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 5: Texas vs. Oklahoma
Oct. 8, Dallas, Fox Sports 1
Many have Oklahoma pegged for the College Football Playoff, but by Oct. 8, the Sooners could easily have a loss or two — they will already have faced Houston (neutral site), Ohio State (home) and TCU (away). So the Sooners will either be worn out from their tough early slate and thus ripe for an upset — or they’ll be agitated from an early setback and determined to get back on track.
Either way, expect Texas to be ready for a fight. Under Charlie Strong, the Horns have had some of their better performances come against their rival. In 2014, Strong’s first year, his undermanned team gave up touchdowns to OU’s defense and special teams, but otherwise outplayed the Sooners in a 31-26 loss.
Then last year, the unthinkable occurred as Texas rebounded from a 50-7 loss to TCU the week before to physically dominate the Sooners, 24-17. It was Oklahoma’s only loss until the Sooner ran into Clemson in the CFP semifinal.
Oklahoma, at a glance
2015: 11-2, 8-1 in the Big 12 (first). Lost to Clemson in the CFP semifinals, 37-17. Finished No. 5 in the final AP poll.
Triplets: QB Baker Mayfield (269-395-3,700, 36/7 in 2015), RB Samaje Perine (226-1,349-16), WR Dede Westbrook (46-743-4)
Last time: Texas 24, Oklahoma 17 (2015, in Dallas)
The last five Texas-Oklahoma matchups:
2015 — Texas 24, Oklahoma 17 (Dallas)
2014 — Oklahoma 31, Texas 26 (Dallas)
2013 — Texas 36, Oklahoma 20 (Dallas)
2012 — Oklahoma 63, Texas 21 (Dallas)
2011 — Oklahoma 55, Texas 17 (Dallas)
Last year: Who saw Texas 24, OU 17 coming? The Longhorns were 1-4, had spent the week bickering with each other on Twitter and were teetering on the edge of a lost season. But D’Onta Foreman (117 yards, including an 81-yard run) and Jerrod Heard (115 yards) got the running game going, and the defense made a big fourth-quarter stop. The Longhorns had six sacks on the day and held the Sooners to a 1.8 yards-per-carry average on the ground.
Our 2015 coverage: Our game story (“Horns have plenty to tweet about now”); Cedric Golden’s column (“Texas defense served up some Sooner Surprise”); a sider on Tyrone Swoopes‘ 18-Wheeler package; five key plays.
Next game on the schedule: Iowa State