No. 13: Texas

What’s that old saying? ``First year of a rebuild, lose close.’’


Texas certainly accomplished that in Tom Herman’s inaugural season. Four of its losses (USC, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech) were by a combined 15 points. And that’s not counting the bizarre opener in which Maryland shocked the Longhorns in Austin 51-41.

In other words, that 7-6 debut under Herman could have been a whole lot better.

If three plays go the other way in 2017 and Texas is coming off a 10-3 season, we have a whole different view going into 2018.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

Phil Steele gets it. The Longhorns are his No. 2 Surprise Team. Works for me.

When I covered Notre Dame in Lou Holtz’ first year, the Irish went 5-6, with five of their losses by a combined 14 points. The next year, they were 8-4. The year after that, they went 12-0 and won the ’88 national championship.

I’m not saying I expect anything like that third year from Texas. What the Longhorns could do, though, is win the Big 12 very soon. Maybe even this fall.

Seven starters are back on an offense that figures to be better. Six return to a defense that figures to get an immediate boost from one of the nation’s top recruiting classes, which landed some notable and athletic DBs.

At quarterback, sophomore Sam Ehlinger (and/or junior Shane Buechele) not only will be better. They figure to have better people around them.

The running backs and offensive line should step up after a lackluster 2017. Depth is needed at receiver, but that should be addressed, too.

The defense simply needs to keep doing what it’s been doing. And it has the personnel to do that.

Here’s another reason I believe Texas could make a big move: The Big 12 is not as daunting as other some other leagues. The SEC and the Big Ten will beat you up with their depth and physical play. For all its troubles, the sprawling Pac-12 has its serious challenges. And the ACC has Clemson.

In the Big 12, let’s see how life goes at Oklahoma without Baker Mayfield. TCU and others have their moments but shouldn’t strike fear into hearts.

Texas hasn’t been Texas lately. But like the Longhorns or not, it makes no sense for them to stay down. And it makes a lot of sense for them to rise up. Sooner than later.[/membership]