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 probably would 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 of the schedule.
We’re breaking down all 12 opponents, divided into four separate phases of the schedule:
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).
THE TOSSUPS: Three winnable (and losable) games
Game 7: At Kansas State
Things tend to go badly in Manhattan for the Longhorns.
Texas has dropped six of its seven all-time games played there, and hasn’t won there since 2002. The Wildcats, with their no-frills atmosphere, lull opponents to sleep and then attack, which happened two years ago in Texas’ 23-0 loss.
Coupled with the Iowa State matchup the week before, this is a part of the schedule that’s tempting to overlook. Do so at your own peril.
Key to the Wildcats improving on a 6-7 season is better quarterback play. That group consists of Jesse Ertz, who tore his knee on the second play of last season, and Joe Hubener and Alex Delton.
Kansas State, at a glance
2015: 6-7, 3-6 in the Big 12 (8th). Lost to Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl, 45-23.
Triplets: QB Jesse Ertz (1 carry, 5 yards in 2015), who blew out his knee on the opening series of his first career start last season and has yet to throw a collegiate pass; RB Charles Jones (142-696-5), who’s had only one 100-yard game in his career; and WR Deante Burton (38-510-4), who’s the Wildcats’ leading receiver but may give way to Byron Pringle, who thrilled in the spring game.
Last time: Texas, 23-9 (2015)
The last five Texas-Kansas State matchups:
2015 — Texas 23, Kansas State 9 (Austin)
2014 — Kansas State 23, Texas 0 (Manhattan)
2013 — Texas 31, Kansas State 21 (Austin)
2012 — Kansas State 42, Texas 24 (Manhattan)
2011 — Kansas State 17, Texas 13 (Austin)
Last year: On a rainy, windy afternoon at Royal-Memorial Stadium, Texas controlled the Wildcats thanks to an effective running game and a solid defensive effort. The Longhorns had five sacks. Tyrone Swoopes scored three touchdowns out of his 18-Wheeler package and Johnathan Gray produced the sixth 100-yard game of his career. The Longhorns have won two of the last three games played in Austin.
Our 2015 coverage: Our game story (“Hell, high water both rain down on Wildcats”); Kirk Bohl’s column (“An ugly Texas win, but a pretty Texas victory“); Cedric Golden’s column (“A good win, but Heard’s no passing fancy“); a sider on Michael Dickson‘s big punt; five key plays.
Next game on the schedule: Baylor