Many expect Texas to improve in 2017 under new head coach Tom Herman. A season-opening home loss vs. Maryland is hardly convincing. What do you think? You buying in or selling out on the Longhorns the rest of the season? They’re fade city for us. Here’s our take.
New Longhorns head coach Tom Herman made is clear this week it would take a lot longer than four quarters to fix the myriad of problems plaguing Texas. The former Houston leader has a lot of work ahead by the looks of it. Texas fell 51-41 hosting Maryland as a 17.5-point favorite in the opener. Defense was still on summer vacation in the loss, the Longhorns surrendering the most points in a debut in team history. Texas now has 11 games to win 8 total and cash its 'over/under' 7.5-win total for 2017. Fat chance.
Here’s a reality check. First, Texas has strung together three losing seasons in a row. It owned an average margin of victory of 0.4 points last season, which is not a solid foundation for huge gains in 2017. Since 1980, the team has improved on last year’s mark by more than a touchdown just five times. This number is important because the team averages a 7.0 point differential or higher in all but 3 of the 23 times it pieced together 8 regular-season wins in this span. That futures bet is already looking like history.
Second, the Maryland line was super inflated, making the defeat worse than it appeared. The Longhorns had no business going off as low as they did. The Terps, a Power 5 program, played about 4 points worst last season. A date at Austin, different conferences, and a new coach and system did not validate a 17-point spread. In fact, after the Maryland win, Big Ten teams are now 15-5 SU and ATS vs. Big 12 opponents in their last 20 when each played within a touchdown of each other the year before. Mind the gap.Look-Ahead
So, what can bettors expect the rest of the year from the Longhorns? Baby steps improvement at best, and maybe a bowl invite. Here’s a look at their remaining schedule and our expectations for the team:
Week 2: San Jose State (H)
One of two “gimmes” on the schedule. Texas easily wins, but expect growing pains to continue. The Spartans cover 27.5 points.
Week 3: at USC
The Trojans opened -12.5 point favorites in advanced lines for the L.A. date. It could climb to two touchdowns following the Longhorns’ ugly debut. USC claims victory, but we’re buying in on the spread if the Longhorns catch 14 points or more.
Week 4: Bye
Week 5: at Iowa State
Texas gets a week off to prep for a tough date at Jack Trice Stadium. On paper, this is a coin-flip game, and the line will be within a touchdown either way. The Longhorns have twice played in Ames with a single-digit spread: in 2013, they eked out a 31-30 win as 7.5-point favorites, yet were routed 24-0 by the Cyclones in their last visit (2015) as 4-point chalk.
Week 6: Kansas State
Kansas State ranks 19th in the AP Poll for a reason. It won 9 games last season and has all the ingredients to better the mark this year. The offense returns eight starters, including quarterback Jesse Ertz. Texas needs to get that defense in order quickly. The Wildcats have won three of their last six visits to Austin, each as underdogs. We give them a 60/40 shot at an outright victory here.
Week 7: Oklahoma (Dallas)
Oddsmakers posted Oklahoma an 8-point favorite in advanced lines for the Red River Showdown. The Longhorns always show up for this rivalry. They have covered the spread in the last four, winning two outright as double-digit underdogs. The Sooners do not let a victory slip away this season, but taking Texas at +7 or higher is a good bet. Chances are the Longhorns will be catching 10-plus points for the fifth time in a row.
Week 8: Oklahoma State
If Maryland put up 51 points on the Texas defense, what will Heisman candidate Mason Rudolph and crew score? Oklahoma State has won its last four trips to Austin, all but one by 12 points or more. The Longhorns kicked off single-digit dogs in each of those and will likely get 7-10 points here. Cowboys win again, and probably cover as well.
Week 9: at Baylor
Going on last year’s numbers, this game would be a 50-50 encounter in Waco under normal circumstances. This season is anything but for Baylor, as evident in its season-opening loss to FCS Liberty as 30-point chalk. The Bears are sinking, and sinking fast. Until last week, Texas gave Baylor its second-biggest betting loss in its last visit, winning 23-17 as a 21-point underdog. Longhorns prevail again, but this time at a much fairer price.
Week: 10 at TCU
Oddsmakers pegged TCU 5-point chalk in advanced wagering, which will likely climb if the season unfolds as expected. The Longhorns are 5-0 SU and ATS in visits to Amon G. Carter Stadium with a single-digit line. This is where Texas puts it all together and picks up their signature win of the season -- and at a price.
Week 11: Kansas
Like San Jose State, this is an easy win for the Longhorns. They should kick off favorites by two touchdowns or more. Anything less, lay the points.
Week 12: at West Virginia
Outside of USC, this is Texas’ toughest game on the schedule. No program looks forward to a late November trip to Morgantown and the cold, windy fortress that is Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. West Virginia will win by a touchdown, and anything less on the spread should be purchased.
Week 13: Texas Tech
Texas wins this home matchup vs. the Red Raiders by a field goal or more. Whether it’s for a guaranteed bowl invite is up in the air. The Longhorns will sport a lowly 4 or 5 wins into the encounter and leave fans with optimism for 2018.