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How Texas Got to Big 12 Championship Game against Oklahoma State

A look at the Longhorns’ path to Arlington.



[Devin Wilber/PFB]

This is the most unfamiliar Oklahoma State has been with Texas by the end of a regular season in almost 30 years.

The Cowboys and Longhorns weren’t supposed to meet in 2023 for the first time since 1995. But destiny loves a matchup of two different oranges. Although not scheduled in the regular season, OSU and Texas will play in the Big 12 championship game at 11 a.m. Saturday in Arlington.

We’re all too familiar with the Cowboys’ wild path to Arlington, but in a season Texas wasn’t on the radar, let’s look at how the 11-1 Longhorns got to this point.

Preseason: Unlike OSU, which was in doubt if it was a team worthy of Arlington until the end of its last game, Texas was always supposed to be here. The Longhorns were picked first in the Big 12 Football Media Preseason Poll, while OSU was seventh in that same poll. That was the result of Texas returning a plethora of talent, including quarterback Quinn Ewers, in Steve Sarkisian’s third season as the head coach.

Week 1: After starting the season down 3-0, Texas scored 37 unanswered to beat Rice 37-10 to kick off 2023. Three field goals in the second quarter to make the score 16-3 at halftime created some very early doubters, though, especially with Alabama up next.

Week 2: This is when “Texas is Back” came back. The Longhorns went into Tuscaloosa and upended then-No. 3 Alabama 34-24 to assert themselves as national contenders again. Texas outscored Bama 21-7 in the fourth quarter, as Ewers was 24-of-38 for 349 yards and three touchdowns.

Week 3: A week after handling Bama and jumping up to No. 4 in polls, Texas looked to be crashing back to reality as it was tied with Wyoming at 10 at the start of the fourth quarter. The Longhorns, again, scored 21 in the final quarter, though, and ran away with a 31-10 victory to finish their nonconference schedule 3-0.

Week 4: Texas’ last Big 12 schedule started with a 38-6 win over Baylor in Waco. Jonathan Brooks ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns.

Week 5: The Longhorns dominated then-No. 24 Kansas 40-14 in a matchup between two undefeated teams in Austin. Brooks was even more impressive than the previous week, running for 218 yards and two touchdowns, and was looking to be the best running back in the Big 12 before Ollie Gordon emerged.

Week 6: Texas suffered its only loss of the regular season to OU in the Red River Rivalry, 34-30. Dillon Gabriel looked like a Heisman candidate when he led the Sooners on a game-winning drive that he capped with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Nic Anderson with 15 seconds left. The next thing you know, OU players were getting upside down cows tattooed on them and maybe Texas wasn’t back after all, but maybe the Sooners were after a bad 2022 season. The Longhorns dropped from No. 3 to eighth in polls.

Week 8: After losing to OU and getting a bye week to lick their wounds, the Longhorns still looked like they weren’t actually back against Houston. Texas had to hold the Cougars on 4th-and-1 on UT’s 10-yard line to secure a 31-24 win. Texas did suffer a loss in Houston after all, though, as Ewers took a big hit in the third quarter and spent the rest of the game on the sidelines with his right arm in a sling.

Week 9: Without Ewers because of injury, Maalik Murphy led Texas to a 35-6 win over BYU in Austin.

Week 10: Still without Ewers, the Longhorns needed overtime to get past then-No. 23 Kansas State 33-30 in Austin after starting the game ahead 17-0 and being up by 20 with 4:13 left in the third quarter. The Wildcats squandered the comeback with missed kicks and a poor last play call, though. Murphy threw two interceptions, as Brooks ran for 112 yards and a touchdown.

Week 11: Even with Ewers back, Texas barely escaped Fort Worth with a 29-26 win against TCU. The Horned Frogs finished the game with back-to-back unanswered touchdowns  in the fourth quarter to narrow the margin. Ewers wasn’t bad, but Brooks and Xavier Worthy were the stars. Brooks rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns, as Worthy caught 10 passes for 137 yards. However, Brooks tore his ACL during the game, ending his season.

Week 12: Texas reached 10 wins in a regular season for the first time since 2009 after beating Iowa State 26-16 in Ames. CJ Baxter stepped up in the backfield with Brooks missing the rest of the season, rushing for 117 yards on 20 carries.

Week 13: Even alone at the top of the Big 12 standings with one conference loss, Texas still had to win its last regular-season game to secure its spot in the title game. OSU also needed Texas to be victorious so then all the Cowboys needed to do was win to punch their ticket to Arlington. Unlike OSU, though, the Longhorns had no drama, thumping Texas Tech 57-7 on Black Friday. It was Jaydon Blue who led the backfield this time, with 10 carries for 121 yards. The highlight of the game was top quarterback recruit and nephew of Peyton and Eli Manning, Arch Manning, making his collegiate debut at the end of the blowout.

What’s On the Line Now: With only one loss to a rival, Texas still has hope to make the College Football Playoff. The Longhorns need to be impressive in the Big 12 championship and have things fall their way, though. With a win, Texas would also leave the Big 12 as champion before it heads to the SEC at the end of this academic year. A loss would erase any chance of the Longhorns making the CFP for the first time, and maybe even miss out on a New Year’s 6 Bowl.

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