Good morning, good afternoon and good evening, you insatiable Texas Longhorns football fanatics.
We are getting so close to the 2019 college football season I can already feel the Sunday morning hangover steamrolling me right across the top of my eyebrows, back and forth across my forehead from temple to temple.
It’s time for Texas football, folks.
By now, you’ve probably each looked at the season ahead and contemplated all the different scenarios. What if Texas loses to LSU, but it beats OU? What if Texas beats LSU and OU, but loses at Iowa State? What if, what if, what if? What makes this season a success, what keeps Texas in the College Football Playoff conversation and what is it about Aggy that makes them think the Longhorns are afraid of playing them when Texas has LSU, Alabama, and Florida on its future schedules?
All of those scenarios are worthy of your intense focus and consideration, but today we are going to delve into a much simpler topic. Feel free to log this away in your brain and use before the first game of the season, portraying it as your own opinion so that you look like the only person at your tailgate who is 11 beers deep but still making sense.
Let’s look at the five most important games on Texas’ 2019 schedule.
1. Louisiana Tech
What? Did you really expect to see LSU at No. 1 on this list? Slow down, junior. There’s a lot of people out there who still don’t buy it. Despite a 10-win season, playing for the Big 12 Championship. the Sugar Bowl win and Sam Ehlinger’s incredible season that has propelled him into the driver’s seat of potentially landing a finalist seat at the Downtown Athletic Club in December, more people than even I am willing to admit think Texas is not for real, has too many weaknesses, and will be humbled this season.
If we’re going to point to last season as proof that Texas is back for good and on its way up, then let’s look at all of last season and not just the key highlights.
The 28-21 final score Texas fans should remember most from 2018 isn’t the Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia.
After losing, again, to Maryland in Week 1, Texas barely escaped a Tulsa comeback for the ages with a 28-21 win over the Golden Hurricane.
Let’s be serious with ourselves. The one thing all Texas fans are waiting on to really feel good about this program is a good old fashioned curb-stomping. Texas, last season, only won three games by double digits: a 16-point win over TCU, a 14-point win over Iowa State, and a 23-point victory over USC.
Excluding the aforementioned games, Texas won seven games last season by a combined total of 42 points. Combined.
That’s ugly. I’m a proponent of this idea that Texas is “back.” But winning games by less than 10 points isn’t it.
So, yes, in my opinion, the most important game on Texas’ 2019 schedule is the first one. Go beat Louisiana Tech senseless. Go make a statement for yourselves, Longhorns. Get this one out of the way and add five exclamation points to it. Victory by 20-plus points or we riot.
What? Did you still think I was going to say LSU? Buddy, objective numero uno: win your conference.
No game is going to be bigger in 2019 than the Red River Showdown. Wait. Before you scroll to the comments to disagree with me, ask yourself a serious question: do you want to see OU twice? I know there’s this really neat thing people are hyped about, Texas playing OU twice in one year. I’m not a purist. I’m all for some double Red River action. But no Texas fan should root for it. “Why, Corey? We ain’t scared of OU!” Nor should you be. But since when was it the best idea to make life harder than it needs to be? What point do you prove by beating OU twice besides having even more fun chanting “OU sucks” during the fight song one more time, in December? Listen, just keep the golden hat in Austin one more year and call it a day.
Beat OU in Dallas and you have the pressure on “Boomer Thooner” to have to go be perfect for the rest of the season. Texas beats OU, it provides itself a small cushion to stumble later in the season. We saw it last year. Keep the tie-breaker over OU. Worst case scenario, Texas and OU meet again in Dallas. Best case scenario, OU loses another game and the Longhorns play a much less threatening opponent in the Big 12 Championship game. Beating OU has been and always will be the best path to the conference championship. It’s the same on the other side of the Red River. Don’t let Jeb and Donny tell you any different. OU needs to beat Texas just as bad as Texas needs to beat OU.
Ah, yes. Here we are. The game we’ve all been waiting for. I, personally, can’t wait to arrive in Austin for this game. Georgia fans down in New Orleans during the Sugar Bowl said LSU fans are fantastic (they also made fun of A&M fans, calling Aggy the some of the worst, most inferiority-complex ridden people they’ve ever encountered).
