To open a pivotal third season, Charlie Strong’s Texas Longhorns face three opponents who won 10 or more games a year ago, including one CFP semifinalist. And that’s just in the first five games.
In a near perfect world, Texas would take two out of three games against Notre Dame, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. In reality, the Longhorns would probably settle for a single win and move into a more workable patch of the schedule.
Indeed, the narrative of this season, good or bad, could be determined by the halfway point.
We’re breaking down all 12 opponents, divided into four separate phases of the schedule:
For Starters — non-conference. Texas vs. Notre Dame (Sept. 4), vs. UTEP (Sept. 10) and at Cal (Sept. 17).
The Early Tests — three team-defining games to open Big 12 play. Texas at Oklahoma State (Oct. 1), vs. Oklahoma in Dallas (Oct. 8) and vs. Iowa State (Oct. 15).
The Tossups — three winnable (and losable) games. Texas at Kansas State (Oct. 22), vs. Baylor (Oct. 29) and at Texas Tech (Nov. 5).
The Home Stretch — the final three games of the season. Texas vs. West Virginia (Nov. 12), at Kansas (Nov. 19) and vs. TCU the day after Thanksgiving (Nov. 25).
FOR STARTERS: The three non-conference matchups
Game 2: Texas vs. UTEP
Sept. 10, 6 p.m., Longhorn Network
Similar to last year when Texas hosted Rice, the Longhorns follow their opener with Notre Dame with what should be a comfortable win.
Indeed, the Miners have finished their last 10 seasons with more losses than wins and are again expected to struggle — UTEP is picked to finish fourth in Conference USA’s West division.
Texas and UTEP last played in a home-and-home series in 2008 and 2009, with Texas twice winning big.
UTEP, at a glance
2015: 5-7, 3-5 in Conference USA.
Triplets: QB Mack Leftwich (105-192-1,228, 9/3 in 2015), RB Aaron Jones (32-209-1), WR Jaquan White (41-494-7)
Last time: Texas 64, UTEP 7 (2009, in Austin)
The only two Texas-UTEP matchups:
2009 — Texas 64, UTEP 7
2008 — Texas 42, UTEP 13
Last time, in 2009: This was the fourth game of the season in what would end with Texas’ most recent national championship game appearance. Colt McCoy threw three touchdowns in the first half, including two to Dan Buckner. The 64 points were the most for Texas since the 70-3 win over Colorado in the 2005 Big 12 championship game. UTEP committed five turnovers. D.J. Monroe‘s 91-yard kickoff return was his second kick-return touchdown of the young season. The Miners finished with only 9 rushing yards and 44 passing yards, a 53-yard day.
Next game on the schedule: at Cal