Texas Football: Analyzing the 2017 Nonconference Schedule
Sep 4, 2016; Austin, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns linebacker Malcolm Roach (32) celebrates during the third quarter against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
How does Texas’ nonconference schedule look for the 2017 football season?
Texas finished off their 2016 football season in disappointing fashion. They lost their final three games of the season to West Virginia, TCU, and the worst of all to Kansas, 24-21. The Jayhawks have been one of the worst teams in the Big 12 for a few seasons, making the loss a significant one for not only the Longhorns, but for Charlie Strong. This further dampened his tenure for the school, who fired him less than two weeks later.
Since Texas doesn’t have a bowl game, they can already start looking forward to the 2017 season. They will have head coach Tom Herman running the show after two successful seasons running Houston. Expectations will likely be high for him in Austin, but there will be plenty of time to prepare for the upcoming year.
One way that Herman can start getting ready for next season is evaluating the schedule. While the Big 12 opponents listed on FBSchedules.com is already a given, there are also three nonconference games, two of which are at home. The one road game may be a difficult one against one of the hottest teams in college football.
How could Texas fare against any of these three opponents? What could their record be heading into Big 12 play? Let’s break down how the beginning of the 2017 season is going to look for the Horns.
Nov 12, 2016; College Park, MD, USA; Maryland Terrapins quarterback Caleb Rowe (7) throws during the second quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
3. Maryland – September 2, 2017
Texas is going to open the 2017 season against Maryland, who finished 2016 at 6-6 and struggled mightily throughout the season half of the year.
The Terrapins tore through Howard, FIU, UCF, and Purdue to start the season. However, they would then drop six of the last eight games, including five of those losses being by 21 or more points. This landed them fifth in the Big Ten East.
The 2017 Maryland team will likely feature a new quarterback as senior Perry Hills is set to depart. This leaves dual-threat Tyrrell Pigrome, a freshman quarterback who flashed his speed in limited opportunity throughout the fall. This includes 254 rushing yards and four touchdowns. His passing isn’t necessarily a strength (52.1 completion percentage), but he only saw 71 attempts.
Maryland will also bring back underclassmen running backs Ty Johnson and Lorenzo Harrison, who combined for over 1,400 yards on the ground. These two and Pigrome could potentially mean that Texas will be battling a run-heavy offense, something mostly unseen in the pass-happy Big 12. The Longhorns allowed 4.1 yards per carry in 2016, which put them at about the middle of the pack.
Defense wasn’t a strength for the Terps with their noted five losses of more than 21 points. They surrendered a staggering 16 rushing touchdowns in the final five games of the season (30 total for the year) and finished with the third-worst rush defense in the nation. This could mean a big day is in store for potential 2017 starting running back, Chris Warren III. He flashed some promise with two 100-yard games against Oklahoma State and California.
Maryland shouldn’t be the most difficult of opponents for Texas, but that will depend on how they can handle their running game. With a steady front seven featuring Breckyn Hager, Anthony Wheeler, and Malik Jefferson, they may be able to limit the ground game and set up a potential victory.
Nov 26, 2016; Fresno, CA, USA; San Jose State Spartans quarterback Kenny Potter (5) prepares to throw a pass against the Fresno State Bulldogs in the second quarter at Bulldog Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
2. San Jose State – September 9, 2017
San Jose State would have a poor 2016 regular season. They finished 4-8, never had back to back wins, and had three of victories with a combined 12-point margin. So, they didn’t exactly dominate in their only positive moments of the season.
The Spartans had a rough passing game for most of the year, led by outgoing senior quarterback Kenny Potter. His replacement may be freshman Josh Love, who started against Iowa State and three four interceptions in a 44-10 loss. His completion percentage through two starts was also hovering around 50. If Love is starting against Texas next season, they could take advantage of the potential growing pains that this sophomore quarterback could go through.
The running back group for SJSU should continue to be solid, though. They will bring back Malik Robertson, Dante Cooper, and Zamore Zigler who combined for about 1,400 yards. All of them are underclassmen and could develop further in 2017 to help establish the identity of this young football team.
San Jose State didn’t exactly have a strong defense either. They allowed 5.5 yards per carry to running backs (ninth worst in the FBS) for 2,960 yards (seventh worst).
This isn’t the most threatening team for Texas to face, and could be an easy win very early into the year. Besides the potential ground attack of SJSU, there’s not much to fear.
Nov 26, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold (14) throws a pass against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during a NCAA football game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. USC defeated Notre Dame 45-27. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
1. USC – September 16, 2017
Has it really been over a decade since Texas and USC faced off for the National Championship? Wasn’t Vince Young just running into the end zone to put the Longhorns up with just 19 seconds remaining? Well, by the time these teams play each other, it will have been over 11 years since this classic game. Things have certainly changed for both schools since as they have completely different identities and dealt with issues over the years.
Aside from the history, by far the toughest of the three nonconference opponents for Texas will be USC, who finished 9-3 and will receive a Rose Bowl bid to face Penn State.
USC looked to be down and out early on in the 2016 season, but the rise of quarterback Sam Darnold and a stout defense turned things around for the previously 1-3 team. They won eight straight games, including beating No. 4 Washington, to finish the season and have enough momentum to carry into 2017.
The test for Texas will be stopping Darnold, who will come into next season as a redshirt sophomore. He looked like a potential NFL quarterback with the throws and overall performances he put up. This includes a completion percentage of nearly 70-percent, even with over 25 passing attempts in every start. The California native has a strong arm as well, which should only continue to be shown off as he goes into the next college football season.
This may be a difficult game for Texas, potentially as much as the Oklahoma and Oklahoma State matchups. They’re going up against the Pac-12 best rush defense, statistically, but may face an Adoree’ Jackson-less secondary. If Shane Buechele is still around in Austin, will this mean there’s an opening in the USC secondary to light up?
Another thing going against Texas is the location. They will have to go on the road to Southern Cal to play this game. Will this be a factor?
Factoring in these three nonconference opponents, we could see Texas finish 2-1 before heading into the Big 12 games. There’s still a long time to get to this, though, especially with teams still finding out if they’re losing players to the NFL or transfer. How could the Longhorns make out with their first three games of the season?
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