Texas Football: What is the outlook for the 2018 season?

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

The Texas Longhorns football team traveled three hours to Houston for an important Texas Bowl victory over Missouri to close the 2017 season.

This means Texas finished with a winning record at 7-6 for the first time since Mack Brown’s last season in 2013. It also means Texas won a bowl game for the first time since the 2012 Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.

Now that Texas has erased that history, it’s time for Tom Herman and the Longhorns to build toward national prominence again.

So, what is the outlook on the 2018 Longhorns season?

Texas Must Find Offensive Identity

The Texas Bowl captured the entire Texas season. The defense was elite, the punting from Michael Dickson was stellar, and the offense had its moments. But, there remains a great deal of concern about the offense moving forward. (When Michael Dickson needs to punt 11 times in a game, there is definitely an issue with the offense.)

Offensive coordinator Tim Beck called a great first quarter, utilizing RB Daniel Young in pass situations that Missouri was not prepared for. This was followed by inept second and third quarters where the offense squandered field position, could not string together first downs, and allowed Missouri to climb back into the game.

In addition to the playcalling, there are two big concerns with the offense. The first is a lack of a clear QB to lead this team. Shane Buechele started, then Sam Ehlinger spelled him. They went back and forth throughout the game before Ehlinger finished out the victory.

Secondly, there is no consistent rushing attack from the RB position. Freshman Daniel Young ended up the leading rusher in the game with 48 yards on the ground. As a team, Texas only totaled 113 yards on 42 carries for a putrid 2.7 team average.

The lack of consistent, traditional attack can be captured by two items:

  • The predictable Ehlinger run up the middle on 3rd and short that Missouri easily defended.
  • The poorly-executed sideline-to-sideline sweep plays on first down.

Missouri totaled 11 tackles for loss in this game. That is a ridiculous number of TFLs for one team. It captured how big of a problem Texas has running the ball as a team and being able to block for RBs.

Moving forward to 2018, Texas needs to find an offensive identity that includes a consistent and healthy QB, a go-to wide receiver, and dependable RBs who can break big runs. They must. Otherwise, the Longhorns will be stuck in the same middle-of-the-road position next season.

Texas Defense Must Continue to Be Elite

The Longhorns are in great shape on defense led by DC Todd Orlando. Despite playing without key players like Malik Jefferson and DeShon Elliott, the Longhorns held Missouri in check in the Texas Bowl. The defense even scored a TD on a fumble recovery and worked with lethal punter Michael Dickson to force a safety.

Assuming that Jefferson leaves for the NFL Draft, the clear leader going forward is middle linebacker Gary Johnson, who was a monster against Missouri. Johnson led the team with 10 tackles and forced Missouri QB Drew Lock out of his comfort zone in blitz packages.

Another defensive star in the Texas Bowl was P.J. Locke, who will be a senior next season. Then, there is Breckyn Hager, who will be joining Malcolm Roach setting the edges in 2018.

The Longhorns need to get more pressure on the QB from their defensive line, but the linebackers and defensive backs are in great position. The DBs are especially in good hands because of the ridiculously loaded DB group that Tom Herman signed for the 2018 season.

Todd Orlando has the defense firing right now. If they can get some help from the offense, the Longhorns will be ready to take off after winning the Texas Bowl to close the 2017 season.

2018 Non-Conference Schedule Presents Big Tests

The first half of the Texas Longhorns 2018 schedule is loaded with big tests.

Texas starts with a non-conference re-match against Maryland at FedEx Field. This will be a big revenge game after Maryland put 51 points on the board against the Longhorns to start the 2017 season.

Then, Texas gets Tulsa at home before the big trilogy game against USC. We’ll know a lot about the Longhorns after they complete the non-conference schedule.

This is followed by three big tests to kick off the Big 12 schedule: TCU at home, a trip to Kansas State, and the annual Red River Rivalry game against Oklahoma in Dallas.

The real kicker is there is no bye week. Texas will be playing six straight games over the first six weeks of the 2018 college football season. This includes five games in the month of September. Then, the bye week comes after the seventh game at home against Baylor.

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Texas has nine months to prepare for September 1 against Maryland. The Texas Bowl was a great way to cap off the 2017 season, but now is the time for Tom Herman to get the Texas Longhorns ready for a run at a conference championship and beyond.