Golden: If Texas football can't cut it in the Big 12 now, how will it ever contend in the SEC?
- Texas lost 31-24 to Baylor, its third straight loss.
- The SEC-bound Horns have all but been eliminated from Big 12 title contention.
WACO — The Texas Longhorns will leave these Big 12 streets for the SEC one day, be it in two years or beyond.
And here in the land of the Fixer Upper, they might even be missed.
How can you not feel the love when a few hundred Baylor fans are chanting “SEC! SEC!” as the final seconds ticked down in the No. 18 Bears' 31-24 win, Texas’ latest second-half collapse.
The reality is that Texas isn't a national player anymore. The Longhorns rock it at the bank and at the box office, but when it comes to the battle of wills played in between the lines at crunch time, they have come up short far too often.
They should reopen Katz’s on Sixth Street for Texas' postseason banquet because they have one thing in common: The Longhorns never close, either. Shoot, even Katz’s closed once.
Texas is 4-4 overall and 2-3 in league play with four games remaining until it plays in its non-New Year’s Six bowl game. It’s getting to be that time when a coach or underclassman will utter those words that are like a plugged-in toaster in a bubble bath: “We just want to do our best to get these seniors to a bowl game.”
This bunch figures out a way to lose games, plain and simple.
Baylor, just like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, spotted the Horns a double-digit second-half lead and then reeled them in with the ease of a fisherman landing a mess of crappie in Lake Waco.
Good fish aside, beef was the brunch choice on Saturday.
The loss underscored what we already knew: If the Longhorns aren’t ready to compete with the big boys in the SEC, what does it say about them that they can’t even keep up in the Big 12?
It really doesn’t matter what league the Horns are playing in when they continue to give up second-half leads. It’s even worse when battered quarterback Casey Thompson does all he can to uncork a desperation pass downfield with his team down seven, only to watch Marcus Washington fail to come up with the catch.
It was this team’s season in microcosm.
“I’m frustrated for our players because I know what they put into this,” head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “When you don’t ultimately get the result you’re looking for, it’s disheartening for them.”
The home folks at McLane Stadium came dressed up in their Halloween brunch best. I saw a Tickle Me Elmo, a Where’s Waldo, even a Sho'nuff from the 1980s cult classic "The Last Dragon." It reminded me of the Big 12 media days this summer when the UT contingent arrived in Dallas dressed as a Big 12 title contender.
Those were the days.
Baylor ran it for 199 yards behind burly Abram Smith, and its defensive front kept former Heisman Trophy candidate Bijan Robinson in check for the entire afternoon. It wasn't Bijan's fault. The blockers weren't there.
That was the Bears dominating the Horns up front. You think the defensive coordinators in Athens and Tuscaloosa are up late nights worrying about what’s blowing in from Austin in a couple of years?
The departure date for that other league is still unknown, but it turns out the Horns are in over their heads in the Big 12.
The SEC is big-boy football and the Horns are already out of the conference title race in what was formerly known as the Little Conference that Could months after UT System Board of Regents Chairman Kevin Eltife, Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte and UT President Jay Hartzell met under the cloak of secrecy with their Oklahoma colleagues, sliced their palms deep until the crimson flowed and joined hands in a blood oath to take their ball and leave the conference that their programs had defined over the last quarter century.
They did it with the understanding that hatred would come from all corners of the league, from Morgantown to Manhattan, from Stillwater to Waco, from Lubbock to Lawrence. Oklahoma, to its credit, has remained solvent in the winning column, but the Longhorns have taken the brunt over these last three weeks and are sure to absorb a few more head shots when they spend their first November Saturday in scenic Ames, Iowa.
I’d like to say that help is on the way where it’s most needed — in the trenches — but recruits are fickle, and the Horns are in free fall.
The 2022 recruiting class is ranked in the top 10 nationally, but Texas’ deficiencies up front aren’t being addressed just yet; there are only two offensive linemen in the 22-player group. Frisco's Cole Hutson (6-5, 312) and Westlake's Connor Robertson (6-4, 296) will hopefully breathe some new life into one of the worst Texas offensive lines in recent memory, but if Hutson and Robertson were watching, they're surely checking out their other options just in case things get even worse.
Until then, Sark has to go with what he has, and that’s not much. Thompson ran for his life for most of the day, was sacked four times and was hit many more than that.
Sure, they’re throwing more in the SEC these days, but that league’s bread is still buttered in the trenches, which is where Texas has been exposed in the second halves of these last three games.
This is what Sarkisian signed up for, and he better than anybody knows what’s in store when the Horns replace the Baylors, Kansases, K-States and Oklahoma States of the world with Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU and those resurgent Texas A&M Aggies.
Very bad things.