AUSTIN, Texas – Sam Ehlinger has boasted that No. 10 Texas will be a player in the national championship picture, and the junior quarterback hopes to begin backing up his words when the team hosts Louisiana Tech on Saturday. The high optimism revolves around a strong 2018 season in which the Longhorns won 10 games for their first double-digit victory campaign since going 13-1 in 2009.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, Longhorn Network. LINE: Texas -20.5
Ehlinger is viewed as a second-tier Heisman Trophy candidate after accounting for 41 touchdowns (25 passing, 16 rushing) last season, four off the school record set by Colt McCoy in 2008. "I can't imagine he wouldn't be," Texas coach Tom Herman told reporters of Ehlinger's Heisman hopes. "He's certainly got the numbers. He's got the leadership. He's got everything you want." The Longhorns will need a better showing on defense to legitimately be a national contender as they allowed an average of 38.3 points in their four setbacks last season. Louisiana Tech has won a bowl game each of the last five seasons but went 0-2 against ranked power programs last campaign, losing 38-21 to LSU and 45-3 to Mississippi State.
ABOUT LOUISIANA TECH (2018: 8-5)
Senior quarterback J'Mar Smith passed for 3,160 yards and 15 touchdowns against 10 interceptions last season, and his seven career 300-yard passing performances tie him with Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Terry Bradshaw for most in school history. Junior wideout Adrian Hardy is Smith's top target after catching 75 passes for 1,145 yards and six touchdowns last season, while junior Israel Tucker (377 yards, three TDs in 2018) will be the main ball carrier, with senior Jaqwis Dancy (667 yards, nine scores) also heavily involved. The Bulldogs allowed just 191.6 passing yards per game last season and have a stellar cornerback in junior Amik Robertson (nine career interceptions, one for a TD) while senior L'Jarius Sneed (five, two) is now a safety after excelling as a corner the last two seasons.
ABOUT TEXAS (2018: 10-4)
Ehlinger has thrown three times as many touchdowns than interceptions (36 to 12) in his two seasons, and his 3,292 passing yards last campaign were fifth-most in school history. Sophomore Keaontay Ingram (708 yards last season) and freshman Jordan Whittington are the team's lone healthy running backs as junior Daniel Young (ankle) and senior RB Kirk Johnson (shoulder) have been ruled out due to injuries. The defensive unit is being reloaded as safeties Brandon Jones, a senior who recorded 70 tackles and two interceptions in 2018, and sophomore Caden Sterns (team-best four interceptions) are the lone returning starters.
1. Texas, which is facing the Bulldogs for the first time, is 29-8-2 all-time against teams from Louisiana.
2. Louisiana Tech junior WR Isaiah Graham, a transfer from TCU, excelled in training camp and figures to be a starter.
3. Others Longhorns who will miss the game include sophomore WR Joshua Moore (suspension) and redshirt freshman T Reese Moore (knee).
PREDICTION: Texas 49, Louisiana Tech 16