Things are looking up for the Texas Longhorns as of late.
Tom Herman’s team has knocked off two ranked opponents in two weeks and will look to extend its three-game winning streak on Saturday against Kansas State by snapping a streak of losses in Manhattan dating back to 2002.
The Burnt Orange Nation staff got together to discuss Texas’ recent success, whether that will continue against K-State, and more.
Two ranked wins in two weeks for the first time since 2008… How impressed are you with the steps Texas has taken since its season-opening loss to Maryland?
Cody Daniel — Co-Editor: I’m not at “Texas is back, folks,” convinced, but I’m impressed to the point that I have no doubt that Texas is continuing to head in the right direction and will take another notable step in the win column. My preseason pick was 9-3, and even with the Maryland loss, I think that’s still attainable.
Anthony Rizzo — Contributor: The win against TCU tells a lot about the direction of this program. The response to two shaky weeks with wins against Top 25 opponents to completely turn the season around should be impressive to everyone across the nation.
Corey Elliott — Contributor: You don’t accidentally beat two ranked teams in consecutive weeks, and especially not in the fashion that Texas dismantled No. 22 USC and No. 17 TCU. I’m very impressed. Progress is evident.
Kameron McAfee — Contributor: I’m taking it one game at a time. I like what I’ve seen the past couple of weeks but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. Following an opening weekend loss against Maryland, this team has definitely responded how you would hope. Let’s keep it rolling.
Gerald Goodridge — Contributor: The most-impressive things to me about where Texas is the resilience this team has shown. Whether it’s not letting the stink of a loss like Maryland stick on them, or being able to come back from trailing in both of those wins, there is an evident mental toughness that has not been evident in recent history.
Texas is only 3-1, but the Longhorns are enjoying the kind of success unfamiliar in Austin in recent memory. Are we more likely to this this momentum serve as a springboard into a tremendously successful season, or is Texas liable to feel like it’s arrived and become complacent with several ranked opponents still to come?
Cody: A bit of both. Overall, I think this confidence in what it can do when it’s playing at its best will lead Texas to a much-improved season overall, but depending on where they’re at later in the season, I could also see the Longhorns not showing up entirely and feeling like their name (and ranking, potentially) alone will beat an Iowa State or Texas Tech.
Anthony: With the Big 12 being a pretty even conference this season, if Texas is able to bring its best game on most weeks, this should turn out to be a successful season. I legitimately believe this team can compete atop the Big 12 as long as they don’t hiccup against an inferior opponent along the way.
Corey: This is where I believe Tom Herman really earns his keep. He has a 7-6 season to draw from when it comes to emphasizing how important it is to continue winning. I don’t see a Tom Herman Texas team ever becoming “We’re Texas” complacent.
Kameron: As long as Herman can keep this team focused, I believe they will continue to play with the fire that we’ve seen the past few games. The second they get comfortable might mean trouble, though.
Gerald: I hope the upperclassmen on this team have been through too many embarrassing losses for them to ever rest on their laurels. Many of these seniors committed to Charlie Strong to help “bring Texas back,” and to see that promise finally coming to fruition — albeit under a different head coach — should serve as a motivator to the team.
The numbers haven’t been overwhelming, but Sam Ehlinger has been far more efficient as of late and isn’t turning the ball over, and coincidently, Texas is winning. Knowing that many of Texas’ struggles over the year begin with poor quarterback play, are we at a point where we can say Texas has found its quarterback?
Cody: I think the jury is still out, although it does favor Ehlinger. As far as this season is concerned, it seems Ehlinger has separated himself as the clear-cut top option, but I think next offseason, you’re going to hear about a guy like Cameron Rising making things interesting once he learns a bit and the game slows down for him.
Anthony: As of now, yes. Ehlinger’s progression has been noticeable in all phases of his game and he’s starting to become a really smart game-managing quarterback. But, passing wise he’s not the most talented of the bunch so it all depends on the progression of guys like Cameron Rising and Roschon Johnson when thinking about the future of the program. Just like at Alabama and Clemson, where we’ve seen quality quarterbacks be replaced by the more talented guy, this is something that could happen to Ehlinger down the road.
Corey: Indeed. And the reason I say so is the fact that Sam is progressing. Little by little he’s making strides. With the way the team is playing as a whole, you have to continue to rely on and develop Sam. You can’t afford a mid-season QB circus, both in house and outside noise. Stay the course. He’s not even halfway through his sophomore year.
Kameron: Sam has definitely earned the right to be “the guy.” He takes care of the football and ultimately can step up and make a play when it matters. As long as they are winning games, you won’t hear any complaints from me. I think he will continue to mature and make strides in the passing game, so for now, yes, Texas has its QB.
Gerald: I think what Sam Ehlinger is doing right now is exactly what Texas needs. The term “game manager” gets a negative connotation, but it seems like Ehlinger is thriving in a role that requires him not to create negative plays, and make a big play only when its there. A year ago, I think Sam felt the need to make the big plays happen, but now that he’s allowing those plays to come naturally, I think Sam is a quarterback the team can win with.
