Texas Season Win Total Prediction
Texans don’t accept mediocre college football, let alone a sub-.500 product. When one considers that the state university has suffered through two straight losing campaigns, well, good luck to Charlie Strong.
Perhaps no coach in the nation faces more pressure than the man entering his third year in Austin. Will some of the Arkansas native’s much-ballyhooed recruits begin to justify the hype? If not, boosters could demand a leadership change all over again.
Roughly a month ahead of the school’s Sept. 4 opener vs. Notre Dame, handicappers at online sports book Bovada.lv project the Longhorns for 7.5 wins. That number would’ve incited riots during Mack Brown’s prime, but such is UT’s current predicament.
There’s a major reason, though, to be excited about the new direction of the offense: the arrival of Sterlin Gilbert. The highly regarded Art Briles disciple swears by the spread, and Texas needs a radical shift after years of refusing, er, failing to push the pigskin downfield. Look for true freshman quarterback Shane Buechele to also receive his close-up sooner rather than later. It simply makes no sense to squander his substantial skill set, especially given the limited upside of upperclassmen Jerrod Heard and Tyrone Swoopes.
Of course, growing pains are inevitable. Even if Buechele runs with the No. 1 gig, his weapons exude rawness. The Horns’ leading returning wideout, John Burt, hauled in a paltry 28 catches in 2015. Junior Armanti Foreman (21 career receptions) remains a fountain of untapped potential. If getting vertical proves problematic, expect the towering rushing tandem of D’Onta Freeman and Chris Warren III to assume greater importance.
On defense, Strong prioritized bringing in girth up front. A quintet of prospects – Chris Daniels, Jordan Elliott, Marcel Southall, Gerald Wilbon and D’Andre Christmas-Giles – should vie for reps along the interior of the D-line. UT surrendered 219.2 yards per contest on the ground a season ago, so a little healthy competition sounds great on multiple levels.
The back end of Vance Bedford’s unit appears to be ascending, too. Sophomore linebacker Malik Jefferson took the Big 12 by storm last fall, and he’ll automatically raise fellow linebacker Anthony Wheeler’s performance shortly. Edge support represents the domain of Charles Omenihu and Breckyn Hager. Meanwhile, the secondary yearns to punish foes. Safety DeShon Elliott lays the majority of the wood, and corners Davante Davis and Holton Hill approach that position with an uncommon degree of maturity.
Candidly, Texas may boast the best pure talent in the conference. The abundance of fresh faces, however, almost mandates a grace period of sorts. That’s not in the cards with an early slate that includes the Fighting Irish, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Cal. As a result, Strong must keep that résumé at the ready.
TUESDAY COLLEGE FOOTBALL FREE PICK: TEXAS LONGHORNS UNDER 7 WINS