As the only team with a losing record from 2016 ranked in the top 25 of the Coaches Poll in 2017, they have something to prove.
Any number of predictions for the Texas Longhorns in 2017 could be considered bold. Any team staring down the possibility of their fourth consecutive losing season makes any prediction that the Longhorns will contend bold.
However, a No. 23 ranking in the Amway Coaches Poll signifies some respect from the voters and media. The good news for Texas is that their brand name is so big that it’s hard not to put them in the College Football Playoff if they win the Big 12. Texas is one of the most recognizable brands in college football.
The ultimate goal for first-year head coach Tom Herman and the Longhorns this year is measurable progress. Winning the Big 12 would be huge. Yet, winning at least eight games is a reasonable expectation for 2017.
The talent is there for Texas to succeed, Herman just needs to piece it together. Quarterback Shane Buechele is a four-star recruit with a solid foundation that could finally be the consistent option Texas needs under center. The receiving corps has skill, led by former Baylor transfer Devin Duvernay, Collin Johnson, and Armanti Foreman. And running back Chris Warren III showed flashes of greatness already in his career.
Defensively, Texas could be the best in the Big 12. The linebacker group is the best in the conference, led by potential All-American Malik Jefferson. Outside linebacker Breckyn Hager and middle linebacker Anthony Wheeler round out the trio.
Key games to watch for Texas in 2017 includes out of conference meetings with the Maryland Terrapins and USC Trojans. In the Big 12, Texas faces Oklahoma State and Kansas State at home while facing the Oklahoma Sooners in their annual Red River Game in Dallas.