How much longer will Texas’ close losses haunt Tom Herman?

How much longer will Texas' close losses haunt Tom Herman?

Cameron Dicker’s 57-yard game-tying field goal attempt was close.

The kick hooked wide left, however, and No. 17 Texas’ Big 12 championship hopes ended with a 23-20 loss to No. 13 Iowa State on senior day at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

The Longhorns were close, but that has been the four-year narrative with coach Tom Herman. The ensuing result was a little too familiar.

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Iowa State (7-2, 7-1 Big 12) moved one step closer to a Big 12 championship game berth after its first win in Austin since 2010. There’s a good chance the Cyclones will face No. 11 Oklahoma (6-2, 5-2). The Sooners are five-time defending conference champions.

Texas (5-3, 4-3) — which entered the season with top-10 billing for the second consecutive season — will settle for a second-tier bowl game at a to-be-determined location.

Now, the next question: How close are the Longhorns toward changing that narrative?

With Herman, it comes down to close games. That can be a sliding definition, but here’s a look at Texas’ record in games decided by 10 points or fewer against games decided by 10 points or more since Herman took over in 2017.

Year 10 or fewer More than 10
2017 2-5 5-1
2018 7-3 3-1
2019 3-4 5-1
2020 3-3 2-0
Total 15-15 15-3

Herman is 15-3 in games that aren’t that close. That’s a nod to the upgrades in recruiting and taking care of business. for the most part, in games the Longhorns should win.

The 15-15 record in games decided by 10 points or fewer remains a problem. The Longhorns are 4-8 in games against ranked teams that are decided by 10 points or fewer, including Friday’s loss to Iowa State.

Until Herman flips that trend, the questions surrounding his job security will continue. Should Texas move on after five seasons? Herman’s predecessor Charlie Strong was 6-10 in those close games from 2014-16. Herman is better than that, but a .500 record is hardly good enough.

Herman’s mounting losses in those games are the reason why the Urban Meyer-to-Texas rumors get started. They’re also the starting point to getting Texas back, something that hasn’t changed in the last four years. The Longhorns have recruited better, but they haven’t been able to close the door in close games.

The Longhorns are 3-3 in that situation in 2020, though that’s a reflection of a second-tier program as opposed to a blue blood with Big 12 championship and College Football Playoff aspirations.

Remember, Texas hasn’t won the Big 12 championship game since 2009. That streak will extend to 2021, and the pressure will continue to mount on Herman in the process.

Texas is close. But how much longer will that be acceptable?