fine with burning Ehlinger’s redshirt. He may not be ready to run an entire offense, but he’s no slouch as a passer and could clearly become a weapon in situational packages with his legs. If that’s the difference in drives not stalling with Buechele scrambling on fourth down and ultimately, the difference between a win and a loss, do it.
Curry: The only offensive package that worked consistently against Maryland was the wildcat package with both Jerrod Heard and Lil'Jordan Humphrey. If Texas faces another critical 4th and 2 this week, I hope to see that package before I see true frosh Sam Ehlinger out there.
Jeff: I suspect this is an academic question, because as of this writing it seems like there is a decent chance that Buechele won't be healthy enough to go. We are getting closer to Wescott's dream of Jerrod Heard at QB for Texas.
Gerald: There are other ways that Texas can keep Buechele healthy, other than burning a year of Ehlinger's eligibility. Texas saw some success running the wildcat with Jerrod Heard and Lil’Jordan Humphrey, and I’m fairly confident that with a good surge up front, Chris Warren or Kyle Porter can get two yards.
Wesley: I would say yes, but a large part of my answer comes from me not being convinced Shane is entrenched as the starter. In the past five seasons, Tom Herman QBs have rushed for 6,035 yards. Herman needs more mobility to be successful.
Wes: In an ideal world, every freshman QB gets a redshirt season. Texas isn't living in an ideal football world right now. Herman and Beck should be doing whatever it takes to produce on offense.
Texas opens up as a 26-point favorite. Are you taking the over or under? Why?
Cody: I’d say under just because I’m not confident in this team right now. Sure, Texas should win, and I wouldn’t be surprised with a blowout victory, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if Texas wins 34-21 or something.
Curry: Any time Texas opens as a double digit favorite you can put your savings on the underdog with the points. Feel free to put as much money as you can on the over 63 as well. Watching this team as much as we have - we deserve to make some money for still tuning in.
Jeff: I don't understand gambling. I prefer to spend my money on bottom-shelf booze and get roasted on twitter by strangers over it.
Gerald: I’m taking the under. I think Texas is for sure two or three scores better than San Jose State, but after last week it’s hard for me to think they’re four touchdowns better.
Wesley: Although San Jose looked tough in the first half against USF, I think 26 sounds about right. I think Texas cleans up the penalties and the play calling is a lot sharper.
Wes: Over. Don't let me down again, Texas.
Assuming we aren't going to learn too much about Texas from San Jose State, how have your overall expectations for the season shifted after the Maryland loss?
Cody: I’ll just answer this from a record standpoint: Before the season, I expected a 9-3 regular season finish and now, I wouldn’t bet on anything past 7-5. Still an improvement, but underwhelming after all the hype.
Curry: Just beat Kansas and make a bowl. This actually feels like quite an ask now.
Jeff: Like many Longhorn fans, I assumed that the moment Texas hired a new coach that all of the problems of in my life -- bad traffic, work policies that make wearing pants "a condition of employment," and my failure to have fulfilling relationships with other people who aren't twitter chat-bots -- would be over. Now I realize that I probably have to start confronting these things for myself; I will start with making an appointment to see my doctor about this itchy rash that won't go away.
Gerald: Going into the season I thought Texas was an 8-4 team, stealing a win from someone, as well as losing a game they shouldn’t. I think 7-5 is my optimistic expectation, though 6-6 is probably more realistic. By the end of the season, I anticipate the team showing marked improvement and flashes of a 2018 contender.
Wesley: I covered this in my article on Saturday, but the loss to Maryland just made me numb to expectations. We truly have to take this season one game at a time hoping for the best and expecting the worst. I said 10 games before the year; I think seven is probably a realistic total at this point.
Wes: They're Not Great, Bob... Texas has time to turn things around, but there's definitely still more areas to turn around than I was expecting to start the season.
BONUS: Texas loses to Maryland at home, Baylor loses to Liberty at home and Texas A&M blows a 34-point lead to lose. All were embarrassing … rank 'em.
Cody: I think back to my beloved Atlanta Falcons here — they were clearly a championship caliber team and celebrated far too early. So did Texas A&M, but with a true freshman quarterback on the road (obviously different circumstances, but still). Baylor entered the season without any notable expectations so I’ll go Texas, Baylor and then A&M.
Curry: Texas losing to Maryland at home in a season opener is No. 1 obviously. That was pathetic. A&M at least looked competent for a half. That collapse was awful but at least they showed some promise for 30 minutes. I'll rank that No. 2. Baylor has far more problems than losing to Liberty. Really ugly loss but not nearly as pathetic as Texas dropping a home game to Maryland. I'll rank it No. 3.
Jeff: No thanks.
Gerald: Baylor is the worst, since they didn’t hold a lead against Liberty until late in the third quarter. Texas is second, with the Aggies coming in as the least-embarrassing, as much as it pains me to say it. Yes, TAMU blew a massive lead, but Josh Rosen showed everyone why he's a three-year starter and presumptive first-round NFL selection.
Wesley: I'm going to go with 1) BU 2) A&M 3) UT just based off of implications from the games. Baylor losing to an FCS program shows that this program is pretty much headed back to the basement, and it looks as if A&M's loss to UCLA is the beginning of the end for the Swagcopter era in College Station. Meanwhile, yes UT's loss was bad, however it's just game one from Herman and company. The arrow is still pointing up.
Wes: Baylor (More people know Liberty as a bell than a football team). Texas (Yuck). A&M (Classic)