Column: Bowl hopes slim in Strong’s first season at Texas

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With three games left in the season, Texas is facing the same fate it did at this point four years ago.

With a 4-5 record, the Longhorns must win two of their next three games to become bowl eligible and avoid missing the postseason for the first time since 2010 — their only losing season under former head coach Mack Brown. Brown’s team also had only four wins with three games remaining but only won one. 

However, with two top-25 teams left on the schedule, including one that has a shot at a College Football Playoff berth, Texas will most likely find itself out of bowl contention by the end of head coach Charlie Strong’s first season, much like the 2010 team.

In the last four years, Texas has beaten just three top-25 teams, all on the road, and the Longhorns have yet to beat a ranked opponent at home since 2008, losing 13 such contests in that time period. Furthermore, an unranked Texas team hasn’t beaten a ranked foe since 1998.

The numbers tell the story — Texas has struggled mightily against top-ranked teams. This season alone, the Longhorns are 0-4 against ranked teams, although they came close winning against UCLA and Oklahoma.

“Everyone’s ready to turn that around,” junior center Taylor Doyle said. “We’re excited to be back at home and have the support of our crowd. Everyone’s fired up and ready to prepare to go out and play this game.”

However, playing at home may not be much of an advantage for Texas, which has struggled at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium this season.

The Longhorns have won just two games on home turf this year and both have come against lowly opponents — North Texas and Iowa State. But for Texas to become bowl eligible, it must beat at least one top-25 team at home.

While possible, it will be a difficult task for a Longhorn team that has struggled to put together a complete game in all three phases — offense, defense and special teams — this season. The execution has been inconsistent, and Texas’ offense has had little spark, despite sophomore quarterback Tyrone Swoopes’ slight improvements throughout the season.

However, the Longhorns demonstrated clear progression in last Saturday’s 34-13 win over Texas Tech, putting up their highest point total in a road game this season. But one good performance hasn’t necessarily led to another for these Longhorns.

After putting up 48 points against Iowa State a few weeks ago, Texas travelled to Manhattan, Kansas, and got shut out by the Wildcats the following week. And, back in September, the Longhorns came close to beating a top-15 UCLA team, only to return home flat-footed against Baylor. 

Texas may be able to pull out a win against Oklahoma State, a team that has been equally inconsistent this season. However, it will struggle against West Virginia and TCU. And if history is any indication, Strong will find himself with a lot of free time come December.