Today I’m going to dive into a few “What Ifs” concerning our Texas Longhorns football program. Some might be a stretch. Some could be closer to reality than you think. If you don’t like these types of articles, skip to the end where you will find a short recruiting update.
If they didn’t have Bijan Robinson?
Quite honestly, Texas would have at least four losses — with the possibility of five losses. Without Bijan our team offensively would be pretty terrible. Bijan is still a Heisman contender because of how he single handedly beat TCU. Bijan was once a silent commit to Ohio State. If that silent held true we as Texas fans would be miserable with how awful the offense would be.
If they got Urban Meyer?
I don’t think our record would look much different to be honest. Urban is a great college coach no doubt, but the baggage that he brings is not worth the little bit of success that he would create. I’m glad we got Steve Sarkisian, and I think most Longhorns football fans would agree.
If they didn’t fire Tom Herman?
I don’t think our record would look much different. You could argue that Herman would’ve lost the TCU game, and I would probably agree with that. Bijan definitely wouldn’t be in the Heisman race and recruiting would be in a really bad spot.
As you see above things could be a lot worse than they currently are for the Texas Longhorns football program. I’ve been saying this since the Arkansas game: Don’t panic! Sark has been the head coach for 10 months now. That is not a lot of time to install a new game plan on both sides of the ball.
I understand the defense has looked bad recently and the offense can’t seem to get it going in the second half, but trust me, Sark is the guy who will turn it around at Texas. As long as the fanbase doesn’t turn on him too soon. Now on to the recruiting news.
There is some bad news and some good news. I’ll start with the bad. There are rumors going around that Jaydon Blue may decommit, which would be a major loss in the class. Blue was the #1 RB in the ’22 class before he decided to opt out of the season. After he opted out he dropped heavily in the rankings. Which I believe is very unfair to him.
For the good news. Texas had a HUGE visitor list over the weekend. All reports coming out of Austin are saying that Sark and Co. knocked it out of the park with recruits. Even with the loss there is a ton of buzz surrounding Texas in recruiting (outside of Blue). If Texas can finish the season strong I think a top 5 class is basically a guarantee.
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Game #7 will feature the #12 ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys traveling to face the shell-shocked #25 Texas Longhorns in Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. This game provides Steve Sarkisian’s Longhorns with a great opportunity to bounce back from the heartbreaker against Oklahoma last week. Conversely, Oklahoma State is looking for a signature win to boost their own Big XII title odds.
Last Week in Review
Texas looked the part of a title contender for the first three quarters of the Red River Rivalry. However, they were unable to make enough plays on the defensive side of the ball to come away with the win. The offense comes into this game ranking fifth in the nation with 44.5 points a game, and 17th in yards a game at 480 yards per contest. Casey Thompson was efficient, as he has been all season. Bijan was a workhorse until field position and time limited his touches, and Xavier Worthy introduced himself to the nation with 9 catches for 261 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The defense bent (and eventually broke) against the Sooners and now ranks 107th in the nation giving up 441 yards per contest. This group will need to improve vastly down the stretch to get to Arlington, TX later this season.
This is not your father’s (more like your older brother’s) Oklahoma State team. This team will not remind you of the wide-open offenses led by Brandon Weeden or Mason Rudolph. They enter this game with wins over Missouri State, Tulsa, at Boise State, Kansas State and Baylor. However, despite the less than daunting schedule they are only winning games by an average of 6.4 points a game.
What Texas can expect from Oklahoma State
The Cowboys feature a relativity balanced offense averaging 219.2 passing yards a game and 161.6 yards a game on the ground. Oklahoma State is not going to remind anyone of the 2019 LSU Tigers averaging a pedestrian 25.4 points a game, which is good for 89th in nation. The strength of this team is on the defensive side of the ball. Mike Gundy’s defense is only surrendering 18.6 points a game.
This game sets up well for the Longhorns to get a top-15 win in-front of the home crowd and some important visitors (Hello Arch Manning). Oklahoma State to this point has not shown the offensive firepower to exploit a struggling Longhorn defense. As far as the offense goes, Oklahoma State has shut teams down this year. However, they have not faced as explosive an offense as the one Casey Thompson pilots. Now, let’s get to some predictions:
Saturday afternoon featured many of the same feelings Texas Longhorns fans have been accustomed to the past decade: disgust, anger, sadness, and nausea. Losing to Oklahoma in Dallas hurts. Blowing a 21 point lead hurts. Blowing a 21 point lead to Oklahoma, who had to pull their ‘Heisman front-runner’ quarterback, is a fate worse than hell to most Longhorns. However, with perspective, there are reasons to believe that things are indeed different now.
Renewed energy around the program
The most obvious reason for optimism that things will be different now for the Texas Longhorns is that things are. There is an entirely new staff that has been hot on the recruiting trail the past two months. This staff recognized the inadequacies of the current roster.
