Oklahoma State the first of three tough opponents Texas has yet to face this year

Peter Sblendorio

During their six-game win streak to begin conference play, the Longhorns upset the No. 12 team in the nation and racked up three victories on the road.

Despite these accomplishments, the Longhorns likely still haven’t faced their toughest stretch yet. This figures to come in the next four weeks, when they take on No. 12 Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and No. 5 Baylor to close out the season.

This trio of looming opponents combined for a stellar 23-4 record through the first 11 weeks of the season. Compare that to the 23-33 record compiled by the six teams that Texas beat during its current win streak, and it becomes evident that Longhorns must continue to elevate their play in the final weeks for a chance at a Big 12 title.

While the Texas players remain aware of the challenges awaiting them in their final three games, senior right guard Mason Walters said the team refuses to look too far ahead. Instead, they plan to prepare for one opponent at a time.

“You can’t think of it like ‘Man, you gotta beat them, then them, then them,’” Walters said. “You just gotta take it one game at a time. We’ve got Oklahoma State coming into our house, they’re a high-ranked team and we just have to focus on them.”

The Longhorns realize they have their work cut out for them against Oklahoma State, who sits third in the Big 12 with a 5-1 record in conference play. After losing their conference opener against West Virginia, the Cowboys reeled off five straight victories to move within a game of Texas and undefeated Baylor.

With these three teams grouped so closely together in the standings, a loss in any of the remaining games could greatly damage Texas’ title hopes.

“The next game is all there is for us,” defensive coordinator Greg Robinson said. “And you know it’s one step at a time. I don’t see us having any issue about looking ahead to anything other than playing Okie State. I think they are looking forward to playing them.”

While each of Texas’ final three opponents figures to present a formidable challenge, head coach Mack Brown does not believe his players need to adjust their mindset or change their preparation from what they have done all season.

“You are who you are,” Brown said. “What we’ve told them is you have to keep improving each week if you’re going to win the championship. We told them at halftime Saturday night [against West Virginia] ‘If you’re a championship team, you’ll win this game.’ We don’t have wiggle room. You don’t have room to have a setback.”

With their perfect start in conference play, the Longhorns possess the luxury of controlling their own destiny to close out the season. Winning each of the remaining games would clinch a Big 12 title for Texas, but a loss against any of the conference heavyweights remaining on the schedule could prove to be detrimental.