ARLINGTON, Texas — Expectations for the Texas Longhorns haven’t been this high since 2009.
The Longhorns are overwhelming favorites to win the Big 12 in the preseason, and coach Steve Sarkisian said he hopes a championship title will be a “great sendoff” in Texas’ final season before moving to the SEC in 2024.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I want to win a championship,” Sarkisian told ESPN when asked if this could be a career-defining season for him. “No question, and I feel like I’ve had good teams in the past. I didn’t succeed. When you start out as a coach, I’m a very competitive guy. I would like to win a championship.” . I would love to win a championship in the Big 12 in our senior year.”
Texas hasn’t won a Big 12 title since 2009, and the 13-year drought is the longest in the school’s history since it attended a conference in 1915. This year, regardless of the model — computers, betting markets, or media polls — – Texas is the favorite.
For the first time since the Big 12 conference was introduced in a non-division format, the media voted the Longhorns to win the title. First place votes were split among six teams, with Texas receiving 41 and 886 points overall. Reigning Big-12 champion Kansas State took second place with 14 and 858 points.
ESPN’s Football Power Index gives the Longhorns a 54 percent chance of winning the Big 12. The only FBS team with a higher chance of winning their respective conference competing this season is Ohio State in the Big Ten (71%).
Sarkisian, entering his third season at the helm of the Longhorns, finished 8-5 last year with all five losses coming from seven points or fewer. It was only the second time in the past nine years that Texas had eight wins in the regular season. In 2021, Sarkisian recorded a 5-7 record in his debut season.
He said the difference this season is that participants in the program are “not just feeling it, they’re taking action.”
“That would be a great farewell,” Sarkisian said. “The Big 12 and Texas have been great partners for decades. It would be great if we tried to get into this game at the end of the year as a farewell.”
If the Longhorns are to take the plunge, they’ll need to develop further on offense after their two stars left for the NFL. Bijan Robinson was drafted 8th in the NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons while Roshon Johnson went to the Chicago Bears in the fourth round.
Sarkisian hinted to ESPN on Wednesday that there will likely be more of an emphasis on passing on offense as the absence of those two stars clashes with quarterback Quinn Ewers’ maturity. The Texas wide receiver space is also teeming with talent, including first-team All-Big-12 wide receiver Xavier Worthy and Georgia transfer AD Mitchell.
“I had the feeling that last year we became almost too one-dimensional [reliant] I commend Bijan and Roshon for what they were able to run the ball,” said Sarkisian. “We felt like we had to evolve our passing game to get back to where I’m used to.” …
“Our ability to throw the football now will be able to get back to where we would like it to be.”
Ewers brings about an advancement both physically and mentally as he creates a greater awareness of the battle line. Ewers joked to ESPN that when he went to the line last season he was afraid to remember the game. This season, he’s focused on identifying lines and tendencies in opposing defenses, and then breaking them down.
“Generally and historically, in our system, year two is where you take the big step,” Sarkisian said. “And we see it in him. We see it in his preparation. He is in great physical condition and his understanding of what we are doing is at a high level.”
ESPN’s Pete Thamel contributed to this report.