Perceptions change quickly in college football.
The Longhorns should be counting on that to be true for them this week.
After the debacle in Dallas that was Texas’ 63-21 loss to Oklahoma last weekend, the Longhorns come back home to face a Baylor team that is winless in conference play.
The Bears are giving up more yards per game (558.8) than anyone in the country. Even after suffering a 42-point defeat in this year’s Red River Rivalry that was more lopsided than the score indicated, Texas has to dominate Baylor the way Oklahoma dominated it to get its season back on track.
“It all comes down to this Baylor game,” senior defensive end Alex Okafor said. “This is the most important game of the season right now. It’s going to determine whether we’re an 8-5 team or an 11-2 team. I’m excited to get to work and work towards that 11-2.”
With trips to Lubbock and Manhattan to play road games against Texas Tech and Kansas State left on the Longhorns’ regular season schedule, it’s hard to see them running the table from here on out. But posting an 8-5 record this year — the same mark it held after last season — would be an extreme disappointment.
This Texas team was supposed to a major step toward restoring the football program back to the powerhouse it was when Colt McCoy and Vince Young were under center, back to contending for conference and national titles every year and back to making 10-win seasons look routine.
But if the Longhorns play the rest of the year like they did at the Cotton Bowl last Saturday, they might make a return trip to San Diego for another Holiday Bowl appearance. Texas is favored by double-digits against Baylor this weekend but needs to put at least a three-touchdown whooping on the Bears to prove that the embarrassing loss to Oklahoma was an anomaly.
“I think we just need to win,” sophomore quarterback David Ash said. “Winning fixes a lot of problems, I’ll tell ya.”
Ash and the Longhorns’ offense took a big step back in the loss to the Sooners. Before Ash suffered a broken left wrist, he was held to 113 yards passing and was picked off twice. Texas’ offense never scored against Oklahoma’s first-team defense. Ash will play through the pain this weekend, but he’ll need to play much better than last week.
“I think we need to win more than anything,” junior guard Trey Hopkins said. “I don’t think the score really matters as much as people would think. We just need to get back to winning.”
But it’s the Longhorns’ defense that is most concerning. Landry Jones logged his first 300-yard game since last November, Damien Williams reeled off the longest touchdown run in Red River Rivalry history and left Texas to take the Big 12’s worst rush defense into its game against Baylor on Saturday.
“A win is a win for us,” junior cornerback Carrington Byndom said. “We’re just going in each weekend trying to correct problems from the week before and trying to back to that Texas standard.”
Even if the Longhorns won’t say it, a seven-point win over Baylor this week just won’t cut it. They need to blow the Bears out.