WVU, Texas: Which Had The Better 2019?
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — You might want to be seated before you dig into today’s fare as it might offer ahypothesis that at first glance could knock you off your feet.
And this may be doubly true if you happen to reading this in Austin, Texas.
Here goes: West Virginia had as good and probably a better football season than the Texas Longhorns.
I know, on the surface that seems absurd, one Big 12 team finishing its season at 5-7 having a better year than a team that finished 7-5, especially when that 7-5 school is traditionally one of the glamour teams in the conference and beat the other as a visitor, 42-31.
Impossible, you say?
Not so, say I.
To measure the success of any team you must take into account expectations coming into the season. Take the headline in USA Today over its story presenting its Big 12 power rankings:
“Everybody is chasing Oklahoma, but Texas isn’t far behind.”
This was what the paper had to say about Texas, followed by a projected 9-3 record.
“There’s a ton to like about Texas, including the potential Heisman Trophy push from quarterback Sam Ehlinger and the program’s recruiting prowess under Tom Herman. However, there is a lack of experience and unanswered questions dotting the defensive front seven.”
Well, that didn’t happen.
WVU, on the other hand, was selected selected to finish seventh in the conference and lived up to the 5-7 mark predicted.
“The Mountaineers reeled in a coach on the rise in Neal Brown after Dana Holgorsen’s departure but must be patient while he installs new schemes and finds replacements at quarterback, wide receiver, on the the offensive line and in the pass rush,” the paper wrote.
As it turns out, WVU found every part of that under Brown but the offensive line and a key injury to Josh Sills left it with no chance there.
The Big 12 media poll saw it pretty much the same way with Texas picked second to Oklahoma and garnering the only nine first-place votes that didn’t go to the Sooners.
What’s more, the Longhorns’ quarterback Ehlinger, a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate and the league’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, was just one of the other quarterbacks not named Jalen Hurts. While Ehlinger was unable to put Texas on his back and carry the Longhorns, Neal Brown showed great patience in not jumping to Jarret Doege as his quarterback, yet using the new four-game redshirt rule to get enough of a look at him to leave a taste for more in fans’ mouths for next year.
Right now, which fans do you think are happier going into the off-season, the Texas fans who were promised a return to prominence when Herman was hired from Houston but remained the shadow of Oklahoma and with no separation from Baylor, Iowa State or Oklahoma State? Or those of West Virginia, which were bolstered by two road wins in its final three games?
Herman did what he could to calm a now-edgy fan base throughout Texas.
“We’re going to be OK. Things are still heading in the right direction,” he said. “Obviously we’re not happy with the totality of the season. The kids are fighting. We’ve got a lot of young, talented players that will be able to have another year, some of them their first year, under their belt to develop and fill some of these really big shoes that these seniors will leave. The future is very, very bright. But we’re not oblivious to the fact that we’ve got to evaluate what needs to be fixed and fix it.”
The evaluation was swift and eventful. Even before heading to a bowl Herman revamped his coaching staff, something a coach who sees things going in the right direction seldom does.
Just days after beating Texas Tech in the regular season finale, the university announced major changes on the football staff, including the firing of defensive coordinator Todd Orlando and outside receivers coach Drew Mehringer. Herman also demoted offensive coordinator Tim Beck and inside receivers coach Corby Meekins.
Is Texas better off right now than WVU?
I’m not sure you can say it is, especially since in this coming season Herman will be operating under the glare that comes from having the eyes of Texas upon him while Brown is secure in the second year of a rebuilding program, a program that made huge strides in its first year.