In due time, we will see how resilient and talented this Texas team truly is after blowing a 21-point lead against Oklahoma last week.
The Longhorns cannot dwell or focus too much on the Oklahoma loss anymore, because if they are not careful, they will drop their second consecutive game to a Big 12 opponent. Another loss this week to No. 12 Oklahoma State could very likely eliminate them from the Big 12 Championship.
While they only had one week to make improvements, Texas’ coaching staff was tasked with replacing two major players, along with re-adjusting the offensive line again. Edge rusher Jacoby Jones went down with a foot injury that will force him to miss a significant amount of time, and require young but promising defensive lineman Alfred Collins step in and fill his role.
The Texas defense needs to develop a better game plan, and take a quick crash course on tackling in open field. Oklahoma State’s running back Jaylen Warren is likely one of the best players they will have faced up to this point, and he has been on a tear over the last three games. While averaging (look away Gary Patterson) 31 carries over the last few contests, he has accounted for 466 yards and four touchdowns. If the Longhorns let Warren run all over them like Kennedy Brooks did, it will be a long disappointing night.
On the other side of the ball, the Longhorns lost wide receiver Jordan Whittington who was one of the team leaders in receptions and a vital target on third down. Marcus Washington will look to step up in his absence, but it will be up to Joshua Moore and Xavier Worthy to carry the load.
Texas will also be fielding a new offensive line in hopes that opposing team’s defenses do not get pressure every single play. Oklahoma State is ranked No. 18 in total defense, and No. 15 in the nation in sacks with 16 on the year. The Cowboys will be looking to contain the Longhorns offense which currently ranks No. 1 in the Big 12.
This game may have more implications on Texas’ season and future than any other game on the calendar. Here are the three biggest reasons the Oklahoma State matchup is the most important game for the Longhorns.
First, Big 12 title race
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Big 12 Championship hopes
The Longhorns are currently sitting at No. 4 in the Big 12 standings behind Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Texas needs to win out in order to do things the easy way en route to Dallas with a chance to redeem their loss against Oklahoma. However, out of all the teams left on the schedule, Oklahoma State will likely give Texas the biggest troubles.
If Texas loses this game, they will be reliant on other teams losing within the conference and will have little to no control of their own destiny. Making the conference championship game is still very much in play with a win, and will give them an opportunity to battle it out with Baylor next week for the No. 2 spot. While Oklahoma State has a good rushing attack, they cannot get into a shootout with Texas, so the Longhorns truly need to build a lead and actually hold it unlike last week.
Next, overcome adversity
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Ability to overcome adversity
For the last decade, Texas has been a program that cannot handle adversity, and it is losses like the the Arkansas and Oklahoma ones that would decimate seasons in the past. Steve Sarkisian has winning experience and knows the importance of not dwelling on a loss too much. There is a difference between learning from a loss, and letting a loss mentally affect you. If Texas is still thinking about the Oklahoma loss coming into this Saturday, they will likely fall on their face…again.
This game will highlight the adjustments that both sides of the ball badly needed to make, and it will also display the mental toughness of a team who for one half last week looked like one of the best teams in college football. We will see the culture that Sarkisian has developed, or if the players revert back to the ways of Tom Herman where they were not built for the moment.
Finally, future of the program
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Future of the program
It is no secret that some of Texas’ biggest and most needed recruits such as five-star quarterback Arch Manning and five-star safety Jacoby Matthews will be in attendance, and a good performance might give the Longhorns the edge in their recruitment.
While many recruits were in attendance for the Oklahoma loss, there were reports that recruits are still very interested in Texas. However, winning in front of all of those recruits may have snagged a commitment or two, but either way the Longhorns will be presented with a very similar situation this week.
A really impressive showing against Oklahoma State, combined with the fact it is an earlier game, the recruits will theoretically get to witness a win over a top-15 team and hang around for the rest of the day building their relationship even more. Recruits like Manning are ones that can be program changers, and if Texas can impress him, he will surely attract many other talented players to come along. Although this game is just a Week 7 game of the 2021 season, it could very well impact the program for years to come.