On Sept. 15, very few folks outside of the football program would have thought the Texas Longhorns would be in the mix for a conference title in the final week of the regular season.
But here we are.
Texas' road to a Big 12 title has been anything but ideal. The Longhorns' 1-2 start to the season sparked a lot of criticism of Mack Brown and Texas' soft brand of football. But following the 44-23 home loss to Ole Miss on Sept. 14, the Longhorns decided to take matters into their own hands and called a player-only meeting, which prompted the team to choose its destiny: either roll over, or fight and keep the preseason goal of winning a Big 12 Championship alive.
The Longhorns chose the latter.
"We were pissed off and we pulled together," senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. "We were tired of being known as the team that was not playing up to the Texas standard."
Considering the dreadful nonconference losses to BYU and Ole Miss, it is safe to assume nobody listened when the Longhorns talked about winning a conference title. Many media members brushed it off as the typical "toe the company line" spiel.
However, Texas proved its critics wrong and will play for, at minimum, a share of the Big 12 Championship Saturday against Baylor.
But a conference title will not come easy against the Bears' potent, uptempo offense and physical defense. If the stat sheet tells the story, the outcome may not be favorable for the Longhorns.
Baylor leads the nation in total offense, scoring offense and passing efficiency, but that is not out of the ordinary for an Art Briles' team. The biggest change the Bears made this season is on defense. Baylor's defense—which has not ranked higher than No. 85 in NCAA total defense since Briles was hired in 2007—ranks No. 29 in total defense and has held its opponents to an average of 22 points per game.
Baylor looked invincible through the first nine games of the season. But the injury bug bit hard and sidelined wide receiver Tevin Reese, running backs Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin, left tackle Spencer Drango and linebacker Bryce Hager throughout the majority of the Bears' November games. Injuries and all, Baylor managed to only drop one game to Oklahoma State.
But that one loss put the Bears in the same scenario as the Longhorns: 7-1 in conference play, with a share of the Big 12 Championship on the line Saturday. By the time the teams kick off, an entire title and BCS bowl berth could also be at stake.
Chances Texas wins the Big 12 Championship?
When all is said and done, half of Texas' conference title hopes will be determined by the Longhorns' performance in Waco, but the other half falls in the hands of their conference rival, Oklahoma.
The Oklahoma Sooners will face the Oklahoma State Cowboys in Stillwater at noon ET Saturday. Oklahoma State is a 10-point favorite over Oklahoma, according to the Dec. 2 line on VegasInsider.com. As much as it will pain Texas fans to read this, Longhorns across the country need to put their crimson and cream hatred aside and recognize what an Oklahoma win could mean for their team.
The Longhorns' ability to outright win a conference championship will be determined by an Oklahoma victory. If the Sooners can embrace the underdog role and upset the Cowboys, Texas will be one win away from clinching the Big 12 title and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.
In other words, Texas fans should get their "Boomer Sooner" chants ready and be Oklahoma's biggest fans come Saturday.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.
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