What’s wrong at Texas and Texas A&M, and how each school can turn things around

  • College football reporter.
  • Joined ESPN.com in 2008.
  • Graduate of Northwestern University.

  • Covers Texas A&M and the SEC.
  • Joined ESPN in 2012.
  • Graduate of the University of Houston.

Texas and Texas A&M don’t play on the field, and their fan bases just as soon would have nothing to do with one another. But right now, they’re bonded in angst and anger.

Just two weeks into conference play, tensions are rising for both schools and their head coaches, Tom Herman and Jimbo Fisher. If not for a wild, historic comeback in Lubbock on Sept. 26, Texas would be 0-2 in Big 12 play entering Saturday’s Red River Showdown against Oklahoma (which actually is 0-2). Texas A&M scored just 17 points in its season opener against Vanderbilt, then lost by 28 last week at No. 2 Alabama. A home loss to No. 4 Florida on Saturday could wipe out the Aggies’ hopes of winning their first SEC West Division title.

Neither coach is a newbie. Herman is in his fourth year at Texas and Fisher his third at Texas A&M. Both have four-year starters at quarterback in Texas’ Sam Ehlinger and Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond. Both have ample resources, which Herman used to revamp his staff after a disappointing 2019 season, bringing in decorated coordinators Mike Yurcich and Chris Ash. Both programs signed ESPN top-5 recruiting classes in 2019 as well as ESPN top-10 classes in 2020.

And a reminder: It’s still early.

But neither program remotely resembles a conference champion, let alone a national contender. While Herman is feeling more immediate job pressure than Fisher, both programs could be approaching an inflection point.

We spoke with coaches and others about the situations at Texas and Texas A&M — from scheme to personnel and everything in between — and about how both teams can get things turned around soon.

Texas Longhorns

Record: 2-1 (1-1 Big 12); Ranking: 22
What’s next: Saturday against Oklahoma (at Dallas), Oct. 24 at home versus Baylor, Oct. 31 at No. 10 Oklahoma State

When Texas reached the 2018 Big 12 championship and then won the Sugar Bowl, Herman often said the team was ahead of schedule in its progress. By Year 3 and certainly Year 4 of Herman’s tenure, Texas seemed positioned to be a consistent Big 12 and College Football Playoff contender.

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