It’s the beginning of the Steve Sarkisian era for the SEC-bound Texas Longhorns. Vegas has set the over/under on wins for the Longhorns at eight. There’s no doubt there is enough talent on the roster to meet and exceed eight wins, but can they do it?
Texas had the third-ranked recruiting class in the country in 2018 and 2019 and the eighth-ranked class in 2020. Talent is not an issue, but a new coaching staff implementing their schemes on offense and defense may mean a slow ramp-up. There are questions at quarterback, replacing Sam Ehlinger, and on the defensive side of the ball, replacing linebackers Joseph Ossai and Juwan Mitchell. There are also pieces in place that return. Running back Bijan Robinson, for instance, is a key player that Sarkisian hopes will help carry the Longhorns and ensure there isn’t a drop-off from last season.
Let’s take a look and see if eight wins are doable for Texas. Here’s the schedule breakdown.
September 4 vs. Louisiana
Louisiana is a favorite to win the Sun Belt Conference this season. They finished the 2020 season ranked number 19 in the country with a 10-1 record, their only loss to number 12 ranked Coastal Carolina. It won’t be an easy game for the Longhorns, but I’m predicting a win.
September 11 at Arkansas
Arkansas finished 3-7 in 2020 and they are picked to finish sixth in the SEC West Division in 2021. Barring some unforeseen circumstances, Texas should get the win.
September 18 vs. Rice
Rice only played five games last fall and finished with a 2-3 record. They’re picked near the bottom in Conference USA in 2021. This game is the easiest non-conference opponent for Texas, and they should get an easy victory.
September 25 vs. Texas Tech
Texas beat Texas Tech in overtime last year in Lubbock. This game could be close, but I think Texas will get the victory in Austin this year.
October 2 at TCU
When I wrote my TCU preview, I picked TCU to win this one. Gary Patterson’s squad has the experience edge and an experienced quarterback running the show. Their talent isn’t as good as the Longhorns, but it’s pretty close. Add to that the game is in Fort Worth, and I give the edge to TCU.
October 9 vs. Oklahoma
The future SEC foes face off in the Red River Showdown. Six of the last seven games have been decided by a touchdown or less. This one is likely to be close once again, but I give the edge to Oklahoma.
October 16 vs. Oklahoma State
The last four games between these two programs have been decided by seven points or fewer, and two of the four went to overtime. This one will likely be close again, but Oklahoma State has an experienced coaching staff, which should be to their advantage. There are some “knowns” with Oklahoma State coming into this season and a lot of “unknowns” with the Longhorns. Thus, I’m going with the Cowboys.
October 30 at Baylor
Texas breaks their three-game skid against the Bears in Waco.
November 6 at Iowa State
Iowa State is one of the favorites to win the conference and they get the Longhorns at home. I think the Cyclones get it done.
November 13 vs. Kansas
There’s no reason to think the Jayhawks will be able to beat the Longhorns. They’ve done it in the past, but I don’t see it this year. Talent prevails.
November 20 at West Virginia
The Mountaineers are going to have a solid and experienced offense returning in 2021 and their defense should be stout like it normally is. The slight edge goes to West Virginia. Prediction: Loss. November 26 vs. Kansas State
Texas destroyed K-State 69-31 in the 2020 regular-season finale in Manhattan. This year’s game looks to be much more competitive on paper, but there’s no way I can pick K-State in this one.
Season Prediction: 7-5
Best Case: 10-2. If they can win against Oklahoma State, TCU, and West Virginia, they can get to 10 wins. I think this is unlikely, but it’s possible.
Worst Case: 4-8. If they’re not ready out of the gate, they could get beat by Louisiana and/or Arkansas and K-State might get them at the end of the year. I don’t think this scenario is likely, either.
The bet: If you put a gun to my head I’d bet the under, but I think Vegas is about right at eight wins.