On September 7, 2019, the eyes of the college football world were focused on Austin, Texas. LSU and Texas met in the fading but still fabulous trend of a true home-and-home matchup between marquee Power 5 schools.
We know what happened. LSU won a thriller, Joe Burrow had his first and arguably biggest Heisman moment on the now famed 3rd and 17 play and LSU rode the momentum of that week two win all the way to a national title.
As for Texas? Weelllllllll a shoulda coulda woulda game against LSU spiraled into another lackluster season. The Longhorns, who spent all summer telling us they were back, limped to an 8-5 season highlighted by a rough 2-4 stretch between Halloween and Thanksgiving. Texas had some good mixed in with some bad: quarterback Sam Ehlinger improved as a passer but the Longhorn defense was one of the worst in school history allowing 432 yards a game.
So can Texas return the favor against LSU week two in Tiger Stadium? Let’s take a closer look at the Longhorns.
2019: 8-5 (5-4, Big 12), 26th in S&P+
2020 Recruiting Class Ranking: 8th
Head Coach: Tom Herman
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Yurcich
Defensive Coordinator: Chris Ash
The best thing Texas has going for them is quarterback Sam Ehlinger is back for his senior season. Continuity is critical and it’s why the Longhorns have the second best odds to win the Big 12. Quarterback will be an edge for Texas in the LSU game no matter what way you slice it. Myles Brennan could throw for 500 yards and seven touchdowns against UTSA but frankly those will be empty calories.
Ehlinger’s been there and done that. He’s beaten Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry; he’s played in a Big 12 Title Game and won a Sugar Bowl. Ehlinger accounted for nearly 4,500 yards of offense and scored 39 touchdowns last year. He’s improved as a passer and is a force when he runs the ball thanks to his imposing 230-pound frame.
Speaking of imposing ball carriers, Keaontay Ingram is back for his junior season in Austin. After only starting a pair of games in 2018, Ingram took over full time as a sophomore and had 853 yards on just 144 carries. Add in his 29 catches for 242 yards and you’re looking at 1,145 yards from scrimmage on only 173 touches.
While LSU’s passing game will look different without Joe Burrow, Texas’ passing game will look different for opposite reasons. Sure Ehlinger’s back, but his top-two targets from last year Devin Duvernay and Collin Johnson are gone; and in a recent development, Brennan Eagles who is projected to be Texas’ No. 1 wide receiver this year is threatening to not play this year due to the race relations in America. If Eagles does continue his protest, and by all accounts it seems like he’s standing by his convictions, Texas could be breaking in an entirely new receiving corp against one of the best secondaries in the nation.
Up front, Ehlinger has an experienced offensive line blocking for him including one of the best left tackles in college football Samuel Cosmi. We talked about how defensive end is a big question mark for LSU in 2020, and going up against Cosmi, who is a projected first round pick in next April’s draft, will be a great opening test for the Tiger defense. If someone can beat Cosmi off the edge, there’s reason to be optimistic about the defense’s ability to get after any quarterback.
Defensively, Texas is changing things up starting at the top. Todd Orlando’s 3-3-5 alignment is out, Chris Ash and the 4-3 is in. Ash and Herman worked together while the two were at Iowa State and they were the coordinators for Ohio State’s national title team in 2014. Since the two went their separate ways, Ash was the head coach at Rutgers for three years. While his stint at Piscataway wasn’t a success, Ash has had great defenses as a coordinator. He’s had top-25 units in total defenses at Wisconsin (2011 and ‘12), Arkansas (2013) and Ohio State (2014).
Ash has a lot of experience to work with. Texas brings back just about every linebacker and defensive linemen of consequence from last year’s group. It starts with junior linebacker Joseph Ossai who led Texas in tackles (90), tackles for loss (13.5), sacks (5), and was second in interceptions (2). Also look for sophomore Ayodele Adeoye to build off a productive freshman season that saw him finish fifth in tackles with 45.
In the Longhorn secondary, the one who falsely claims the DBU mantle, the most productive returning player is Caden Sterns and will be the leader of the unit. That’s assuming of course he’s recovered from the vicious stiff arm Justin Jefferson handed him.
The Longhorns also bring back place kicker Cameron Dicker, aka Dicker the Kicker. Dicker’s best known for kicking a 40-yard game winning field goal against Oklahoma in 2018 as a freshman and had a solid sophomore season, hitting 14 of 18 attempts.
September 5: vs. South Florida
September 12: @ LSU
September 19: vs. UTEP
September 26: BYE
October 3: @ Kansas State
October 10: vs. Oklahoma (Cotton Bowl)
October 17: vs. West Virginia
October 24: @ Texas Tech
October 31: vs. Baylor
November 7: @ Kansas
November 14: vs. TCU
November 21: vs. Iowa State
November 27 (Friday): @ Oklahoma State