Texas football has been to a dark place, and the Longhorns may not yet be out of the worst of it. This weekend is a big early step in the trek for new coach Tom Herman, as the Horns head west to face one of the nation’s elite in USC.
It may be too dramatic to call this a turning point in program history. But it’s a game that could shape a lot of what happens moving forward.
Herman coached and won big games in his time at Houston. But he’s never faced an atmosphere quite like this as a head coach.
“Each game poses its own motivation, and this one you’re playing one of the best teams in college football,” Herman said.
It’s not realistic even for the most diehard Texas fan to expect a win this week. USC has the look of a legitimate playoff contender and rolled a week ago against a solid Stanford squad in its Pac 12 debut. The Horns have only won twice in their last 10 road games, and none were against a foe like this,
So how does Texas compete? Who goes out there and scratches and claws? Do they turn the ball over six times and commit 12 penalties and give points away?
“We’re going to need to play not just really hard, but we’re going to have to play very fundamentally sound play after play after play to stay competitive,” Herman said.
Face it, it’s better for the Big 12 for Texas to be competitive, even as it also is a program that many people love to hate. And a record of 16-21 in the past three seasons and just 46-42 since a 2009 appearance in the national championship is not the level that college football fans expect of this program.
Texas is a far cry from the team a dozen years ago that beat – yep, that’s right, USC – when Vince Young ran wild in the 2005 BCS Championship Game. The schools haven’t played since.
Texas looked a lot better in week two, bouncing back from an opening loss to Maryland by crushing San Jose State.
“I thought our guys played much more free, with much less hesitation,” Herman said. “Happy with the direction we’re headed.”
Texas became the brunt of many jokes last year when the Longhorns lost to Big 12 bottom feeder Kansas. After years of pushing people around, many schools have gotten to have some fun at Texas’ expense in recent years. Now Herman is looking to reverse that course.
“The only people we have to prove anything to is our teammates.”
Big 12 Notes
Baker Mayfield’s postgame flag-planting is the early candidate for NCAA viral video of the year. And it was quite a performance by the Sooners, who showed they deserve a big place on the national stage with a 31-16 win at Ohio State. With Tulane, Baylor and Iowa State the next few games out, OU will get to keep on building momentum.
TCU also gave the league a nice nonconference road win, going to Arkansas and beating the Razorbacks 28-7. The Horned Frogs are a week away from a huge league opener, as they’ll play at Oklahoma State. Speaking of the Cowboys, they follow a road win to South Alabama with another road game this Saturday at Pitt, a team they narrowly got by last year, 45-38, at home.
Iowa State nearly gave the league a third marquee win but ultimately fell in a wild in-state rivalry matchup, 44-41 in overtime against Iowa. The Cyclones go on the road to Akron this week, while Kansas State looks for a 3-0 start with a trip to Vanderbilt.