A season that began with such hope and optimism took a major halt in momentum last Saturday when the Texas Longhorns fell in the final seconds to the Oklahoma Sooners in the Cotton Bowl. However, after their first loss of the season, there was one phrase that every Texas fan took away from this year’s Red River Heartbreak — “These two teams will likely meet again in the Big 12 Championship.”
What are the scenarios that could lead to this rematch? What must Texas head coach. Steve Sarkisian and the Longhorns do to make sure they can exact their revenge in Arlington and potentially maintain any hope for a CFP bid?
Big 12 standings
Texas’ remaining schedule
Oklahoma’s remaining schedule
The easy answer — win out. With the Big 12 as mediocre as it has been this season, this is still a likely scenario for the Horns. Especially since Texas already beat the third-best team in the conference, No. 23 Kansas, in Week Five, and since West Virginia fell to Houston on Thursday on a last-second Hail Mary.
Sarkisian reinforced this positive narrative on Monday despite the loss.
“I know sometimes when you lose, it’s easy to look at what went wrong, but everything we want out of the season is still right in front of us right now.”
This was always the game plan coming into the Oklahoma game. “If Texas can beat Oklahoma, they should have the easiest path to the College Football Championship.” Despite the loss, hopes for a CFP bid may still be on the table.
After Week Six, ESPN has Oklahoma with the highest chance of making the playoff at 71 percent. This was always the narrative — whoever wins the Red River Rivalry will likely have the highest chance of making it to the CFP. Texas is not out of the race yet, though, because according to the same ESPN statistics, Texas trails slightly behind with the fifth-highest odds at 32 percent.
Therefore the game plan against the Big 12 remains the same. Texas certainly has the skill on this roster to run the table against a conference that has looked shaky through the first half of the season, to say the least, and the “Embrace the Hate” tour remains in full effect. Never mind how these teams play every other Saturday, no conference game moving forward will be an easy one as these scorned Big 12 opponents will continue to bring their best every week they play Texas.
A silver lining moving forward for the Horns — the Sooners certainly have a comparatively more difficult schedule to finish the season. Brent Venables and Oklahoma have three one-loss teams in the final six weeks of the season (Kansas, BYU, and West Virginia), while Texas only has one (BYU),
Oklahoma also has the unpredictable Bedlam rivalry game against an Oklahoma State team who just took down Kansas State last week.
The overall record for Oklahoma’s future opponents moving forward is 22–11 compared to 18–15 for Texas. Not to say that the Sooners will be an underdog in any of these games, just to say, comparatively, their path to an undefeated season is harder than the Longhorns’ odds to win out.
The biggest day to watch for Texas fans will likely be Oct. 28. Texas plays a formidable 4–1 BYU team on the Forty Acres, while Oklahoma play scrappy 5–1 Kansas on the road. Texas was able to take down Kansas in Week Five, albeit without the help of their preseason All–Big12 Player of the Year, senior quarterback Jalen Daniels, who should be on the field against the Sooners and could lead the Jayhawks to a potential upset against the No. 5 team in the nation.
BYU will likely be the biggest threat for the Longhorns if they wish to win out the rest of the season. With big wins against Arkansas, Cincinnati, and a tight loss to Kansas, head coach Kalani Sitake and senior transfer quarterback Kedon Slovis have made these Mormon’s a tough out.
There are certainly many opportunities for a blemish on the undefeated Oklahoma record. However, as weird as it sounds, Texas fans might not want that.
Assuming Oklahoma is able to finish the regular season undefeated, a win for the Longhorns in Arlington would go that much further for the selection committee.
The Texas Week Two upset against Alabama would certainly play a big factor in the CFP committee’s decision if they are able to win out and win the Big 12 championship over an undefeated Oklahoma team.
Just look at Oklahoma in 2018. They lost to Texas 48–45 at the Cotton Bowl for their only loss on the season. Following that loss they won out the rest of the season, beat Texas in the Big 12 Championship, and went on to lose to Alabama in the first round of the playoffs.
As sights might have been lowered to simply a conference championship for this Texas team, fans should not count Quinn and Sarkisian out of dancing after December if they play their cards right.
“We went into this season with the goal to be champions and those goals still remain,” Sarkisian said Monday. “There are no divisions in the Big 12. The two best teams get to go play for a championship and we control that with what we do and how we play.
Texas has the roster, skill positions, coaching, and the defense to finish the season with the single loss. This season can still possibly emulate the 2018 season, only with Texas lifting the Big 12 championship trophy and moving on to the playoffs.
Overall, in many aspects of the Cotton Bowl loss, this was not the finely-tuned Texas team ranked No. 3 in the nation through the first five games of the season. There are certainly some areas where they need to improve under the brightest lights. Moving forward it all comes down to coaching, discipline, and quarterback play.
It is no secret that the first half of last Saturday’s game was not up to the standards that Sarkisian and Ewers have set this season. With two picks in the first two drives, and only one successful scoring drive in the first half, this offense had no answers for this Venables and Danny Stutsman-led defense.
Uncharacteristic penalties and miscommunications on defense plagued the Horns in Dallas all afternoon. Six drives by Dillon Gabriel into the red area resulting in 34 points, and nine penalties for this Texas team are very uncharacteristic for a squad that has been efficient in both of those regards coming into this matchup.
“If that’s our worst, we’re going to be okay,” Sarkisian said Monday. “We will fix the things that need to get fixed as a coaching staff and as a team this week during the bye week, and we’ll play good football the second half of the season”
Make no mistake, Texas has the roster and overall talent that they should see Oklahoma again in Arlington come December. It all comes down to adjustments that must be made by Sarkisian and his coaching staff to move the ball effectively against Stutsman and this Sooners defense. Just as the Cowboys game plan all year for their inevitable meeting with the 49ers in the postseason, the Longhorns must conduct the same preparation for the Sooners if they have any chance to come out on top in Arlington come December.
As strange as it sounds, Longhorns fans would rather face an undefeated Sooners team in the Big 12 Championship, if any hopes for a playoff run in their farewell season remain.
Texas is currently +1800 to win the national championship, according to DraftKings.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.