It should be a surprise when an AP Top 10 team loses, at home, to an unranked opponent.
It's become the norm for Tom Herman's Texas.
The latest example came Saturday, a 33-31 setback to TCU as a double-digit favorite. The game was a back-and-forth affair that could have gone either way, but all that does is underscore the point: Why is Texas playing toss-up games week in and week out?
A prominent analyst has an idea why. His name is Urban Meyer.
“Let’s talk about the why. Here is the why," Meyer said on FOX's Big Noon Kickoff. "There’s two reasons — No. 1, evaluation. You have to really, thoroughly go back and say, ‘Are we evaluating the right way in our program?’ But here’s where I want to spend a second talking about, development. Once they get on your campus, you have to develop them. And when I say development, it’s weight room, it’s training room, it’s nutritionists — it might even be a sports psychologist — and then, of course, it’s going to be the assistant coaches.
“So the what is yeah, they haven’t had many players drafted. That’s fine. The average viewer can say, ‘OK, that’s the what.’ But let’s dig deep, lift up the hood and say why — it’s evaluation process and it’s development of the player. If the NFL Draft doesn’t start showing more Texas Longhorn players every spring, it’s going to be the same old story.”
The juicy thing here is it's impossible to separate the message (which is fairly obvious) from the messenger (which is dripping with subtext).
Herman would not be the head coach at Texas if not for Urban Meyer. Meyer selected him from relative obscurity, hiring the then-Iowa State offensive coordinator to run the offense on his new Ohio State staff.
The arrangement worked wonderfully. Herman helped Meyer go 38-3 with an undefeated season and an epic run to the 2014 national championship, which the Buckeyes won with their third-string quarterback.
When Herman left for Houston after that 2014 title run, it should have been nothing more than the next chapter in one of college football's great mentor/mentee relationships. Herman left for a program that is not a rival in any way of Ohio State's -- like, say, Kirby Smart leaving Alabama for Georgia -- and he hired an almost entirely new staff. In fact, the only senior-level Buckeye Herman brought with him to Houston was Fernando Lovo, Ohio State's football operations coordinator. This was not a case of a former assistant trying to clean out the cupboard on the way out.
And yet, what should have been a "Goodbye and good luck" turned into "Good riddance."
Ultimately the reasons are known fully only to the two men, but there's enough there for the public to pick up on the growing rift between these two. There was a contemptuous run in between the two at a camp in the Houston area shortly after Herman took the Texas job in 2017. Around that same time, Meyer went into Austin and beat Texas for 5-star wide receiver Garrett Wilson.
And then there was the Zach Smith controversy, which a lot of people felt in Columbus that Herman had something to do with.
Regardless, from the outside looking in, it appears personal between the two men, even if they'd never admit it publicly.
So when Urban goes on TV and tells a national audience all the ways Herman isn't doing his job correctly, it's a bit like the wolf telling the fox how to hunt for rabbits. All while the wolf caresses his three national championship rings amid a retirement that no one's sure is really a retirement.