Not since 2002 — 16 whole years — has Texas beaten Kansas State in Manhattan. With Texas and Kansas State trending in opposite directions, is this the year the Longhorns finally snap that streak after snapping one last week against TCU?
Cody: I definitely believe that streak snaps on Saturday. Kansas State is 0-2 vs. Power 5 opponents this season, and it has been outscored 66-16 on those two occasions. It’s offense is the worst it has been statistically since 1989, and things only appear to be getting worse. The defensive front hasn’t been a threat and the secondary is riddled with injuries. Texas continues to roll over what looks like will over what it looks like will be one of Bill Snyder’s least impressive teams in recent memory.
Anthony: Yes. Kansas State looks to be a bit of a mess right now and Texas is riding a wave of momentum. Past Longhorn teams would struggle in this type of game, but this year’s team is built differently.
Corey: Yes. And I think we see vintage 2000s Texas. Jump out to a 28-3 halftime lead type dominance. Again, Tom Herman, at this point, is not going to let his team slip up in games they should win.
Kameron: Wow, it’s embarrassing to read that stat. After watching the TCU game, I could sense a “we aren’t going to let TCU beat us again” type of mentality from Tom Herman and his staff. I think we see a similar approach this weekend. He knows that it has been 16 years and I’m willing to bet that streak is snapped on Saturday afternoon.
Gerald: I think this is definitely the year that Texas manages to reverse its fortunes against K-State. They’ve looked straight-up bad in a lot of games this year and I think if Texas plays at its best, they can’t keep up.
What, if anything, worries you about the Longhorns road meeting with the Wildcats?
Cody: Nearly across the board, Texas is the better team, but Alex Delton’s ability to make plays with his feet could spark a few plays. Other than that, my only real concern would be Texas getting over that mental hump of winning in Manhattan.
Anthony: Star wide receiver Isaiah Zuber and the magic purple Manhattan atmosphere. Zuber currently ranks third in the conference in receiving yards and has shown legit elite ability as the No. 1 guy this season.
Corey: The fact that there are tickets for as low as $13 on the secondary market and there won’t be enough Longhorns fans in Manhattan, Kansas to buy them.
Kameron: I’m not worried.
Gerald: Manhattan is still Manhattan. Weird things happen in Manhattan, especially with a team that has played one road game this year, which they lost.
A win is a win, but not all wins instill the same level of confidence going forward (see after Tulsa vs after USC). Texas is favored over Kansas State, but what kind of win would you need to see to feel truly confident heading into the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma?
Cody: Given that Kansas State just hasn’t looked good at all, and Texas has beaten two ranked teams by a combined 38 points, I’d expect to see a double digit win, at the least. There isn’t an exact number, but I’m mainly looking for the defense to continue tightening up and for the offense to become more consistently explosive, establish a ground game, and stay on the field on third downs.
Anthony: Anything along the lines of taking care of business on the road and looking impressive while doing it. Maintaining consistency on the offensive side of the ball, winning the turnover battle, and playing fast/loose are some areas I would like to see this team excel at in a tougher environment.
Corey: Texas has to win this game by 20-plus for me to feel like this team has truly turned the corner and is now steamrolling towards the type of season Longhorns fans have been waiting for, a season with high stakes riding on every game in October and November.
Kameron: Pedal to the metal, baby. Come out and leave no doubt. This is a game that Texas needs to make a statement and show OU that they are coming ready to knock some skulls. If they do that and secure a 20-plus win like Corey said, I’m rolling into the Cotton Bowl feeling extremely confident.
Gerald: I need to see Texas come out and bully an outmatched team. Plain and simple. If they come out and put the boots to a team that has no business hanging with them, I feel good.
Prediction time: Is Texas headed to 4-1, or will the Purple Wizard’s reign over the Horns continue? And who will be the player of the game?
Cody: I don’t remember the last time Kansas State has fielded a team as unconvincing as the one we’re going to see on Saturday. Unless Texas beats itself, the Longhorns should enjoy a pretty comfortable win. Texas - 41, Kansas State - 13. I like Gary Johnson for racking up 15-plus tackles and two sacks against a run-heavy KSU offense.
Anthony: Kansas State may keep this one close for a half but I expect Texas to run away with this one in the second half. 34-14, good guys. I’ll predict a multiple sack, forced fumble game from Charles Omenihu for my player-of-the-game.
Corey: I will take Texas 42-13. Another big day for LJ Humphrey and Collin Johnson. I’ll go with 300 passing yards for Sam with 100 yards and a touchdown a piece for Humphrey and Johnson.
Kameron: This is the year Texas walks into Manhattan and takes care of business. Texas - 38, Kansas State - 17.
Gerald: I think this is the year. I’m tired of having to think about the fact that Texas lost to Ron Prince in those two weird years when Snyder kind of retired. I think we see Gary Johnson grab a sack and three tackles for loss, forcing Alex Delton to try and throw the ball.