The No. 7 Texas Longhorns needed a win to lock up a spot in the Big 12 Championship game and could have used a statement win for the College Football Playoff.
Texas managed both with an absolute shellacking of the Texas Tech Red Raiders and gets to take Saturday off, unconcerned with tiebreakers and able to take a long week into the conference title game. En route to its earned peace of mind, Texas did something that fans have wanted them to do all season...
1. Texas has the ability to close teams out
Perhaps the most stressful game state for Texas fans in the last three seasons has been a second-half lead, but on Black Friday the Longhorns finally managed to land the knockout blow they’ve been trying to all season.
The Longhorns had what felt to be a tenuous 26-7 at halftime, coming off of three consecutive drives capped with Bert Auburn field goals rather than touchdowns. But the Longhorns came out of halftime explosively, literally, with Keilan Robinson’s 95-yard kickoff return touchdown. That was the first of 24 third-quarter points, including the Johntay Cook touchdown/Jett Bush circus pick-six to serve as an exclamation point on the explosion.
Then in the fourth quarter, with the starters safely on the bench for one of the few times in conference play, Texas strung together a 13-play, 91-yard touchdown drive that milked 7:59 off of the clock and closed with a Quintrevious Wisner touchdown.
That’s how you close.
2. Texas is DEEP
We’ve known that Texas has a ton of talent and depth, but the level of dominance shown by Texas in the win didn’t taper off when the starters came out of the game.
The Longhorns got their first glimpses at Arch Manning, who helmed the final, game-killing drive, who showed some zip on his passes and completed two of them — including a fourth-down strike to Casey Cain to extend the aforementioned drive. Offensively, Texas had six different players with a carry, with the four primary ballcarriers all averaging more than five yards per carry. On that same token, Texas had 15 different players record a reception, spreading the ball around with ease.
Defensively, young players like JMond Tapp and Liona Lefau played significant snaps and found their names on the stat sheet — something that has rarely happened this year.
3. If Texas wins the conference, they have a legitimate argument for the CFP
For the fourth week in a row, Texas has found itself behind the Oregon Ducks in the ranks of the one-loss teams in the CFP rankings. Now, with another data point — common opponent — Texas has a legitimate argument for its spot in the postseason tournament.
Oregon needed late-game heroics to escape Lubbock with a win, while the Longhorns’ late-game heroics were by RB5 playing in mop-up duty. While Oregon has been dominant playing a Pac-12 schedule post-Washington, the combination of Strength of Schedule and common opponents should at the very least give the CFP committee pause in ranking Oregon ahead of Texas moving forward.
That being said, if Texas goes to Arlington and stumbles, that all becomes a moot point. So for Texas, the message continues to be simple — take care of the team in front of you and let the rest work itself out.
Now they can enjoy the holiday weekend and wait to find out who they’ll be squaring off against in Arlington.