No. 7 Texas out to build resume, bag Big 12 title vs. No. 18 OK State

Field Level Media

November 29, 2023 at 5:48 pm.

Texas doesn’t control its own destiny to qualify for the College Football Playoff.

But a win by the No. 7 Longhorns over No. 18 Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship Game on Saturday in Arlington, Texas, would keep their hopes alive to make the four-team field for the first time.

Texas enters the game as the third one-loss team in the rankings, behind No. 5 Oregon and No. 6 Ohio State.

Ohio State is not playing in a conference title game while Oregon takes on No. 3 Washington for the Pac-12 title.

“I don’t know why I wouldn’t think we’re a College Football Playoff contender,” Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian said. “We’ll talk more about that I’m sure after the game Saturday, but we’re in great position. But I also know we’ve got to take care of business. There is no College Football Playoff talk if we don’t play really good Saturday trying to find a way to win. And if that happens, then there’s another discussion to be had.”

The Longhorns and Cowboys didn’t play this season, but Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy knows what to expect from Texas’ big defensive line duo of T’Vondre Sweat and Byron Murphy II.

“Texas has always had that,” Gundy said. “We’ve played them for years. They’ve got ends that are 30 pounds heavier than most people’s ends and they’ve got inside guys that are 20 pounds heavier than most people’s inside guys.”

So how do they attack the Longhorns?

“We can double them some,” Gundy said. “You let the widest guy go and double team (the other) and let that guy try to run and make a tackle.”

Since losing to Oklahoma on Oct. 7, the Longhorns won six consecutive games. Texas (11-1) secured its berth in the title game, its first since 2018, with a 57-7 win over Texas Tech last week.

The Cowboys (9-3) have won seven of their last eight after a 2-2 start.

They’re powered by running back Ollie Gordon, who did things this season — ran for 250-plus yards in consecutive games and scored five rushing TDs in a game — not done at Oklahoma State since Barry Sanders. Gordon leads the nation in rushing yards with 1,580.

“They have done a great job offensively of leaning into him,” Sarkisian said. “He really signifies who their team is. I feel like he gets stronger as the game goes on, like a lot of big, physical backs do. A lot of his best runs come in the second half when teams wear down.”

Oklahoma State had to scratch and claw to make its second-ever Big 12 title game.

The Cowboys outscored their last two opponents 58-17 after halftime after being outscored 47-25 in the first halves of eventual wins over Houston and BYU.

The Cowboys also made the title game in 2021, when they lost to Baylor. Oklahoma State is in the title game for just the second time.

Texas is looking for its first Big 12 Championship Game win since 2009. The Longhorns are 3-3 all-time in the game, which resumed in 2017 after a six-year absence.