It is hard to determine at times which teams deserve to be in the top 25 after a set of games. During the offseason, it is even harder to determine the worth of a college football team. For the Associated Press, their viewpoints on worth are largely correct.
There was no controversy after the 2017 AP preseason AP top 25 College Football polls. The combination of last year’s success mixed with the overall offseason rebuilding progress with recruits and new coaches is all you have to project. This year, the Texas Longhorns is in the 23rd spot. Last season, they accounted for a 5-7 record which was the lowest of any team in the top 25. Except for the Longhorns, no other team in the preseason top 25 ranking finished with fewer than 8 wins.
The Longhorns were selected by the Associated Press mainly for the hiring of former Houston Cougars Head Coach Tom Herman. They are being predicted to finish 2nd in the Big 12 because they have ten returning defensive starters. While Texas has the potential to become a consistent team throughout the 2017 College Football season, the decision to rank them in the preseason top 25 seems to be a stretch. Evidence of this was shown on Saturday when they lost to the Maryland Terps at home 51-41.
While the Texas Longhorns were showing signs of improving on offense, it was their defense that struggled once again to finish the game. Last year, the Longhorns were 90th in the nation in points allowed per game (31.5) and 105th in passing yards allowed per game (258.5). The Longhorns gave up 482 total yards to Maryland including 263 rushing yards. Maryland had a more aggressive run game thanks to their spread-option scheme. Quarterback Tyrell Pigrome passed for 175 yards on 9 completions (out of 12 attempts), 2 touchdowns and an interception. Pigrome also had 11 runs for 64 yards and a touchdown. The Terps Offensive Line played better than the Longhorns Defensive Line and only allowed 1 sack and 2 tackles for losses.
Of the Longhorn’s 41 points, only three touchdowns were from the offense with Shane Buechele passing for two and rushing for one. Buechele passed for 375 yards on 34 completions (out of 52 attempts) for 2 touchdowns and an interception. He had an overall low QBR of 43.4. The Terps defense played very well as they shut down the running game and made the experienced Offensive Line for Texas look inconsistent.
The Terps went into halftime leading 30-14. They scored on a 71 yard blocked field goal return from Antonio Brooks and a 46-yard touchdown pass from Pigrome to WR Tavion Jacobs. The Longhorns did score 20 points in the 3rd quarter to get back into the game with a 37-34 score. The majority of the points scored by Texas were either from the special teams or on defense.
The #23 Texas Longhorns were an 18 and a half point favorite over the unranked Maryland Terps, but it felt like Texas couldn’t find the answers to stopping the Terps offense and finishing those consistent drives. The Texas kicking game was 0 for 2 on field goals. The defense for the Terps accounted for 5 sacks and 8 tackles for loss. Terps MLB Jermaine Carter Jr. accounted for 7 total tackles (all solo), 2 sacks, and 2 tackles for losses. The best defensive player of the game for Texas was DE Charles Omenihu, who accounted for 4 total tackles, 3 solo tackles, 1 sack, and 1 tackle for loss.
The Longhorns were put in tough situations in every phase of the game. This is something that comes along with the process of rebuilding mostly through coaching. It takes time for a new Head Coach to stabilize their team for a potential future threat in conference title races and playoff hopes. While Tom Herman has done a good job of rebuilding, there is still a lot to go for Texas to be a Big 12 conference winner and legitimate playoff threat. The early 23rd ranking in the preseason doesn’t give the indication that their progress has been completed and is ready for the playoff race. Potential doesn’t translate into physical evidence on the field without time and progress building the program. For the Texas Longhorns (0-1), they must be able to learn from their mistakes against Maryland and take the time to fix them before next Saturday’s home game against the San Jose State Spartans (1-1). It will not get easier for the Longhorns after that they will have to play at the #4 USC Trojans (1-0) in week 3 and then they start Big 12 conference play.