A three-game winning streak has No. 22 Texas back in the discussion for a berth in the Big 12 championship game.
Nonetheless, fourth-year coach Tom Herman engaged in a discussion about his job security this week as the Longhorns (5-2, 4-2 Big 12) prepared for a game Saturday at Kansas (0-7, 0-6).
Such is the nature of one of the nation’s richest football programs, especially when a spot in the College Football Playoff will likely elude the Longhorns again despite their recent surge.
Texas has never participated in the CFP after last reaching the Bowl Championship Series in 2009 with a loss in the national championship game. The 2009 season also was the last time the Longhorns captured a Big 12 title.
“It gets exhausting more than anything to have to extinguish all of these unfounded, baseless claims that are hidden behind unnamed sources and agendas,” Herman said. “I don’t know why it’s more here at Texas than other places, but it is and it’s something that we deal with on a daily basis.”
A bye week coming off a 17-13 victory over West Virginia allowed the rumor mill more time to churn.
“We understand the difference,” said Herman, “between vocal minorities and people who make decisions and their beliefs.”
A loss at Kansas in 2016 solidified the dismissal of Charlie Strong and led to the hiring of Herman at Texas. While Herman’s 30-17 ride has been bumpy, the Longhorns are beginning to heal from a rash of injuries and ride a defense that leads the Big 12 with 13 takeaways.
Getting the offense untracked is another matter. During its win streak, Texas has not put up arcade numbers typical of Big 12 contenders, averaging a pedestrian 26 points and 5.1 yards per snap, though quarterback Sam Ehlinger has played with a depleted group of receivers.
Kansas, which took Texas to the wire last season before falling 50-48 on a last-second field goal, is looking at the possibility of going winless for just the third time in history. A 12th consecutive losing season is already assured.
In his second season as coach, Les Miles is committed to a youth movement that finds the Jayhawks losing by an average of 33.3 points.
“We said from the beginning, we’re starting a four- to five-year process,” said Kansas athletic director Jeff Long, who fired David Beaty after the 2018 season and hired Miles. “I’m not making that up now because we’ve lost some games. That has been the plan. We’re working that plan. We’re doing it the right way.”
The Jayhawks are coming off a bye week but how it benefits quarterback Jalon Daniels remains a question. The true freshman has been limited at practice after absorbing nine sacks before suffering an injury in a 62-7 loss at Oklahoma on Nov. 7.
Daniels is among six true freshmen who have started for Kansas. Its roster includes 37 true freshmen, the most of any team in the Big 12, including 24 who have played this season.
This week, safety Davon Ferguson became the third Kansas starter to opt out in-season. Running back Pooka Williams and linebacker Dru Prox left previously.
–Field Level Media