Texas, the Big 12 needs you.
You can shut down the Big 12’s critics with one dazzling New Year’s Day performance against an elite opponent.
Beating No. 5 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl will be anything but a snap in the Big Easy, but the Horns have to at the very least put a scare into a team that was a serious candidate for the College Football Playoff. The Big 12 needs it. For bragging rights, recruiting and national relevance.
There’s nothing like the good old-fashioned credibility that comes with a statement win.
People still think the conference of 10 doesn’t stack up to the burly SEC. The wide-open offenses are pleasing to the eye and cool to watch during conference play, but when placed against other teams from other leagues, the Big 12 still gets the side eye.
Not enough run and too much shoot, they say. Not enough D. It’s 7-on-7 plus four players.
The naysayers will shush if Texas shows up and gets after the Bulldogs. Even before they took the field against Alabama on Saturday, the Oklahoma Sooners had already done their part for the league when they qualified for the College Football Playoff for the second straight year with a second straight Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback.
Baylor outscored Vanderbilt in the Texas Bowl. TCU was less ugly than Cal in the Cheez-It. West Virginia flopped against Syracuse without all-all-conference quarterback Will Grier in the Camping World Bowl.
Now it’s Texas’ turn.
Quarterback Sam Ehlinger doesn’t have to be Baker Mayfield or Kyler Murray, but he has to show similar leadership and be a rock for his team. Tom Herman doesn’t have be Nick Saban, but his team has to show a Saban team’s mental toughness if things get rocky in a spotlight game.
Longhorn Nation has to show up, not just in the streets of New Orleans — which are bathed in burnt orange just like that fun weekend in 2002 when the Horns rolled into the Crescent City and blasted Tulane 49-0 — but on the Superdome field with a nation watching.
Embarrassment can’t be an option because most are expecting it. Georgia carries the confidence of taking defending national champion Alabama to the brink in the SEC title game. Many expect the Bulldogs to bulldoze these Bevos who are back in an important bowl for the first time in nearly a decade.
This has to be the Texas team that won six straight after that season-opening stumble at Maryland, including a thriller over the Sooners that placed the Horns in the top 10 for the first time in what seemed like forever.
If the Horns bring it Tuesday night, the nation will take notice.
And the Big 12 will be elevated.