To open a pivotal third season, Charlie Strong‘s Texas Longhorns face three opponents who won 10 or more games a year ago, including one CFP semifinalist. And that’s just in the first five games.
In a near perfect world, Texas would take two out of three games against Notre Dame, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. In reality, the Longhorns probably would settle for a single win and move into a more workable patch of the schedule.
Indeed, the narrative of this season, good or bad, could be determined by the halfway point of the schedule.
We’re breaking down all 12 opponents, divided into four separate phases of the schedule:
The Early Tests — three team-defining games to open Big 12 play. Texas at Oklahoma State (Oct. 1), vs. Oklahoma in Dallas (Oct. 8) and vs. Iowa State (Oct. 15).
The Tossups — three winnable (and losable) games. Texas at Kansas State (Oct. 22), vs. Baylor (Oct. 29) and at Texas Tech (Nov. 5).
The Home Stretch — the final three games of the season. Texas vs. West Virginia (Nov. 12), at Kansas (Nov. 19) and vs. TCU the day after Thanksgiving (Nov. 25).
THE EARLY TESTS: The three defining games to open Big 12 play
Game 4: Texas at Oklahoma State
After taking a week off, Texas returns for what should be its most difficult road test of the season.
Considering Notre Dame, Baylor and TCU all come to Austin, it’s hard to argue against that point. Those who recall a competitive battle won by OSU last year might be surprised to learn the Cowboys are favored by 10 points.
If things start off poorly — say, a season-opening loss to the Irish, followed by a bounce-back win at home over UTEP before stumbling on the road at Cal and then falling in Stillwater — Texas could be 1-3 after this game, heading into the Red River Showdown matchup with Oklahoma.
Needing to correct a rushing attack that ranked No. 114 last year, the Cowboys acquired Stanford graduate transfer Barry Sanders Jr., the son of OSU’s Heisman winner by the same name.
Oklahoma State, at a glance
2015: 10-3, 7-2 in the Big 12 (tied for 2nd). Lost to Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl, 48-20. The Cowboys were ranked 20th in the final AP poll.
Triplets: QB Mason Rudolph (264-424-3,770, 21/9 in 2015), RB Chris Carson (131-517-4), WR James Washington (53-1,087-10)
Last time: Oklahoma State 30, Texas 27
The last five Texas-Oklahoma State matchups:
2015 — Oklahoma State 30, Texas 27 (Austin)
2014 — Texas 28, Oklahoma State 7 (Stillwater)
2013 — Oklahoma State 38, Texas 13 (Austin)
2012 — Texas 41, Oklahoma State 36 (Stillwater)
2011 — Oklahoma State 38, Texas 26 (Austin)
Last year: The week before, the Longhorns were done in by special teams — Nick Rose‘s missed PAT in a one-point loss to Cal. Against OSU, it was special teams again when freshman punter Michael Dickson couldn’t handle a punt snap with the game tied 27-27 in the final minute deep in Texas territory; Dickson’s 10-yard desperation kick went out of bounds at UT’s 18. The Cowboys kicked a 40-yard field goal with six seconds left to win, 30-27. It was a big night for the defense, which produced two touchdowns on Hassan Ridgeway‘s 34-yard fumble return and Holton Hill‘s 41-yard pick six. Texas’ offensive leaders? Jerrod Heard (9-17-119, 0/1), while Johnathan Gray (11-55), Tyrone Swoopes (3-35-1) and Heard made up most of the running game. No one caught more than two passes. OSU, meanwhile, had a big night from Rudolph (22-34-290, 1/2) and Brandon Sheperd (5-43-1). The loss dropped Texas to 1-3 to start the season. And they were about to fall to 1-4.
Our 2015 coverage: Our game story (“Another week, another heartbreaker”); Kirk Bohls’ column (“A 1-3 record doesn’t like, Longhorns”); a sider on the development of Hill and Davante Davis; and five key plays.
Next game on the schedule: Oklahoma