On Saturday, the Texas Longhorns will meet the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Big 12 Football Championship – the two teams’ first meeting in the conference championship game, and the Horns’ last chance for a Big 12 title before they head to the SEC next year.
Texas is 11-1 this season (8-1 Big 12) and has a chance to get into the College Football Playoff.
Cory Mose, a sports reporter and anchor at KVUE TV in Austin, joined the Texas Standard to recap the Longhorns’ football season and share his Big 12 championship game predictions.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: Texas is No. 7 in the nation, 11-1. The last time they saw this kind of success was sometime back. And I think they last appeared in the conference title game in 2018, something like that.
Why do you think it’s been so long since they’ve had this kind of season, and what do you think has been the driving force for the success this year?
Cory Mose: There’s something that Coach Steve Sarkisian talks about, and that’s culture, and of course, big humans. So when Steve Sarkisian got the job here at UT, in his introductory press conference, he just mentioned that he wanted to bring in big humans. He knew from his time at USC, from his time at Alabama with Nick Saban, that to win in college football, you have to win the trenches.
And so once Sarkisian got here and recognized that Texas, they recruited well when it came to skill positions – now, if you look at the recruiting classes, a lot of great running backs, a lot of great quarterbacks, a lot of great receivers – but there wasn’t a ton of big humans up front that they recruited well. So that was one of the points of emphasis for Coach Sarkisian when he got here, and he’s been able to do that – and not only that, but develop those kids to those four-star, five-star potentials they had out of high school.
And so that’s why I feel like what’s been the difference is that in the trenches, Texas has really taken that seriously in these last two or three years, and now you see the benefits of it.
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Talk about some players who have had a breakout season this year.
Yeah. T’vondre Sweat, Byron Murphy. I know last year on the defensive line, you had dudes like Moro Ojomo and Keondre Coburn – two dudes who got drafted to the NFL – and the questions were, who was going to replace them? Now you have a guy who recently won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Talk about a replacement, huh? And then the other guy is a Big 12 D-Lineman Of The Year.
And that’s been a big development in the breakout players, because people didn’t really expect or know who was gonna step up in the interior D line or if you could trust T’vondre Sweat to step up or Byron Murphy to step up. And so that was really cool to see that they’ve really become game wreckers in a matter of a year. And I think that’s been one of the breakout players to me.
And of course before the season started, KVUE, we actually had a Longhorn special. We asked the same question to each other: Who were the breakout players? And I thought it would be Adonai Mitchell on offense – the transfer from Georgia, the wide receiver – and he’s done exactly that. He’s been a red zone target for Quinn [Ewers].
Yeah, and so dudes like that who weren’t on the team last year or didn’t contribute as much last year are now focal points of this team, and I think that attests to all of Sark’s development for these guys.
Let’s fast-forward to the game: Oklahoma State is No. 19th, with an overall record of 9-3 and conference record of 7-2. What must Texas do if they want to win against this team?
Well, they’ve got to stop the run. I mean, that’s basically the only thing that Oklahoma State does well on offense: run the football. They have the best runner in the nation in Ollie Gordon II. He leads the nation in rushing yards, and the crazy thing about that start is that he wasn’t even getting the ball that much in the first three games. But since then, now he leads the nation. He’s been getting a lot of 250-yard games, 150-yard games – he’s been balling out.
And so I think that’s how you beat the Pokes. You got to stop the run because if you do that, the quarterback Alan Bowman transfer from Texas Tech, he’s the gunslinger, you know, it’s kind of a game manager. And so if you just stop the run, which is something Texas has been doing all year, by the way: They’re top five in the nation when it comes to run defense.
So it’s going to be a great matchup between the No. 1 rusher in the nation and a top-five run defense. So, I can’t wait to see who wins that battle in Arlington.
Well, pull that crystal ball out of your pocket. Who do you think’s going to win?
I mean, I think it is UT because of track record and history, right? There’s been so many games where, coming in, it’s like, can they stop the run? And they do every single time. Even last week against Texas Tech: Tahj Brooks was the second-leading rusher in the Big 12, and they held him only 95 yards.
So, you know, they already had a big test last week. And that was very critical for that Texas defense to see: “yeah, we can slow down a bruiser. We can slow down a team that wants to force the run and then make them one-dimensional.”
And that’s exactly what they’re going to do on Saturday against Oklahoma State. I don’t think it’ll be close in the second half. It’ll be they’re going to do a big fill-out period, you know, big-game jitters, of course, as always. But in the second half of it, I think Texas has too much talent for Oklahoma State, and I think they’ll win by double digits.