(Photo credit: Mikala Compton/Austin American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK)
No. 3 Texas will begin its final trip through the Big 12 Conference when it squares off against rival Baylor on Saturday night in Waco, Texas, in the league opener for both teams.
The Longhorns (3-0), along with Oklahoma, are leaving the Big 12 to join the Southeastern Conference in 2024. That makes Texas, if it wasn't already, the team every conference opponent loves to hate and longs to beat.
But this year's Longhorns team is perhaps the best since 2009 and is looking to go 4-0 for the first time since 2012. Texas is the only team in the nation that's won three games against FBS teams that went to bowls last season.
"We understand the environment we're walking into, and we can't be fearful of that -- we have to embrace it," Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said. "Now more than ever there will be 'Horns down,' now more than ever there is 'who cares about Texas -- let's take one more shot at them on the way out.'
"So we can't sit there and be a punching bag. We got to walk in there and be in attack mode."
Texas' latest win was last Saturday's 31-10 decision at home over Wyoming in which the Longhorns scored three unanswered touchdowns in the first six-plus minutes of the fourth quarter to quell the Cowboys' upset bid.
The Longhorns did enough to win and survive their hangover from winning at then-No. 4 Alabama on Sept. 9, with Quinn Ewers passing for 131 yards and two TDs and running 5 yards for a third score. Jonathon Brooks ran for a career-best 164 yards on 21 carries and Jerrin Thompson had a 27-yard pick-six to assure the victory.
It was enough for the AP Poll voters to move Texas up a notch in the rankings.
Baylor (1-2, 0-0) will play the final contest of a four-game homestand to begin the year. The Bears garnered their first win of the season when they hammered Long Island University 30-7 last Saturday. Dawson Pendergrass ran for 111 yards and a touchdown and Richard Reese added 82 yards rushing and two scores on just 12 carries.
Baylor amassed 270 rushing yards on 48 carries, racking up more running plays than Long Island, an FCS school, had in total (43). Baylor quarterback Sawyer Robertson, making his second career start, passed for 113 yards and a touchdown in the win, which snapped a six-game losing streak dating to last season.
"I think the execution part was the best it's been this past Saturday," Baylor coach Dave Aranda said Monday. "Now, to have this heavier lift, so to speak, and to play well versus Texas, we're going to need better execution."
Robertson again will be under center as Blake Shapen is set to miss his third game with an MCL injury suffered in the season-opening loss to Texas State.
Saturday's matchup between Texas and Baylor will be the 113th meeting between the schools. It will be the 52nd meeting in Waco, where the Longhorns own a 31-18-2 advantage. The only schools Texas has played more than Baylor are Texas AM (118) and Oklahoma (118) -- with those rivalries continuing as conference foes in the SEC.
Don't think for a minute Baylor won't give the Longhorns their best shot.
"I can't tell you how many times this offseason I heard, 'Dave, just win this one game (the Texas game),'" Aranda said. "That has been brought up to me multiple times."
--Field Level Media