There are already seven defensive line recruits committed to the Longhorns to go along with two interior offensive linemen. Beefing up on the lines is the quickest way to improve, as this is where UT has struggled so far in the Sark era. This goes into the next reason that things are different: the move to the SEC.
The three letters representing the Southeastern Conference are often tongue-in-cheek ridiculed by Twitter when a school breaks out into an S-E-C chant. We have grown exhausted from hearing our neighbors in College Station gloat about their SEC monopoly in Texas. With Texas’s (hopefully) imminent move to the premier conference in college football, there is a renewed energy around the program. The stakes are higher in our new home, but the benefits are as well.
Recruiting will obviously be positively affected (goodbye A&M recruiting advantage). Marketing will skyrocket for the most valuable brand in college football. Key states will be opened up for a brand new suitor to create pipelines. The benefits will be huge for Texas to contribute to a conference instead of carrying eight other members to national relevancy.
There have been improvements already
It is easy to be struck by Deranged Longhorn Fan Syndrome (DLFS) after witnessing what transpired in the Cotton Bowl. The trip to Fayetteville was a complete disaster that showed exactly where this team is lacking talent. It does take some perspective to see that the team has already improved at this point.
Mid-majors Louisiana and Rice were not even close contests; this could not always be said during previous administrations. Texas Tech vs. Texas in years past was a shootout usually won by the team possessing the ball last or the team not making the last mistake.
It was over by halftime this year, with Sark taking his foot off the gas after hitting the 70 point mark. TCU has been a problem for Texas since its acceptance in the Big XII in 2021. The Longhorns found a way to win in Ft. Worth when the passing game was not clicking in a hostile environment.
The four wins so far should not be discounted or cheapened by what happened in Dallas. Texas still controls its destiny in the Big XII title race. Given what we have witnessed this season, Texas should have confidence that this coaching staff has what it takes to take care of business against the middle-to-lower-tier conference opponents.
A coach that has been through it all
Charlie Strong and Tom Herman had great resumes until they accepted the head coaching position with the Texas Longhorns. Transforming mid-major powers Louisville and Houston were impressive feats, with each winning a BCS/New Year’s Six bowl before departing for the 40 acres. However, neither had the resume, both on and off the field, as Steve Sarkisian.
Coach Sark was ½ of the golden boy assistants (With Lane Kiffin) that Pete Carroll featured on his staff. The Trojans won big, put up huge numbers, and met very little resistance (except January 4, 2006). Sark was on the fast track to stardom at this point and parlayed it to the head coaching gig at Washington. He was able to build up enough equity there to get his dream job at USC. But this is where the true education of Sark began.
We all know the story of his fall from grace, so ill spare the details. But what happened from that point is why I have the most optimism for the future of Texas. Sark rebuilt his image with an off-field role at Alabama, a mixed result dip into the NFL, and a return to Alabama. In 2019 and 2020, he piloted record-setting offenses for the Tide and captured the 2020 national title.
Steve Sarkisian is not another coach coming off a hot run as a Group of 5 head coach or a Power 5 coordinator. Sark is someone who has had everything in front of him and lost it. He has ventured lower than most coaches will ever have to. He has scratched and clawed to get back to this point, once again powering a blue blood program.
As far as the future of Texas Longhorns football, Sark will not be afraid to make the tough calls on assistants, in-game management, or critical calls during a game. When you have lost it all once, you will do anything in your power to not lose it again.
Most importantly, Steve Sarkisian understands how special being the head coach on the 40 acres is, unlike his two predecessors. Standing beside Pete Carroll in cardinal and gold on January 4, 2006, Sark saw what can happen when the coach and program mesh together perfectly in Austin, Texas.
The Texas Longhorns handled the TCU Horned Frogs Saturday afternoon, beating them 32 — 27. Texas has not had a win in Fort Worth, Texas since 2013. The offense looked sloppy at times and struggled to throw the ball all game against an average TCU defense. Pete Kwiatkowski and Jeff Choate’s unit also struggled at times and had numerous missed tackles. Texas needed this win and fans should be excited to get it.
But the Longhorns did struggle against a mediocre TCU team and cannot play like they did Saturday if they want to contend for a Big-12 and even College Football Playoff berth. In this recap of Texas vs TCU from Week 5, I’m going to highlight something: good, bad, and surprising in this game and what it means for the future. Grab yourself your favorite beer, cocktail, or a cup of coffee and let’s run through it!
Kyle Flood has done an excellent job so far this season progressing this offensive line as run blockers. Week one and two this offensive line was getting blown off the ball. Defenders were making contact with Bijan at or behind the line of scrimmage regularly. Now, this offensive line has seemed to find their groove and has really excelled at getting a push and moving the line of scrimmage as a unit.
Texas has averaged roughly 345 yards per game on the ground in their last three games. Texas averaged roughly 154 yards per game in their first two games. The offensive line specifically excels when running outside zone and stretch plays. This allows Bijan and the other running backs to use their vision to find the hole in the defense. The interiors the offensive line is more athletic than they are powerful, especially Center Jake Majors, so getting them on the move and in front of the opposing defensive linemen works perfectly.
