Football

Our 10th annual Top 25 countdown: No. 25 Texas is building, but are we there yet? Are we there yet?

Depth questions aside, the Longhorns are coming off their first bowl win since 2012 and signed the No. 3-ranked recruiting class in the country.

Posted July 4th, 2018

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Sure, it’s July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — we kick off our 10th annual countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last year’s eventual CFP semifinalists were ranked Nos. 1, 5, 8 and 14 on our 2017 list.

Today’s team: No. 25 Texas

The Longhorns’ best-case scenario: Texas gets off to a 3-0 start with a win at home over USC and powers its way to a 10-2 regular-season finish and a rematch against Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game.

Their worst-case scenario: Inconsistent quarterback play remains a problem, and the lack of a running game causes offensive inconsistency and fan heartburn en route to 6-6.

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Inside the Longhorns

Coach: Tom Herman (second year, 7-6; 29-10 overall at Houston and Texas)

2017: 7-6, 5-4 in the Big 12 (beat Missouri 33-16 in the Texas Bowl)

Returning starters: 8 offense, 6 defense

Goodbye: OT Connor Williams (Cowboys, 2nd round); LB Malik Jefferson (Bengals, 3rd round); P Michael Dickson (Seahawks, 5th round); S DeShon Elliott (Ravens, 6th round); DT Poona Ford; RB/TE Chris Warren III

Spring cleaning: It was a quiet, uneventful spring for the Longhorns, and that’s just fine with Herman. The bowl victory — Texas’ first since 2012 — helped win over any remaining doubters in the locker room. Redshirt freshman receiver Reggie Hemphill-Mapps, coming off a 37-catch debut season, transferred out of the program in February; he’s landed at Trinity Valley CC. But incoming transfers Calvin Anderson (OT, Rice) and Tre Watson (RB, California) should bolster the offense. With a slew of early enrollees off the No. 3-ranked signing class in the country, the secondary could be the best unit on the team. Texas had the Big 12’s second-best defense in the league last season (365.6 yards per game).

Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger (11) calls out to his teammates against USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sept. 16, 2017. Ehlinger led the team in rushing as a freshman. (Photo by Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman)

Returning leaders

PASSING: Sam Ehlinger, 158-275-1,915, 11/7 (1st); Shane Buechele, 137-213-1,405, 7/4 (2nd)

RUSHING: QB Sam Ehlinger, 114-385-2 (1st); Daniel Young, 81-373-3 (2nd); Kyle Porter 83-261-4 (4th)

RECEIVING: Collin Johnson, 54-765-2 (1st); Lil’Jordan Humphrey, 37-431-1 (2nd)

TACKLES: DB Brandon Jones, 61 (3rd); ILB Gary Johnson, 60 (4th); DB Kris Boyd, 57 (5th)

SACKS: DE Charles Omenihu,4 (T-1st); OLB Breckyn Hager, 4 (T-1st)

INTERCEPTIONS: DB Kris Boyd, 2 (T-2nd); DB Davante Davis, 2 (T-2nd)

Returning All-Big 12 players (1)

Offense: None

Defense: CB Kris Boyd (2nd team)

FYI

Keep an eye on him: Breckyn Hager, Charles Omenihu and Malcolm Roach are well-known names to fans. The one to watch is defensive tackle Ta’Quon Graham, a sophomore from Temple. He could be an anchor in the middle now that Ford is gone. Chris Nelson, D’Andre Christmas and Gerald Wilbon all will help the rotation up front.

Puntin’ cousins: Texas lost Ray Guy Award winner Michael Dickson, but he’s being replaced by his own cousin, Australian freshman Ryan Bujcevski. Another freshman, Cameron Dickson of Lake Travis, who was rated the nation’s No. 1 kicker, should be the major addition, though. In a late-November playoff game, Dicker kicked a 48-yard field goal at Royal-Memorial Stadium and added a 46-yarder later; the longest field goal at DKR last season by a Texas kicker was Joshua Rowland’s 40-yarder.

Get ’em on the field: Herman plans on fully utilizing the relaxed redshirt rules this season and will give playing time to all freshmen who earn it. Starting this season, anyone who plays in four games or less can preserve their redshirt. So if WR Brennan Eagles is practicing well, expect to see him on Saturdays. It will be helpful for line depth and late-season substitutions.

2017 national rankings

Scoring: 53rd (29.5 ppg) — right above No. 54 Tulsa, right behind No. 52 Utah

Points allowed: T-29th (21.2 ppg) — tied with Florida State, right behind No. 28 Miami

Passing: 41st (258.8 ypg) — right above No. 42 Eastern Michigan, right behind No. 40 Cal

Rushing: 95th (139.6 ypg) — right above No. 96 Iowa, right behind No. 94 Marshall

Total offense: 66th (398.5 ypg) — right above No. 67 Nevada, right behind No. 65 Louisiana-Lafayette

Total defense: T-41st (365.6 ypg) — tied with Alabama-Birmingham, right behind No. 40 Virginia

Texas enters the field before the game against USC during the NCAA college football game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, September 16, 2017 in Los Angeles. Texas and USC play again this fall — in Austin. (Photo by Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman)

The schedule

DATEOPPONENTLAST YR'S RESULT (IF PLAYED)
Sept. 1 (11 a.m., FS1)at MarylandL, 51-41
Sept. 8 (7 p.m., LHN)Tulsa
Sept. 15 (7 p.m., Fox)USCL, 27-24 (2 OT)
Sept. 22TCU*L, 24-7
Sept. 29at Kansas State*W, 40-34 (2 OT)
Oct. 6Oklahoma*L, 29-24
Oct. 13Baylor*W, 38-7
Oct. 27at Oklahoma State*L, 13-10 (OT)
Nov. 3West Virginia*W, 28-14
Nov. 10at Texas Tech*L, 27-23
Nov. 17Iowa State*W, 17-7
Nov. 23 (11 a.m., FS1)at Kansas*W, 42-27
*Big 12 game

Note: Texas-Maryland is at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.; Texas-Oklahoma is at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas

The key game: Sept. 15, vs. USC. Same as it was last year — a major early-season test that will alter everyone’s perceptions.

The last 5 years

YEARW-L (CONF.)RANKINGSBOWL, RESULT
20138-5 (7-2)— / —Alamo, L
20146-7 (5-4)— / —Texas, L
20155-7 (4-5)— / —No bowl
20165-7 (3-6)— / —No bowl
20177-6 (5-4)23rd / —Texas, W
Total31-32 (24-21 Big 12)1-2 in bowls

Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final rankings.

Our Top 25, by conferences

1 school:

Big 12 — No. 25 Texas

Coming tomorrow: Our No. 24 team

Want a hint?

Texas hasn’t played this school since 2003, when Roy Williams caught four passes for 142 yards — setting a school record with a fifth straight 100-yard game.

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