Is Texas ... good?
Well, no, they're not good. But they're good enough to officially declare 2014's Longhorns team "not bad." This Texas squad is definitely on the right track, but they're still precipitously posted on a narrow course of okay-ness that can still be derailed by the slightest shake to their confidence.
Looking back on the Longhorns' season, there are only two games that stand out as flat-out painful or embarrassing: the loss to Kansas State and the mess against BYU. Besides that there were positives one could take away from each game, and a steady stream of improvement every week. The Longhorns might not beat the talented West Virginia Mountaineers this weekend, but they should be mostly competitive, which is impressive considering where we were last month. Four weeks ago I would have expected the two words to best describe the conversation around the Horns to be "entirely suspended" rather than "bowl-eligible."
Aside from the logistical nightmare that arises when 10,000 people from Morgantown descend on a city with only three Motel 6s and one jail, the weekend presents a great opportunity for Texas faithful. If the Longhorns take care of business they'll have two games remaining (Oklahoma State, then Thanksgiving's showdown against Texas Christian). A win in one of the two would put them into a bowl game.
Playing in a bowl game would be a vindication for Charlie Strong and his hard-line system that was designed to shock the school's old culture. It would also give the players another month or so of practice under the new coaching staff, which we've seen to be enough time to make a difference. Most importantly for the coach, a bowl berth would give him something to point at to keep the Texas boosters off his back and off the phone with Rich Rodriguez for another season.
But let's keep everything in order. There's a really good chance that Texas won't win this weekend. WVU is a solid 6-3 team, with its only losses coming against formidable opponents like Alabama, Oklahoma, and TCU. It's unrealistic to expect a win against the Mountaineers, but it would make for a much easier path toward a December game. A loss would leave the Longhorns two games out with two more left to play, and it's not reasonable to bank on back-to-back wins against anyone – much less Oklahoma State at home and the sixth-ranked Horned Frogs from TCU.