The reason this game is No. 3 and not No. 2, despite the reason above focused on the conference championship, is the simple fact that Texas can survive this loss — as long as it’s respectable — and still keep its high hopes alive for the 2019 season. For starters, losing early is always better than losing in the middle or back-end of the schedule.
If Texas loses to LSU in Week 2, and especially if it’s a hard-fought game, it doesn’t derail the Longhorns conference hopes and beyond.
Trust me, a one-loss, Big 12 Champion Texas team isn’t getting snubbed from the College Football Playoff conversation, especially if that one loss is to a team that, at a minimum, should very well be playing in a New Year’s Six bowl game. As long as Texas doesn’t get rag-dolled, this game will only help Texas at the end of the year if the Longhorns take care of business in their conference matchups.
This game deserves all of the hype it’s getting. Every last bit. It’s going to tell us a lot about each program, both where they are and where they’re headed in 2019. But it isn’t the most important game. It’s not even the most important non-conference game.
4. West Virginia
So, this is pretty simple. West Virginia will have little to play for in 2019 (compared to 2018). That makes this one of the worst trap games I’ve ever seen on Texas’ schedule. First-year head coach, just lost their starting QB after last season, all of their fans are obsessed with Texas and think the Longhorns are a bitter rival, on the road at Morgantown with the threat of forest fire via couch arson and — oh by the way — it’s the week before the Red River Showdown. No matter what, the pressure is on the Longhorns in this game and it weighs a ton.
If Texas goes into this game 3-1 (loss to LSU) then the pressure is on Texas to stay perfect in the Big 12 at least until the Red River Showdown. Lose to West Virginia and go into Dallas 3-2, a loss to OU becomes a death sentence on the season that could have been and — watch out! — the wheels just might come off a time or two more in conference play. Talk about regression.
If Texas goes into Morgantown 4-0, it is going to take everything for Texas fans, the media and the program itself to pay attention to the matters at hand, to not daydream about that big matchup at the Cotton Bowl the very next week. Listen, Texas versus OU is always going to pose trap game fears on the team the prior week. Last year the Longhorns had to beat Kansas State at Manhattan for the first time since mankind invented fire, or something, when Texas visited the Wildcats the week before its big win over OU.
But Morgantown just feels dangerous, regardless of whether Texas rolls in at 4-0 or 3-1. Scary game, for sure.
5. Iowa State
I understand that there are two more games to play after this visit to Ames, Iowa.
But I don’t care about the Bad News Bears (Baylor, Nov. 23) and the Flying Tortillas (Texas Tech, Nov. 29). This is pretty much it, for all intents and purposes. There are a lot of people believing in the Cyclones big time in 2019. I’m talking, “Hey, I can’t wait to see Iowa State and OU in the Big 12 Championship!” type of chatter. If Texas, at this point in the season, is undefeated (calm down keyboard tough guy, I said “if”), or has just one loss, you’re looking at a game where Iowa State could be in a one-loss situation, as well, which would mean this is a pseudo winner-heads-to-Dallas type of game. Not to say Baylor in Waco or Tech to end the season would be a breeze, but there just won’t be the kind of pressure and nerves that will swarm those contests the way they will at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, an especially underrated environment.
The Longhorns may very well be playing for a ticket to the conference championship game against a team that has sort of had its number for much of the last seven years. This is going to be a big one, and if each team takes care of business the way most expect, we could be looking at a game of the week type atmosphere, College GameDay and all, when this one rolls around.
At the end of the day, you don’t have to agree with me. I’m only here to rear your thought process as best as possible to make sure you sound like a college football guru. My expectations for the 2019 Texas football season are big. Some folks are talking about 2020 as “the year!” but I don’t want to think beyond this season, and Week 1, at that. How can we say what 2020 will be if we haven’t even seen 2019 yet? After all, these days a lot of leaning on the previous season is what drives our expectations for the current year. I realize the hype behind the 2020 season. But let’s get through 2019 first.
I am expecting another 10-win season, a return to the Big 12 Championship game, another New Year’s Six bowl appearance and a finalist seat with Sam Ehlinger’s name on it at the Heisman Trophy Ceremony. Let’s check those boxes off before we start creating bigger ones for the 2020 season.