HOUSTON - By Jake Meltzer
With the Texas Longhorns less than two weeks away from their first game, we're taking a look at some of the key themes likely to bubble up this season.
Here are six things to know:
1. High praise
For the first time since the 2010 preseason - the year after Texas lost to Alabama in the National Championship - the Longhorns will open the season ranked in the Top 10. That year, they finished 5-7 overall with a 2-6 conference record, which was good for dead last in the Big 12.
Texas will have to come out fighting to maintain a spot in the Top 10. Their first five games will be no cakewalk. Texas faces off against No. 6 LSU in Week 2 and opens conference play against Oklahoma State and then West Virginia, two teams that defeated the Horns last year.
2. Early struggles
Texas has lost three of their last four season-openers and is coming off two consecutive season-opening losses to Maryland. Sam Ehlinger threw for over 250 yards and two touchdowns, but two late interceptions, sunk No. 23 Texas in last year’s season-opener against Maryland. Texas went on to win 10 games and made an appearance in the Sugar Bowl, but that loss in the opener haunted them come ranking time.
Will they start strong in 2019?
Texas opens the 2019 campaign at home against Louisiana Tech, a Conference USA team that finished 8-5 last season, including a win in the Hawaii Bowl against Hawaii. Texas and Louisiana Tech have never played against one another. The two teams will face off at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on August 31st at 7 p.m.
3. Sling it, Sam
Ehlinger threw for 3,292 yards and 25 touchdowns last year. Colt McCoy comfortably sits in the record holder’s chair with 112 career touchdowns and 13,253 career yards, both tops in school history. However, Ehlinger (currently ranked 7th all time in yards and touchdowns) only needs 3,146 yards and 25 touchdowns to pass Major Applewhite for the second most yards and touchdowns in Texas history. If Ehlinger can match his career performance from last season, he certainly could continue to climb that ladder.
4. Discipline wins championships
Texas was penalized the 23rd most in the nation last year with 7.36 flags thrown against them per game, which was good for 67 penalty yards per game. Texas simply needs to execute and stay away from penalties if they want to be mentioned in the same sentence as teams like Alabama and Clemson. In other words, they have way too talented of a roster to be making costly mistakes.
5. Some new faces
Texas will open the season ranked in the Top 10, but they have a lot to prove as they will return this season without eight defensive starters and a handful of offensive players including three starting offensive linemen and stud receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey.
The Longhorns will have to replace the 86 catches, 1,176 yards, and nine touchdowns that Humphrey brought to the offense last season. On the other side of the ball, a few key names that will no longer be wearing the burnt orange include defensive ends Charles Omenihu, Breckyn Hager, and cornerback Kris Boyd.
Texas will have to rely on wide receiver Collin Johnson to take over Humphrey’s workload on the offensive side of the ball. The long and talented receiver finished the 2018 season with 68 catches for 985 yards and seven touchdowns. As for the offensive line, keep an eye out for senior center Zach Shackelford and redshirt sophomore Samuel Cosmi to pick up the slack. Shackelford has been the starting center for Texas the last two seasons, while Cosmi, who started 13 games last year and received Freshman All-American honors, will move from right to left tackle.
6. Are they ... back?
Texas is looking for back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time since 2008-2009, which was part of a nine-year run of consecutive 10-win seasons. Ehlinger got some heat for his “We’re back” comment following a Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia. However, with a stout defense and a returning quarterback who has the potential to be one of the best in the country, Texas football has it all laid out in front of them. The Longhorns control their destiny. It is now a matter of performance, discipline, and health.
Did you know?
Texas now has 25/1 odds to win the College Football Championship, tied with LSU for the sixth best odds in the nation.
Sam Ehlinger now has 20/1 odds to win the Heisman Trophy, the fifth best odds in the nation.
- Vegas Insider
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