2009. The last year that a Big 12 Football Championship has been brought back to the Forty Acres. The conference scrapped the postseason title game from 2011-2016, yet the Longhorns have only competed for a total of one since 2009. This year’s Big 12 crown is an absolute must-have. With two seasons now under his belt, Steve Sarkisian has something to prove this year. The argument simply cannot be made that Texas will compete for an SEC title in the coming seasons if they do not record a win at AT&T Stadium on December 2nd, 2023. A mere 3-3 record in Big 12 Championships to Oklahoma’s 11-1 should certainly be a factor in regarding Texas’ football success in the Big 12, as well as predicting their future in the SEC. The Longhorns have been champions 3 out of 27 seasons while in the Big 12 and largely competing with OU and Baylor during that time. There are a total of five SEC teams with 4+ SEC titles in the last 27 seasons.
Like last season, Texas’ first and largest challenge of the season will come in Week 2 against their future conference rival Alabama Crimson Tide. This time, the Longhorns will be visiting Tuscaloosa. Although a powerhouse like Alabama is used to rebuilding their starting lineups year in and year out, Texas is returning over 60% of its offensive and defensive production from a season ago. It will be interesting to watch if the returning Texas talent can stand up to this matchup the second time around, and on the road. This should prove to set the tone for the year. A win or even a close loss could catapult the confidence and buzz around the program like last year, but a convincing Alabama victory could threaten the hopes of a long postseason run.
Outside of what should be an interesting matchup with Big 12 newcomer BYU in Austin on October 28th, the Longhorns have four more tough road games. At Baylor in Week 4, the Red River Rivalry against OU in Dallas Week 6, at reigning CFP Runner-Up TCU in Week 11, followed by a trip to Ames against Iowa State in Week 12. Chaos in the Big 12 is undeniable, but Texas must be able to stay the course this season and hope for consistent QB play from Quinn Ewers, and strong defensive outings. Xavier Worthy and Jordan Whittington also must pick up the production from losing Running Backs Bijan Robinson (Falcons) and Roschon Johnson (Bears) to the NFL.
Best Case: 11-1 (9-0 Big 12)
Worst Case: 8-4 (6-3 Big 12)
Even with the brand, the recruits, and the legacy; in order to enter the SEC as a legitimate contender, Texas needs to live up to their expectations this season. None of this is to say that Texas cannot capitalize on the reinvigoration of excitement in the program in the Sarkisian era as it enters the SEC. With recruiting on the rise, and Arch Manning poised to be a future QB1, the immediate future seems bright for Texas. To leave the Big 12 as Champions could only make it brighter.