The Texas Longhorns football team is looking to leave one final mark on the Big 12 Conference before it departs for the SEC next season.
The Longhorns, who have a slight outside chance to reach their first-ever College Football Playoff with a win, will play in the conference’s annual championship game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium.
“It’s a great thing for us,” Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian told the media on Thursday. “It’s a great opportunity for our players. I just can’t wait to get to Arlington and see our fans and the energy they provide. Hopefully, we provide our own energy as well. It should make for a great game and a great environment.”
Texas has expected to play in this game since the season’s early stages, and a win over Alabama opened eyes across the country. Texas has been ranked among the top 10 teams in college football for most of the season, losing only to archrival Oklahoma in the waning moments of the Red River Rivalry in Dallas in early October.
“Coming out of spring practice and having seen some of our new players and what we had returning, I felt like this was a championship-caliber team,” Sarkisian recalled. “That’s why I didn’t really shy away from it — because I wanted our players to get accustomed to the expectations.”
“The expectations were that we were going to be a good team and that we were going to compete for a championship,” he continued. “So let’s get comfortable in that arena. Let’s not shy away from it and understand everywhere we go [in] our last year in the Big 12. They’re going to be tough games. Everyone’s going to give us their best shot, but let’s get comfortable in that arena. Let’s have great poise. Let’s have great composure. I really credit our team for that because they’ve done that all year, and inevitably, here we are.”
The Longhorns rattled off six consecutive wins to close the regular season and earn the top spot in the conference championship game despite critical injuries to players like quarterback Quinn Ewers and running back Jonathon Brooks.
“It’s been a great journey. I’m proud of our players, and I’m proud of our coaches and all parties involved because it has been a journey,” Sarkisian added. “We’ve had to endure some pretty critical injuries that maybe not every team has to go through. We’ve had to endure some really tight games, and we learned about ourselves and the makeup of this team.”
Texas and Oklahoma State have played annually since joining the Big 12 in 1996, and Texas has dominated the series with 17 wins since then. However, Oklahoma State has won five of the last seven meetings, including each of the previous two. The Longhorns and Cowboys did not meet during the 2023 regular season.
Texas may have some added motivation to defeat the Cowboys after a dead longhorn with its stomach cut open and expletives carved into its flesh was found at an off-campus Oklahoma State fraternity house, an apparent gesture to the rivalry.
On the Oklahoma State side, breakout star running back Ollie Gordon II will be among the Cowboys making a homecoming trip. Gordon II, who leads the nation in rushing yards and starred at Euless Trinity High School, is one of 22 players from the DFW area on the Oklahoma State roster.
The 2023 Dr. Pepper Big 12 Championship Game between Texas (11-1, 7-1 in the Big 12) and Oklahoma State (9-3, 6-2) will kick off at 11 a.m. CT and be broadcast on ABC.