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Texas Longhorns still have hopes of a Big 12 title

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Despite the loss in Berkeley, the season could still end on a high note

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Texas Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

With three games now in the books, the Texas Longhorns are officially in game week for their first Big 12 opponent of the season. Come Saturday, Texas will be in Stillwater, Oklahoma to take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Kick off is at 11 a.m. CT on ABC.

Before the season began, I predicted the ‘Horns would go 8-4 during the regular season.

I had them going 2-1 through the non-conference part of their schedule, though I had the loss occurring against Notre Dame instead of Cal.

And in conference play, I had the ‘Horns ending the season with a conference record of 6-3, with losses to the Sooners, Red Raiders, and Horned Frogs.

Before the season, I also grouped the Big 12 teams into five different tiers. If I did this again, I’d probably create two tiers, maybe three.

Even with the questions still surrounding this Texas team, given what we now know about the Big 12 basically being more of a pile of mush after the first quarter of the season than many expected, I’m sticking with my 8-4 prediction for Texas.

In conference play, I figured Texas would split its match ups against the Oklahoma schools by going 1-1 in this two game stretch coming up.

At the time, I saw the Oklahoma State game as the game Texas could steal while thinking this Oklahoma team would have been making its case as the best team in the conference.

Right now, neither team from Oklahoma has separated itself from the conference or from each other. Both have two losses, and both have their own questions and weaknesses to deal with.

At the worst, I still see Texas splitting these two games against the Oklahoma teams.

If the Longhorns defense really does improve, it could go undefeated against the Oklahoma schools in the same season for the first time since 2009 when the only Texas loss came to Alabama in the national championship game.

On the flip side, the last time the Longhorns lost to both Oklahoma teams in the same season was back in 2011. Texas finished with a 7-5 record in the regular season, went 4-5 in Big 12 play, and won its bowl game against Cal 21-10 to finish with eight wins on the year.

Texas also lost to both teams in 2010 and finished the season 5-7.

After this two-game stretch against the Oklahoma teams in Stillwater and Dallas, the Longhorns will return home October 15th to take on the Cylcones. This will be the first Texas home game since it hosted UTEP back on September 10th.

That game will be followed by a trip to Manhattan, Kansas where Texas will take on Kansas State.

If I say Texas goes 1-1 against the Oklahoma teams and 2-0 in the two-game stretch against Iowa State and Kansas State, the ‘Horns will be sitting at 5-2 with four of their last five games coming against high-scoring spread offenses.

By then, we’ll obviously have a better feel for how the defense has been playing. But if Texas wins just three of those final five games against Baylor, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Kansas and TCU, the Longhorns will end the regular season with an 8-4 record and have a shot at win number nine in a bowl game.

In my preseason prediction, I had Texas losing to Texas Tech when it travels to Lubbock and at home to TCU to close out the season.

After these next two games, we’ll obviously have a much better feel for whether or not this defense was able to improve along with what the entire conference looks like in its early part of conference play.

But finishing at 8-4 with a solid run through conference play is absolutely still within grasp. And if Coach Strong and his staff are able to turn around the defense, the Longhorns could even be in contention for the Big 12 title by the time the season is winding down.