There were a plethora of concerns after this sloppy game against an average TCU team. The defense continued to miss tackles in the run game, special teams allowed a handful of big returns, and most troubling Casey Thompson did not look sharp. Thompson had an incredible game versus Texas Tech. He completed 18/23 passes and threw for five touchdowns. However, Saturday afternoon Thompson struggled against TCU’s defense.
Thompson only completed 12/22 passes for 142 yards, adding one touchdown and one interception. The interception was especially bad, throwing into triple coverage on a first down play. There was absolutely no need for Thompson to take that risk at that point of the game. Texas was on their own 31 yard line, leading TCU 23 — 17, with 1 minute remaining before halftime. Thompson also had a questionable decision on the 2-point conversion.
With four receivers bunched to the field side and four defenders covering them pre-snap, Thompson opted to throw an uncatchable ball to Joshua Moore on a fade route on the boundary side where he was one on one. The field side play was a screen pass designed to get Bijan the ball with blockers in front of him, seemingly an easy play to gain two yards.
Thompson had numbers and good matchups on both sides of the formation, but the one-on-one fade route is the harder throw and the way he threw it gave Joshua Moore absolutely no chance at making a play on the football. Thompson had an easy screen play to the other side where he could’ve given the ball to the best player on the field and he opted not to. That choice cost Texas two points.
The most surprising take away from Saturday’s Texas vs TCU game is that Andrej Karic has proven to be one of Texas’ five best offensive linemen. Unfortunately he was forced into the game due to Denzel Okafor being injured. After the injury, Derek Kerstetter moved to left guard while Karic came in and served as Texas’ right tackle. The move allowed Kerstetter to play at his more natural position, in my opinion.
Kerstetter excels at fighting in a phone booth and though he has some athleticism, is much better as a power player. Kerstetter is extremely valuable to this offensive line because of his positional versatility. Karic proved to be a solid pass protector on the right side. Karic also did not give up any ground in the running game and should continue to improve if he keeps the starting job.
Overall, The Longhorns had a below average day and still managed to win. That is new to Longhorn Faithful. Usually a poor performance would end up as a loss, especially to a conference rival like TCU. It may have been closer than some fans wanted, but Texas vs TCU did provide us with many reasons to be encouraged.
Next week is the biggest game of the year against Oklahoma. Texas and Casey Thompson cannot play as poorly as they did last Saturday if they want to win. Oklahoma has been vulnerable. Even though they have talent, have not been able to hone it all and dominate anyone so far this season. Texas will be the best team they face thus far and we have a legitimate chance to beat them regardless of AP Poll rankings. Get ready Longhorns Faithful, because next week will be a fun one!
The Texas Longhorns look to open up Big 12 play with a win Saturday when they face the Red Raiders of Texas Tech. This should be an interesting contest. Tech has looked good so far this season starting out 3-0 with wins over Houston, Stephen F. Austin, and FIU. Texas on the other hand hasn’t really found there identity just yet. Texas started off the year solid with a win against a good ULL team, but got manhandled in week 2 against a surprisingly good Arkansas team. They came back strong with a blowout win against a awful Rice team, where the running game really took over.
One thing to watch for should be how Pete K’s defense holds up against their first real explosive test. Texas’ defense under PK hasn’t seen an explosive offense yet this season. I expect the defense to be stout and allow underneath passes to limit the big plays Tech wants. Don’t be surprised if Tech marches the ball down the field. So far this season I’ve noticed PK likes to play “bend but don’t break” defense. If you don’t know what that means, it’s essentially give up the underneath stuff and once they get in the redzone hold the opposing team to a field goal. It’s not a bad strategy especially if you tend not to “break” in the redzone which Texas has actually excelled at doing.
If PK and his defense can’t stop Tech expect this to be a very high scoring game. However, if PK can keep Tech under 21 points expect Texas to cruise to a win. This game will basically rely on Texas’ defensive play. Tech is a team who loves big plays and will execute them at a high volume. I know for certain Texas won’t shutout Tech like they did with Rice, but I hope the defense can hold them to under 3 TDs. If the defense can do that I’d be very happy with their performance.
Now to your favorite part of the article, Predictions. If you haven’t already checked out our full season win/loss predictions. You can checkout mine here and Ryan McAloon’s here. Anyways without further ado here are Ryan and I’s predictions for Texas Tech @ Texas.
Ryan McAloon: 45-42 Texas
Michael Farber: 42-20 Texas
I know Ryan as well as myself would love to hear your thoughts on our predictions. Be sure to comment and like the article if you enjoyed it! Also be sure to follow us on Twitter @longhorns_atb, @MichaelFarber_ (Michael Farber), and @ryfootballscout (Ryan McAloon).