Texas can’t seem to catch a break.
Despite opening up their Big 12 schedule with a 31-21 victory over Kansas State — and taking some momentary heat off head coach Mack Brown — the Longhorns limped off the field Saturday after losing both junior quarterback David Ash and junior linebacker Jordan Hicks to injury. Hicks is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, and Ash’s status is in question for the year as he deals with a potential second concussion in three weeks.
Following its bye week, Texas takes on winless Iowa State on the road. On paper, it’s a favorable matchup for the Longhorns. The Cyclones, who lost both of their home games this season, are averaging just 20.5 points a game. In addition, Iowa State is ineffective at running the ball, which has — sorry, Jordan Hicks — been Texas’ Achilles heel. The Cyclones’ leading rusher, Sam Richardson, only totaled 86 yards this season.
The Longhorns could be in for a rough stretch when they head to Dallas for the Red River Rivalry game against Oklahoma, who shellacked them 63-21 last season. Led by senior running back Brennan Clay and junior quarterback Blake Bell, who had four rushing touchdowns in last year’s game, the Sooners boast a rushing attack that could give the Texas defense fits. Oklahoma has beaten the Longhorns by at least 45 points four times in the Mack Brown era, including each of the past two years. Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops would love nothing more than to send Brown out the door with one final tail kicking.
After the Red River Rivalry, Texas hits the road for two of its next three games, taking on a TCU team that has stumbled out to a disappointing 1-2 record. Although the Horned Frogs have yet to hold an opponent under 20 points, don’t underestimate their defense: they smothered Texas in their 20-13 win on Thanksgiving last year. The following two games provide beatable opponents for the Longhorns. They face a weak Kansas team at home before heading to Morgantown to play West Virginia, which holds a 4-6 conference record since joining the Big 12 last year.
By far, the toughest stretch for Texas will be its final three games, when it will take on Big 12 favorite Oklahoma State, upstart Texas Tech and offensive-juggernaut Baylor. Oklahoma State and Baylor look especially dangerous because they have something Texas doesn’t: a game-changing quarterback. Despite splitting time, J.W. Walsh excelled in Oklahoma State’s three victories this year, using both his arm and legs to rack up 824 yards of offense and seven touchdowns. Baylor’s Bryce Petty has looked even better, throwing for 1,001 yards and eight touchdowns without an interception thus far.
Though Brown preaches “one game at a time,” some of these games are surely looming in the back of his mind. With four ranked opponents and only three home games remaining for the Longhorns, this team’s resilience will be tested.