AUSTIN, Texas – Is Texas football back?
That is a question that has been asked time and time again amongst college football fans and experts ever since Charlie Strong’s Longhorns defeated Notre Dame in 2016.
However, there has yet to be an answer.
When Tom Herman was hired as the new head coach at Texas after a successful run at Houston, many believed he would right the ship and lead UT back to prosperity. That experiment sort of failed.
In four seasons, Herman was undefeated in bowl games but only won more than eight games once. He was let go following the 2020 season and replaced by former USC head coach, Steve Sarkisian.
Sarkisian is only in his second season at the helm of Texas football, but it already seems like things have taken a turn for the better. Texas went 5-7 in year one but had flashes, and things were looking up when Ohio State quarterback, Quinn Ewers, transferred after just one year in Columbus.
Now, Texas is 6-3 and in the hunt for a trip to the Big 12 Championship game in December.
If you look at that record, you think that Texas is not back. You need to look at that record deeper.
If Ewers does not get hurt in the first half against then-No. 2 Alabama, there is a strong possibility that the Longhorns win that game. The same can also be said for a 37-34 overtime loss to Texas Tech in September.
Hudson Card played admirably in relief for Ewers, but he’s not the mulleted leader of Texas football.
After missing a few weeks, Ewers has returned and looked as good as many expected. He made his return in the Red River Rivalry against Oklahoma, passing for 289 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. That stat line propelled the Longhorns to the largest beatdown of their hated rival in the history of the matchup, 49-0.
It’s easy to highlight Ewers, but don’t forget, Bijan Robinson is still one of the best running backs in college football with over 2,000 career rushing yards.
Robinson rushed for 209 yards on 30 carries in a 34-27 win against No. 13 Kansas State on Saturday night. If you tuned into that game late, Robinson kept barreling over tacklers for five yards when the Wildcats had to have a stop to set up their potential comeback drive.
That was a statement win on Saturday for Texas. The Longhorns were favored to win that game despite being the lower-ranked team. However, Texas was the team coming out of a bye week after a gut-wrenching defeat to then-No. 11 Oklahoma State.
Kansas State went into the game after a 48-0 win over the same Oklahoma State team on Oct. 29.
Texas was up 31-10 at halftime and many viewers were probably changing the channel over to ESPN to watch Alabama spar with LSU for the remainder of the night. If you did that, you missed an improbable comeback by Kansas State that just fell short on the final drive with under a minute left.
Again, that was a statement win for Texas. Too many times the Longhorns have seen double-digit leads slip away and too many times have they returned to the drawing board to find ways to avoid collapsing again.
This time, Texas didn’t collapse and that was mainly due to the defensive stops. This Texas team is not the most dominant in college football or in the Big 12 for that matter. Though, it has fight that makes you sit back and ask yourself, “Is Texas back?”
Texas has games against TCU, Kansas and Baylor remaining on its schedule. All three games are winnable and if Texas does that, it could finish No. 1 in the Big 12.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Texas does win all three games and finish at the top of the conference. The Longhorns are that good.
With three games remaining in the 2022 regular season, it is too early to definitively say that Texas football is back. However, the Longhorns are closer to reaching that mountaintop now than they were when former quarterback Sam Ehlinger made the declaration after a Sugar Bowl win in 2018.
Forget the SEC for now. Forget Arch Manning coming in 2023. The Longhorns have a roster and the coaching staff to win big games and build towards their first national championship since 2005.
It’s not time to say, “Texas is back.” But it might not be long before Sarkisian is the one making that statement on national television after a victory in the College Football Playoff.