Sure, it’s July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our eighth annual countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff.
Last year’s CFP semifinalists were ranked Nos. 1, 2, 7 and 17 on our 2016 list.
Best-case scenario: At this point, just getting back to a bowl game constitutes progress. But this coaching staff expects more. Shane Buechele needs to show progress both athletically and verbally, and Chris Warren III needs to stay healthy. A defense chalk full of experienced players is eager to roll with Todd Orlando’s scheme. The Big 12 is wide open.
Worst-case scenario: Early losses to Maryland and USC would cripple this group’s psyche. The coaching staff fears losing Buechele and turning things over to freshman Sam Ehlinger, who could use more seasoning. Any injuries on the defensive line would be difficult to absorb.
The key game: Sept. 16, at USC. The rematch of the 2005 national title game will draw plenty of attention and eyeballs. Texas’ trip to USC will be a huge measuring stick for both the Longhorns and this coaching staff.
INSIDE THE LONGHORNS
Coach: Tom Herman (first year; 22-4 overall at Houston)
2016: 5-7, 3-6 in the Big 12 (no bowl)
Returning starters: 7 offense, 10 defense
Goodbye: RB D’Onta Foreman (Texans, 3rd round); QB/TE Tyrone Swoopes (Seahawks, undrafted free agent); G Kent Perkins, DT Paul Boyette Jr. (Raiders, UFA), LB Tim Cole, S Dylan Haines
Spring cleaning: Herman looked for a graduate transfer at quarterback but came up empty. Meanwhile, there was typical attrition that happens after all coaching changes. DL Jordan Elliott, G Brandon Hodges and TE Peyton Aucoin all headed elsewhere, and WR Jake Oliver quit football.
RETURNING STAT LEADERS
Passing: Shane Buechele, 236-391-2,958, 21/11
Rushing: Chris Warren III, 62-366-3 (2nd)
Receiving: Armanti Foreman, 34-420-3 (1st); Dorian Leonard 29-397-3 (4th)
Tackles: LB Anthony Wheeler, 65 (1st); DE/LB Breckyn Hager, 64 (2nd), LB Malik Jefferson, 62 (3rd)
Sacks: DE/LB Breckyn Hager, 6 (1st); LB Malik Jefferson, 5.5 (2nd)
RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS (8)
Offense: QB Shane Buechele (offensive freshman of the year), OT Connor Williams (1st team, offensive lineman of the year), C Zach Shackelford (hon. men.)
Defense: DL Malcolm Roach (freshman defensive player of the year), P Michael Dickson (special teams player of the year), DL Breckyn Hager (2nd team), DT Poona Ford (hon. men.), DT Chris Nelson (hon. men.)
Poll position: Just because Texas has a new coaching staff does not mean the program will return to national prominence overnight. Remember, UT has cracked the final Associated Press Top 25 poll only once this decade — 19th, back in 2012. Herman faces a tall task, but there are incredible rewards if he can get it done.
Watching Williams: Fans should really enjoy LT Connor Williams. Assuming he stays injury free, Williams should go through the season as one of the best left tackles in college football and jump into the 2018 NFL draft. Williams’ play should motivate Patrick Hudson and Denzel Okafor. But while the left side of the offensive line is set, the right tackle position is a huge question mark.
The whistle whisperer: With Herman at the controls, there should be fewer in-game coaching mistakes. No more botched coin tosses. No more questionable decisions on fourth-down play calls or whether to punt. And for goodness sake, with an emphasis on special teams, no more blocked extra points. Eliminating self-inflicted mistakes alone could notch a victory or two.
|DATE||OPPONENT||LAST YR'S RESULT (IF PLAYED)|
|Sept. 9||San Jose State|
|Sept. 16||at USC|
|Sept. 28||at Iowa State*||W, 27-6|
|Oct. 7||Kansas State*||L, 24-21|
|Oct. 14||Oklahoma*||L, 45-40|
|Oct. 21||Oklahoma State*||L, 49-31|
|Oct. 28||at Baylor*||W, 35-34|
|Nov. 4||at TCU*||L, 31-9|
|Nov. 11||Kansas*||L, 24-21|
|Nov. 18||at West Virginia*||L, 24-20|
|Nov. 24||Texas Tech*||W, 45-37|
|* Big 12 game|
The last 5 years
|YEAR||W-L (CONF.)||RANKING||BOWL GAME|
|TOTAL||33-30 (24-21)||1-2 in bowls|
|2012||9-4 (5-4)||15th/19th||W, Alamo|
|2013||8-5 (7-2)||NR/NR||L, Alamo|
|2014||6-7 (5-4)||NR/NR||L, Texas|
|2015||5-7 (4-5)||NR/NR||No bowl|
|2016||5-7 (3-6)||NR/NR||No bowl|
Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final rankings.
2016 NATIONAL TEAM STAT RANKS
Scoring: 46th (31.9 ppg)
Points allowed: 90th (31.5 ppg)
Passing: 50th (252.0 ypg)
Rushing: 17th (239.3 ypg)
Total off.: 16th (491.3 ypg)
Total def.: 94th (448.3 ypg)
OUR TOP 25 SO FAR
No. 25: Boise State
No. 24: Oregon
No. 23: Tennessee
No. 22: Texas
No. 21: Coming Sunday. Want a hint? This school is one of only a few that produced at least one player taken in the NFL, MLB, NBA and WNBA drafts this year. Oh, and it’s a Big 12 team.
1: Big 12 (22-Texas); Mountain West (25-Boise State); Pac-12 (24-Oregon); SEC (23-Tennessee)
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