Lift up the annual refrain: “This is going to be our year! No, we know we said that last year after Sark got hired and then promptly went 5-7, and the year that Tom Herman got hired and we went 7-6, and just about every year for the last decade with nothing much to show for it, but 2022? Yeah, it’s the year of the Texas Longhorn — for real this time, guys!’”
I won’t lie, I really do envy the eternal delusion that Longhorns fans live with. It’s a miraculous, against-all-odds sense of hope and optimism that even the strongest of us probably wouldn’t be able to keep up year after year. Of course, they’re often aided by national sports media inexplicably backing them up in their belief — ESPN updated their preseason Football Power Index ranking last week, and Texas — who, need I say again, went 5-7 last year — is ranked sixth. SIXTH. The number after five!
The teams ahead of them on the FPI are Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, Clemson, and Notre Dame. This means that Texas rests ahead of Michigan, Oklahoma, and Auburn, among many other questionable choices, in the preseason ranking. But hey, when is it not Texas’ year? In 2021, they started the AP Poll at No. 21 preseason. By the final poll, they received zero votes. In 2019, they were ranked at No. 10 — at least they managed to finish that season in the Top 25, clocking in at No. 25. 2020 was decent, I won’t erase that — they began at No. 14 and ended at No. 19 after finishing 7-3, at least somewhat meeting expectations, likely because the expectations were tempered. But 2018 was the last season that could have legitimately been called “Texas’ year,” and even that is a standalone in the last decade.
Year after year, the powers that be somehow buy into the Longhorns fans’ all-encompassing belief that next season is always their season. As always, there is some player or coach who they think is finally going to turn the program around, to get over the hump that they’ve been bumping against for a decade. It was Steve Sarkisian last year, whose biggest headline of the past year involved an assistant coach, a stripper, and a monkey. This year, it’s Ohio State transfer QB Quinn Ewers and standout RB Bijan Robinson.
Ewers has yet to be battle tested, having taken all of two snaps on a Division I field, but he does sport a fantastic mullet, so there’s some hope for you. There’s always a Guy, some transfer or recruit or hire meant to be the messiah who will return Texas to its glory days, but there’s no real reason to think that this year’s Guy will be any different than any other Guy — particularly as the Longhorns face Alabama in the second game of their 2022 season and follow that up with the regular matchups against strong Oklahoma and Oklahoma State teams in October.
Texas’ recruiting class of 2018 ranked third nationally. So did 2019’s. The recruiting class of 2020 ranked eighth. Yet the last time they even played in a Big 12 championship game was 2017. The last time they won was 2009. The 2022 draft class saw zero Texas Longhorns, marking the fourth time since 2014 that they’ve had zero or one player drafted, and 2019 barely beat that by sending two former players to the NFL. And yet ESPN, in a show of faith impressive to even the most religious among us, has them ranked sixth for the 2022 season — I mean, come on. The boosters’ reach doesn’t go that far, right?