With the Texas Longhorns now sitting at 6-1 (4-0) and ranked just outside of the top five at No. 6 nationally, it’s to be expected that the masses and the media may speculate about just how special the 2018 season could ultimately prove to be.
Though the eye test will tell the tale of two teams of entirely different calibers, the 2018 Longhorns are checking boxes and reaching feats that Texas hasn’t enjoyed since the 2009 slate, whether it be reaching bowl eligibility through just seven games, headlining the conference at the same juncture, or boasting a perfect 3-0 record over ranked competition. Of course, 2009 provided the Longhorns with their last glimpse of true, season-long national relevance as the national championship runner-up. Eight long seasons of mediocrity and sub-mediocrity followed, so the reality that Texas is, in fact, finding itself within the playoff picture as one of the nation’s top teams may seem a bit too good to be true.
But it is true, nevertheless, and with No. 6 Texas is now as hot of a topic as it has been in nearly an entire decade, it’s natural that the newly-minted Big 12 headliners will be discussed across every local and prominent national sports media outlet.
As far as head coach Tom Herman and his team are concerned, though, they’re paying absolutely no attention to the praise, as he told the media on Monday.
“No. Never. Zero. I mean literally zero. It is completely and utterly inconsequential where we’re ranked through seven games of the season,” Herman said. “?The only thing that matters is what hardware have we taken home and where are we ranked at the end of the season.”
“So the only thing we talk about is that we have earned everybody’s best shot, so if we think we’re going to get anything less than everybody’s best shot from here on out, we’re kidding ourselves,” Herman added. “That’s a cool challenge, one that we have earned and one that really good teams always seem to get and the elite teams find a way to give their best shot week in and weak out.”
However, as noted, it’s only natural to talk about the hot topic, and Texas is certainly among the hottest at the moment. As I recently detailed here Burnt Orange Nation, the Longhorns suddenly own a realistic path to the playoff if Texas can take care of its own business — one domino has already fallen — Ohio State, and either LSU or Alabama will fall on Nov. 3 as well. At this rate, when ESPN releases its initial College Football Playoff rankings on Oct. 30, the Longhorns will likely be within striking distance as a top-six team with a win on Saturday.
If that proves true, the chatter and the noise will only loom larger and louder, so considering Texas is a team comprised of teenagers and young adults — most of which likely have multiple social media platforms in the palm of their hand — odds are that players do hear and will continue to hear the praise pointed in their direction.
There’s a difference between hearing and listening, though, and for Texas, that difference can serve as the downfall of what’s on pace to finish as a tremendously successful season.
“No, I think, again, it is human nature and I’ll repeat this, any animal with ears can hear,” Herman said when asked if he’s doing anything differently to keep Texas focused now that it’s within the top 10. “It is a very unique human condition whether we choose to listen or not. And so that’s a big teaching point each and every week. You have the choice whether you want to listen to this or not. And that is one of the things we talk about all the time that human nature’s been the downfall of empires, right? And so why would we think that it cannot be the downfall of a football team?”
“So our job as coaches is to eliminate human nature, is to be so focused on a singleness of purpose and a love and an accountability to each other that it’s almost impossible not to listen and then comes in your decision as to whether eventually you are or aren’t going to listen to it and I think for the most part we have done a really good job of not listening, but to say that I can prevent them from hearing it, yeah, that’s one thing, that’s or that’s never going to happen, but I think we can teach them how not to listen,” Herman added.
If Texas continues to win, as its projected to do on Saturday, and then again on the Saturday after that, the talk will only continue as Texas climbs into the top five. That’s to be expected.
You may be listening, but the Longhorns won’t be.