Early Season Losses Still Haunting the Texas Longhorns
The Texas Longhorns are 4-0 in the Big 12 Conference and now 5-2 overall, and yet the team continues to not be ranked in either the Associated Press Top 25 or the Coaches’ Poll while teams below them in the Big 12 standings with one loss are all ranked. These teams include the Texas Tech Red Raiders, Oklahoma Sooners and Oklahoma State Cowboys, all of whom have one loss in conference play.
After huge struggles in losses to the BYU Cougars and Ole Miss Rebels early in the season, Texas’ play has improved dramatically on the defensive side of the ball and the offense has been managed with consistency by surprise starter Case McCoy filling in for the injured David Ash. The firing of former defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and the hire of Greg Robinson to replace him has brought a new level of technical competence and overall solid play from each of the units on the defensive side of the ball.
In a 30-7 drubbing of the TCU Horned Frogs in Fort Worth, the Longhorns defense showed glimpses of what was expected from them prior to the 2013 season. The Longhorns held TCU to only 246 yards of total offense on the evening, picking off QB Casey Pachall once and holding the Horned Frogs’ rushing attack to a total of 45 yards on the game. It was a dominating performance from a defensive unit that has a new instilled sense of pride and has been dominant over the course of the past few weeks.
Given Texas’ resurgence, and the number of two loss teams above them in the Top 25 in both the AP poll and the Coaches’ Poll it’s difficult to understand where the lack of respect is coming from among those with voting rights. Sure, the BYU and Ole Miss losses were brutal but a case can be made that Texas has proven since those games were an exception to the rule which promises that the 2013 season could end with a Big 12 Championship and at least 10 wins, neither of which would have seemed even remotely possible in mid-September.
Some cases in point of teams ranked in the Top 25 that are on the fringes include the UCLA Bruins who are now 5-2 and were destroyed by the Oregon Ducks in what appeared on paper to be one of this past Saturday’s better matchups and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish who have been all over the place with the inconsistent quarterback play of Tommy Rees.
It’s all about subjectivity when it comes to the way the Top 25 shakes out in the traditional polls, but if the Texas Longhorns continue to impress — especially with wins in late November against three top-ranked teams — it’ll be that much harder for them to continue to be punished for early season losses which are no longer a reflection of a team that has improved several times over since.
Kris Hughes is a Senior Writer and Business Analyst for Rant Sports.