Unthinkable nearly a month ago, the Longhorns now have a legitimate shot to make the Big 12 championship game in December at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Here’s why they will, and it mostly comes down to a somewhat favorable final schedule.
This is mainly due to coming out of a bye week at lowly Kansas, so there’s absolutely no reason to think Texas won’t be 6-2 overall and 5-2 in conference play when it hosts Iowa State the day after Thanksgiving — Nov. 27 — at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium.
Kansas is probably the worst Power 5 team in the country and might be one of the 10 worst overall. The Jayhawks are starting a true freshman quarterback and haven’t shown the ability to be competitive with any Big 12 team after halftime.
While Iowa State is atop the conference at the moment, quarterback Brock Purdy hasn’t been as good this season as the past two. Purdy has thrown six interceptions in seven games and is posting the worst completion percentage and yards per attempt of his career.
This is good news for a Texas defense that now is shutting down opponents’ running games and one that looked phenomenal against West Virginia overall.
Plus, Iowa State will be coming off a tough game against Kansas State and traveling on a short week around a holiday, while Texas will be coming off what should be an easy win over Kansas.
Being 6-2 in Big 12 play heading into the conference finale Dec. 5 at K-State, Texas will have an extra day of preparation as the Wildcats play at Baylor Nov. 28.
But the biggest reason the Longhorns will defeat the Wildcats is the fact Texas’ defense will be going against a true freshman quarterback in Will Howard.
With veteran signal-caller Skylar Thompson out for the season, K-State has turned the reins over to Howard.
Howard looked good against Kansas and coming on in relief for an injured Thompson against Texas Tech, but against Oklahoma State, West Virginia and TCU, Howard was very average, if not worse.
In this scenario, Texas will own the tiebreakers against Oklahoma State and Iowa State if all these teams finish 7-2.
Though Texas will be cheering for Oklahoma State to beat Oklahoma, it can still make the championship game through tiebreakers if the Sooners beat the Cowboys and all of Texas, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State end up 7-2.
In this scenario, a mini round-robin of the four teams is looked at, and Oklahoma State and Iowa State are eliminated because they would be 1-2 against the other three, with Texas and Oklahoma 2-1 against the other three.
Thus, the Big 12 Championship game would be a rematch of the Red River Showdown.
The other main reason Texas will make the Big 12 championship game?
Quarterback Sam Ehlinger obviously played hurt against West Virginia, but a bye week should help him recover some. And Texas shouldn’t need Ehlinger to do too much against Kansas.
With a week off and a game in which hopefully the Longhorns offense primarily relies on the running game, Ehlinger should have the benefit of being at least somewhat healthier heading into the Iowa State game.
See you in Arlington.