Texas football has everything to lose, everything to gain

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Kaitlyn Harmon, Sports Reporter

Editor’s note: This story first appeared as part of the September 3 Double Coverage flipbook.

Texas football has no other choice but to come out of the gates swinging.

Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte’s move to give Tom Herman the boot and a $15 million payday was a bold move. But what was even bolder was choosing to bring in Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian as the new man in charge. Sarkisian’s resume includes only two NCAA D1 head coaching positions — two unsuccessful stints, at that.

In the offseason, Sarkisian’s “all gas, no brakes” campaign altered the camaraderie of the locker room, completely revamping the environment Herman built during his four-year stay in Austin. Sarkisian bringing in an arsenal of new coaches for his staff was the first of many right moves he made during the offseason, but only Saturday’s matchup and contests beyond will only prove if Del Conte made the right move in bringing him to Texas.

Texas football prides itself on sitting atop the throne of Big 12 football, or at least trying to. With consistent losses to Oklahoma and the Sooners finding their way to the College Football Playoff Semifinals in 2019, Texas finds itself lost in OU’s wake. Yet, the Longhorns look to revive their record books and take back the Big 12 until their tentatively scheduled 2025 departure to the SEC.

“I didn’t take this job blind,” Sarkisian said in an Aug. 5 press conference. “When you take a job at the University of Texas, you know, we’re everybody’s biggest game. Any time you play the University of Texas, it’s every team’s biggest game of the year … we need to focus on us and the task at hand and what we’re trying to get accomplished.”

Sarkisian’s first task comes against a matured Louisiana defense. The key to a Texas win and a successful first season in the Sarkisian era is establishing dominance upfront. Hudson Card, who will start the game against the Ragin’ Cajuns, will need ample protection upfront as he finds his way downfield against Louisiana’s defense.

The No. 23 Ragin’ Cajuns have had two years to mature and grow a young defense, creating a defensive threat against Card and the offensive line. A Louisiana defense made up of upperclassmen could create chaos. If the redshirt freshman ends up scrambling for downs in Week 1, it could set the offensive tone for the Longhorns’ season.

Under Herman, the 2020 Texas team went 7–3 overall and 5–3 in conference play. In Herman’s third year as head coach, the 2019 Longhorns finished 8–5 overall and 5–4 in Big 12 contest. When Herman first arrived on the Forty Acres in 2017, Texas concluded its first season with Herman at the helm 7–6 overall and 5–4 in conference.

It’s no surprise that Texas football and Longhorn Nation yearn for change. After four seasons of mediocrity, Longhorn fans deserve a 10-win season and a more dominating performance in the Big 12.

If Texas loses its home opener Saturday against Louisiana, fans will have every right to question Del Conte’s choice in hiring Sarkisian. Texas has everything to gain this Saturday with a win against the Cajuns and everything to lose with a home opener loss under a new coach that required a $15 million buyout.