It has been a wild ride for Texas fans over the last decade, with many ups and equally as many downs on the gridiron. At a team level, preseason goals typically involve a conference championship and a hope for more, but the curtain of truth will not be unveiled on this team until several games into the season and maybe longer. Steve Sarkisian has reeled in an impressive recruiting class in his first full cycle, but as you know it takes time to acclimate and develop high school talent. Let’s take a realistic look at what it would take to call this season "successful" for Texas.
This year the Longhorns open by hosting Louisiana Monroe and then Alabama before wrapping up non-conference play with UT-San Antonio. The Warhawks are a decent opponent to begin the season with, but Texas should take care of business easily and have a boost of confidence as they await the arrival of Nick Saban's team the following week. Alabama will by far be the best team the Longhorns face in 2022, plain and simple. This game will serve as a good measuring stick for the 2022 Longhorns. While nobody expects them to win, if the Longhorns can keep it competitive with the preseason favorite to win the national title, it could help Sarkisian and Texas in the confidence department, which leads to more potential wins in close games. It certainly would not hurt recruiting efforts either. Game three serves an intriguing matchup vs. UTSA, led by longtime Texas High School Football coach and former Texas Assistant Jeff Traylor. In 2021 Traylor led UTSA to 12 wins and a Conference USA Championship. This could be a game that may not turn out to be the cupcake it would have been in the past, but Texas should win this one handily.
Texas running back Gabriel Watson (33) runs ball. Texas Tech took on the University of Texas at Austin at Darrell K. Royal stadium in Austin, Texas on Sept. 25, 2021. Photo: Aaron E. Martinez / American-Statesman via Imagn Content Services, LLC
The Longhorns then open conference play against Texas Tech on September 24th in Lubbock. Lubbock is always a rowdy environment when Texas comes to town, but this is definitely a winnable game for the 'Horns. Last year the Longhorns hung 70 on the Red Raiders in Austin, and that will certainly will be on Tech’s mind entering the game. Following that Texas welcomes West Virginia before heading into the Cotton Bowl to face rival Oklahoma. After losing Lincoln Riley, Caleb Williams and many others, it is 10-year rarity in which Texas enters the Cotton Bowl as the favorite. Following last year’s collapse against the Sooners, this will be a game that Steve Sarkisian and company will be looking to get the bad taste out of their mouths. It will be interesting to see who gets the best of the other between Sark and Brent Venables in their first matchup as head coaches in the Red River Rivalry.
Texas' Bijan Robinson (5) runs past Oklahoma's Billy Bowman (5) during the Red River Showdown college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the University of Texas (UT) Longhorns at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021. Ou Vs Texas. Photo: © BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK
Next, Texas welcomes Iowa State to Austin before travelling to Stillwater to face Oklahoma State. The outcome of the Oklahoma State game will be a critical factor in Texas' bid to make it to Arlington to play in the Big 12 Championship Game. At this point in the season, the young Longhorns' roster will have some big boy experience and we should know a lot about this team's capacity. Following the matchup with the Pokes, Texas enjoys a bye before going on the road on November 5th to battle Kansas State in Manhattan. This is a place that has been hard for Texas to win historically but the Longhorns have won the last two in the Little Apple and hope to make it more. Chris Klieman’s team led the Big 12 in preseason all-conference selections with five, and it will be worthwhile that Texas has an extra week to prepare for the 'Kats. On November 12th Texas hosts a rebuilding TCU program which will surely not be short on storylines, as longtime TCU coach Gary Patterson is now in Austin as a defensive analyst. In his first year at the helm in Fort Worth, Sonny Dykes will have the Frogs ready to play, and Patterson and Sarkisian will make sure this team doesn't overlook them. Texas closes out their road matchups in Lawrence against the Jayhawks after losing to them in a shocking upset in Austin last November. This is a game that every Texas player certainly has circled on the calendar and look for Texas to run up the score. The Longhorns wrap up their regular season with a key home battle against 2021 Big 12 Champion Baylor. This will likely be the second toughest conference matchup behind the game in Stillwater.
Now what are realistic expectations for Texas in the 2022 season? Going 2-1 in non-conference play is a must, no questions asked. Any result worse than that will be a massive disappointment. The next must is beating Oklahoma in Dallas, as this is the most underwhelming Oklahoma team in over a decade. Factoring in a loss to Alabama, anything more than two conference losses would be viewed as a disappointment in many Texas fans eyes. And understandably so. Get to 9-3 and a likely conference title appearance will follow. This may seem like lofty expectations following a 5-7 season and 40% of the roster being new, however this season's Big 12 has no clear juggernaut for the first time in many years. The conference is there for the taking and there is no reason that Texas can’t be the team to go and grab it.