Over the last several weeks, a recurring question for Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian is whether his team has improved over last season. The close loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide suggested significant progress. Another blown lead in the overtime loss to the Texas Tech Red Raiders looked like continued mediocrity.
Following Saturday’s 38-20 win over the West Virginia Mountaineers, the advanced stats have an overwhelming answer — the Longhorns are one of the best teams in the country, sitting at No. 5 in a composite rankings of six different systems.
Updated Composite Ratings. Texas is back???— Nate Manzo (@cfbNate) October 5, 2022
FEI by @bcfremeau
SP+ by @ESPN_BillC
Beta_Rank by @beta_rank_fb
FPI by the ESPN Analytics Team
KFord Ratings by @KFordRatings
CFB Winning Edge by @CFBWinningEdge pic.twitter.com/mVuVePnino
In Bill Connelly’s SP+ rankings, that’s also where Texas sits with the No. 7 offense nationally, the No. 23 defense, and the No. 35 special teams, one spot ahead of Oklahoma and ranking as one of only three teams in the top 20 (Baylor at No. 20) with two losses.
“Meanwhile, Texas will play Oklahoma next week in the Red River Rivalry, with its own rating having leaped to fifth overall thanks to three resounding wins, an ultracompetitive loss to the No. 1 overall team and a loss to Texas Tech that SP+ viewed as one of the least-likely losses of the season. It might look weird, but the Horns have been phenomenal on paper,” Connelly writes.
How wonky was the loss to the Red Raiders? Texas Tech had a 2.4-percent win expectancy with a projected margin of Texas victory by 16.6 points. Only the plus-two turnover margin, 1.3 above expected, and the 6-of-8 effort on fourth downs were enough to propel Joey McGuire’s team to an improbable victory.
“Might have been you actually that asked me about, are we a better team this year than we were a year ago and I do believe we are,” Sarkisian said on Saturday. “I think we’re playing really good football sometimes in game better than others. We’ve lost a game on the last-second field goal, we lost the game in overtime and those are tough losses to endure. What I’m very impressed with with our team is our ability to bounce back and bounce back both times that those two things have happened. They’ve come in with a really good attitude, wanting to get better, wanting to work at their craft, and so that part I’m proud of these guys.”