In this Texas Longhorns Report Card article, we will cover these things:
Define My Report Card System
The Texas Longhorns 2023 Report Card
Look back to the Texas Longhorns 2022 Report Card
Project forward to how the 2024 Longhorns might do by position group
Bonus content for the Texas rivals
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My Report Card System
There has often been a debate in the Texas fan base for years about what is a successful season. Full credit here goes to Bobby Burton at "On Texas Football" (YouTube Channel) for sparking this framework of a Texas Longhorns grading system in my mind. What if I gave you a grading system that I think would be true for the Texas Longhorns (and possibly any college program) no matter what the current state of the team is?
What I have tried to do is translate objective milestones into the familiar schoolhouse grades. Here is my proposal.
This is the scale we can apply during the current 4-team playoff era.
The goal at Texas should always have been to win their conference. Making the CCG (Conference Championship Game) and losing it felt like just missing out from making an A in Chemistry at UT. Winning the CCG feels like that A- grade. Making the playoffs like this year makes the season an A. It is truly something to celebrate.
You can see the other grades and how they line up. For Texas beating OU in an otherwise fairly mediocre year turns the C+ into a B-.
As one reflects on this scale and recent history, it has been not good here in Austin. Here are the season records since Texas A&M left the conference. I pick that as the start of this scale because I think a different scale was probably a reality before that.
Why have Texas fans been so frustrated? Why have UT haters been so snarky? The data on the right shows it and every Longhorns fan has lived it.
With the new 12-team playoff and Texas moving to the SEC, I think a redefinition of the scale is appropriate.
Having both OU and A&M on the schedule each year would give Texas fans two opportunities to have that sinking feeling of losing to the rivals. Win them both and even that mediocre season would feel better.
With Texas in the 16-team SEC, it may be easier to make the 12-team playoff than it will to win the SEC Championship. Doing either will feel like that B+. Getting a bye into the quarterfinal or winning that opening round game will feel like that A- and really start the celebrating. That is the bar Texas fans really should strive for every year in my opinion.
Win the quarterfinal game and get into the semifinals will feel like getting into the 4-team field now. That is an A. The rest is the same as the scale is now.
This is my scale for the overall season, but I think we can add metrics for the offense, defense, special teams, and recruiting. Think of these as filling out your semester course load with an opportunity to impact your overall GPA.
Here is my full listing of a Texas Longhorns football report card.
I have metrics for points and yards per game. Interestingly, they don't ALWAYS matchup. I have a slightly more lenient scale for special teams and a more challenging one for recruiting. Texas has huge advantages for recruiting being in Texas and the expectations should be higher there.
The Texas Longhorns 2023 Report Card
We know the 2023 season was great. How does Texas do on my report card for the 2023 season? This data is from College Football Reference.
In the third line, I show the rating for each metric based on the actual statistics I show at the bottom of this article.
The offense was good at all aspects offensively which was true for most of the teams in the top 10. The Longhorns had an A- overall on offense and could attack defenses in many ways.
The same is not true on defense. Overall, the defense was very good at not giving up points- an A-. However, that was due to their ELITE run defense. The Horns pass defense was terrible. To be fair though, this dichotomy in performance may have been caused by teams abandoning the run and just passing non-stop. That is indeed what happened.
The Longhorns defense faced the run the third fewest times per game in the FBS. Texas defended the pass the fifth most times in the FBS. As you might guess from those numbers, the Horns faced the pass 56% of the time which was the highest in the FBS. So, yes, the pass defense was not good; it rates an F here. It was so bad because teams had no other choice but to pass.
Even with the pass defense woes, the Horns defense rated 15th in points allowed. When PK arrived, I remember him saying his goal was to have a defense that gave up less than 20 points per game. The Longhorns did that in 2023 with 18.9 PPG allowed. Put all of the defensive factors together, and I grade the Texas defense a B.
The special teams unit was also very good overall. Bert Auburn kicked the Horns to first in points with field goals and extra points. The rest of the stats are shown at the bottom of the table. Overall, I rated the special teams a B+.
The recruiting has also been great for the 2024 class. Most services have the Longhorns class ranked #3.
Put all of the unit grades together and I grade the units B+ overall. Given the season graded out an A result (they made the playoff), might indicate my unit grades are hard or that the whole team was greater than the average of its parts.
The Texas Longhorns 2022 Report Card
I did the same exercise for the 2022. Without diving into all of the detailed commentary here is how the 8-5 Longhorns scored.
The units clearly did not perform near as well. Even the running game ranked lower relative to the 2023 team. Texas basically ran for the same yards per game in 2023 as it did in 2022. The 188 ypg was just better relative to others in 2023. That was pretty shocking honestly.
I thought it was a good exercise to compare the two years to see how much progress Texas has made in 2023.
How the 2024 Longhorns might do by position group
This triggered another idea. Where do I think the team is going in 2024. This will bring in some other work I am doing and waiting for the recruiting and transfer portal classes to complete. I put a unit table together which summarizes how each position group did in 2022, 2023, and what in my EARLY expectation for what they will do in 2024. This builds off of the report card data above to assign these position group grades. THIS is what I will use to start building my expectations for the 2024 team.
As you can see, I think the quarterbacks (Quinn Ewers and Arch Manning), the running backs, and the offensive line continue development and even take a step forward. I expect the receivers and tight ends to drop off some.
We would have expected the running backs to drop off a ton in 2023 with Robinson and Johnson leaving and they didn't. It will be interesting how the offense carries forward in 2024 without all of the talent leaving this year.
The defensive strengths and weakness are going to be in flux I believe. The Defensive Tackles won't reproduce the award winning 2023 unit. However, I think the Edge play will be better. Likewise, I think Anthony Hill will breakout in his second season and the linebacker play will improve. The young Defensive Backs will be better than the group from 2023. I think the defense will be a more balanced unit and this will challenge offenses and may produce more turnovers.
The special teams should still be OK with a great kicker. Punting may be a challenge, and I expect the return game to give younger players an opportunity to shine.
Put all of this together and it would indicate a team talent level very close to the 2023 team. How well will THAT team do in the SEC is going to be an interesting story in 2024.
Well, there you have it- my college football report card grading scale and how it applies to the Texas Longhorns. Tell me what you think. How would your team grade out? You can pull you team's data from the tables at the end. I learned a lot doing this and I think it helps to define true team strengths and weaknesses by focusing on RESULTS.
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I originally ended the article here. I decided to give the Rivals their data as a bonus.
Bonus content for the Texas rivals
Because Sooners fans love me so much, here is your report card table.
And for the Aggies that love to hate me too, here is your table.
For Reference - I have included the data tables