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Mapping the Texas path to the Big 12 Championship game

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Winning out will be necessary, but the No. 19 Longhorns will also need some help along the way.

West Virginia v Oklahoma Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

The arrival of head coach Tom Herman and his staff has already resulted in some several season-ending experiences that were unfamiliar around the Forty Acres as of late. A Texas Bowl win over Missouri marked the Texas Longhorns first winning season since 2013, and the bowl victory itself served as the first time Texas has celebrated post-season success since 2012.

The 2018 slate currently includes even more substantial set of steps forward for Texas, with the 6-1 start rankings as its best since 2009, which paved the way for the program’s first top 10 ranking since 2010. Though a two-game skid followed that stretch, Texas is once again in an unfamiliar, yet positive position — for the first time since 2013, the Longhorns are in the thick of the Big 12 title race at this late juncture in the season.

However, due to those two losses to Oklahoma State and West Virginia, the path to Arlington isn’t perfectly paved, though there is a path, nevertheless.

In hopes of competing for the conference crown, the Longhorns will need some help from other Big 12 title contenders running into road blocks along the way, but first things first: Texas must take care of its own business and control what it can control.

Texas will welcome No. 22 Iowa State and its five-game winning streak to Austin on Saturday, and the following Friday, the Longhorns will travel to Kansas to cap the regular season on the road against the Jayhawks.

If Texas loses either of these two must-win match ups, nothing else matters.

Unlike No. 9 West Virginia and No. 6 Oklahoma, Texas doesn’t enjoy a simple “win-and-get-in” situation down the stretch, but that said, if the Longhorns don’t win, they won’t get it.

Meanwhile, Texas has to hope and pray that a key domino falls somewhere along the way.

The most plausible situation would be the Sooners losing to West Virginia to cap the regular season.

It’s fairly safe to assume Oklahoma, which owns a 6-1 conference record, won’t be adding that second loss on Saturday at home against Kansas. If that, by some tremendously unlikely chance, does come to fruition, then all is well in Austin if Texas can win out, as the Longhorns would own the tiebreaker over the two-loss Sooners. However, if things go as expected this Saturday in Norman, the Longhorns will need to become Mountaineers fans the following Friday when Oklahoma visits West Virginia.

If the Sooners and Mountaineers each enter the regular-season finale with just one conference blemish, a West Virginia win is the only way Texas will see its Big 12 title ticket punched to set up a rematch of the 42-41 home loss for the Longhorns.

That is, unless West Virginia stumbles in the Sooner State on Saturday against Oklahoma State.

With West Virginia owning the tiebreaker over Texas courtesy of Will Grier’s game-winning two-point conversion, the Mountaineers suffering a second conference loss against the Sooners on Nov. 23 would simply set up a rematch between West Virginia and Oklahoma in Arlington. As far as Texas in concerned, this means West Virginia slipping up in Stillwater, as the No. 6 Longhorns did just weeks ago, would set up a win-win situation for the Horns entering the final Friday of the regular season.

In this potential scenario, West Virginia losing to Oklahoma would mark the third conference defeat for Dana Holgorsen and his skullet, thus paving the way for Texas to play Oklahoma in Arlington, while a Sooners loss, as noted, would also send the Horns to the title game with the tiebreaker over their Red River rivals.

That said, though possible, West Virginia dropping a game to Oklahoma State seems much less likely than a loss to Oklahoma, which could potentially set up a worst-case scenario for Texas: A 9-1 (7-1) West Virginia losing at home to Oklahoma; setting up a Sooners-Mountaineers rematch.

For Texas, this means Herman’s team needs to wish for two things, in addition to its own wins: A West Virginia loss on Saturday, or a West Virginia win the following Friday.

If either comes to fruition, Texas will find itself competing for its first Big 12 Championship since 2013.