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Steve Sarkisian: With Big 12 games on tap, the season is about to get very, very real

Last week at this time, most of us felt this way about Texas: there was concern coming off a horrible performance in the road loss to Arkansas, there obviously was concern from Horns head coach Steve Sarkisian, who announced the change at quarterback last Monday, and even with an expected easy game with Rice on the schedule, there were real worry spots.

Seven days later, this is where we're at: the season is about to get real (with the start of Big 12 play) and then very real, with what Texas is facing right out of the conference gate — at home vs. Texas Tech, then at TCU (usually a read dogfight), then Oklahoma in Dallas ('nuff said) and then at home vs. Oklahoma State (a dangerous matchup for Texas).

More: Taking stock of Texas heading into Big 12 opener

Kickoff on Saturday against Texas Tech is at 11 a.m. The Red Raiders are one of five 3-0 teams currently on top of the conference standings list (Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tech), and after that there's 2-0 TCU, and then you'll find Texas, Iowa State and West Virginia at 2-1, at this point ahead of only 1-2 Kansas. Those standings begin to get sorted out this week.

Highlights from Sarkisian's press conference today:

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian's Longhorns take a 2-1 record into Saturday's Big 12 opener at home against Texas Tech. Texas' first four conference games are against Tech, TCU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Where's this team at?

We know the record and we know the body of evidence after three nonconference matchups: Texas looked really good against Louisiana, really bad against Arkansas and pretty great against Rice.

Sarkisian was asked that very thing: just where is this team at?

"We're a 2-1 football team heading into conference play," Sark said. "We've got plenty of things to work on and we've got plenty of room to grow as a team. The only way we're going to grow as a team is to identify those areas of improvement and continue to build on them."

See what he did there? He answered Bob Ballew's question without answering Bob Ballew's question.

Golden:Big 12 looks wide open, so why not the Texas Longhorns?

Sark opened the presser by pointing out a couple of things he was happy with in the 58-0 romp over Rice: 

He liked that the Horns reestablished the run.

He liked that the defense played soundly — the Horns controlled the line of scrimmage and won on third downs.

And the Horns continue to avoid making turnovers, though there was one interception against the Owls.

Also, Sark was asked if he's prepared for the level of hate expected to come from opposing teams all season in light of Texas and Oklahoma choosing to leave the league. Meh, Sark basically answered.

"I try not to dwell too much there," said Sarkisian, who probably knows what it's like to coach for a team others like to hate (Alabama, USC). "I really try to keep this thing focused on about what we do and recognize every time we go out, we're going to get everybody's best shot. But our opponent can't be the motivating factor in deciding if we're gonna prepare really well and if we're gonna play well. I think that has to come from internal drive, internal focus. We try to keep our attention there."

Quick hits

• No change at quarterback. Casey Thompson is the starter this week. But what has changed is Hudson Card's role: After stating the past three Mondays that the backup would get into that week's game (which essentially has worked out to getting into the game toward the end of the third quarter and then playing the whole fourth), Sark made no such promise this time.

"I would love to play Hudson Saturday as well. But the flow of every game is different," he said. "All these games are all worth the same technically, in totality; obviously, Big 12 play, we're 0-0 and the goal is to come out of here Saturday 1-0. .. If we feel Hudson can provide an opportunity, to get him into the game and provide something, we'll get him in there."

Bohls: Thompson, Worthy look like a potential great passing game combo

• The running backs are starting to sort themselves out, and Sarkisian loves the fact that they each bring something different to the table. Sounds like Bijan Robinson, Roshcon Johnson and Keilan Robinson all will continue to factor into the game plans.

Through three games:

Bijan Robinson has 52 carries for 299 yards and 5 TDs, is averaging 5.8 yards per run and 99.6 yards per game.

Johnson has 12 carries for 142 yards and a TD, is averaging 11.8 yards per run and 47.3 per game.

Keilan Robinson has 19 carries for 133 yards and a TD, is averaging 7.0 yards per run and 44.3 per game.

"Every game takes on a personality, a life of its own. But I think clearly they've all got their unique style to them," Sark said. "Clearly Bijan is a pretty well-rounded runner with the size, the speed, being elusive, the physicality, the stiff-arm, then the breakaway speed. I think Roschon's football IQ really helps him; he is a big, physical guy, tremendous in pass protection, great hands. Keilan, a little different: change of pace, shifty, you can see that kind of fifth gear kick in on that touchdown run."

• Sark wasn't asked, and didn't offer, any injury updates, particularly on freshman cornerback Ishmael Ibraheem, who left with a lower leg injury in the second half.

• The Horns are 10-point favorites against Tech.

• It was announced that next week's game at TCU also will kick off at 11 a.m.