Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

Big 12 Championship Preview

Big 12 Championship

The Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma State Cowboys have mountains to climb in the Big 12 Championship Game this weekend.  It’s been a long time coming for both programs.  Texas aims to capture its first conference title since 2009.  Oklahoma State is a heavy underdog trying to win the Big 12 for the first time since 2011.

Texas (11-1, 8-1) and Oklahoma State (9-3, 7-2) will meet at AT&T Stadium in Arlington at 11 a.m. local time.  The two teams have gone head-to-head for the past 28 years and it will be their 38th meeting overall.  It’s fair to say these two teams don’t like each other.  Under the leadership of head coach Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State has won nine of the last 13 games over the Longhorns.  The Cowboys are one of the few teams in the Big 12 that have had regular success against Texas.

Why Oklahoma State Wins

The Cowboys have Texas’ number.  It’s as simple as that.  It’s a testament to Gundy’s success at Oklahoma State.  The Cowboys have beaten Texas six of the last eight times they played.  Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian has yet to find the winning formula, losing to the Cowboys in 2022 and 2021.

The Oklahoma State team that won seven conference games shows up and finds a way to get it done.  The Cowboys don’t have any surprises in store this late in the season and they don’t need any.  “Their coaches know we’re going to do what we do, and I’m going to say that for the most part, they’re going to do what they do,” Gundy said at his Monday press conference.  The Cowboys have the best running back in the country in Ollie Gordon.  He rushed for 1,580 yards and 20 touchdowns.  Oklahoma State will feed him the ball and let him guide them to the Big 12 Championship.

Why Oklahoma State Loses

The team that got blown out 45-3 by UCF shows up.  That was only three weeks ago.  It looked a lot like the team that lost by 26 points to South Alabama in mid-September.  Gordon was shut down in both losses and the passing game failed to make up the difference.  “We would like to not be one dimensional,” Gundy said.  “One dimensional has not been good for our team no matter who we play.”

Oklahoma State has made it all the way to the title game with Alan Bowman at quarterback.  The journeyman senior by way of Michigan and Texas Tech has thrown for 2,808 yards and 10 touchdowns.  He also threw 11 interceptions.  To put it lightly, he does not have a history of making great decisions.  Texas’ defense is so effective this season that it has not had to load the box to stop the run.  If the Longhorns follow that script and shut down Gordon, Oklahoma State will need Bowman to light up the scoreboard and that’s not going to happen.

Why Texas Wins

Texas is a team on a mission.  The progress the Longhorns have made in Sarkisian’s third year is off the charts.  They’re favored by two touchdowns over Oklahoma State for a reason.  Texas has the top defense in the Big 12 and one of the best in the nation.  The Longhorns have scored an average of 35 points a game despite missing games from their starting quarterback and best running back.

The Texas defense will keep Gordon in check and make life miserable for Bowman.  On offense, there are too many weapons in Sarkisian’s arsenal for Oklahoma State to have a chance at a Big 12 Championship.  The Longhorns’ running game has not missed a beat despite losing Jonathon Brooks to injury.  Sophomore Jaydon Blue and true freshman CJ Baxter stepped in to fill the void in his absence.  “We can win games a lot of different ways,” Sarkisian told the media on Monday.

Why Texas Loses

It hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows on the Forty Acres this season.  Texas showed a knack for letting teams rally throughout the 2023 campaign.  The Longhorns have won plenty of nailbiters this season that should have been blowouts.

The problems for Texas usually start when Quinn Ewers loses his rhythm.  It doesn’t happen often, but the other team tends to get going when Ewers gets cold.  He has thrown for 2,709 yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions.  His 74.5 QBR ranks him 22nd nationally.  The Cowboys will rely on their linebacking trio of Xavier Benson, Nickolas Martin, and Collin Oliver as they have all season.  Oklahoma State’s defense can make Ewers look normal and stifle the young running backs to spring the upset.

The Coaching Factor

Gundy has been at Oklahoma State for way too long to come this close and not cash in.  He led the Cowboys to the Big 12 Championship game in 2021 against Baylor and lost, 21-16.  Oklahoma State started 2-2 this season and was seemingly headed for a down year before he got them turned around.  The Cowboys are headed to their 18th straight bowl game in his 19 seasons no matter what happens against Texas.  Gundy figures out how to win year after year, and he’s beaten Texas the past two seasons.  “I would rather go into this game with some success over the history,” he said of his players as they get ready for Texas.  “I would think it would help to give them some confidence.”

Sarkisian has come a long way since coaching quarterbacks at El Camino College in 2000.  He has amassed a wealth of talent at Texas in his third season.  It was clear something special was brewing this year when Texas knocked off Alabama in September.  The coach and his staff guided the Longhorns to an 11-1 season despite injuries to several key players.  Texas can win its first Big 12 title since 2009 by taking care of business against Oklahoma State.  Making it to the title game for the first time since 2018 isn’t enough for the Longhorns.  “We didn’t come this far just to come this far,” Sarkisian said.  “There’s more out there for us to accomplish.”


Big 12 Championship
Photo courtesy: Sara Diggins/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK


More Posts

Send Us A Message