Editor’s note: Fifth in a series previewing each team in the Big 12.

Picking a perennial underachiever such as Texas to win the Big 12 and make the College Football Playoff is usually a fool’s errand.

The Longhorns always seem to let their huge fanbase, and prognosticators who believe it will be their year, down faster than a cowboy on a bucking bull. Texas is always back — until it isn’t.

“We’re a team. I don’t know if I could say that a year ago. They’re actually doing things necessary because they don’t want to let their brother down. That’s going to get us a long way.” — Texas coach Steve Sarkisian

But this year, the Longhorns’ last in the Big 12 before they enter the SEC, former BYU quarterback Steve Sarkisian’s crew looks legit.

Fifteen starters from a team that went 8-5 overall and 6-3 in the Big 12 last year are back, most notably quarterback Quinn Ewers.

If the defense catches up and Texas survives a Week 2 trip to Alabama with minimal damage, watch out. If the Longhorns somehow win in Tuscaloosa, that Texas fan in your life is going to be insufferable.

“Clearly, we’re not a finished product,” Sarkisian said after the spring game. “There’s plenty of work to be done. I can point to a lot of examples tonight. I thought this was a positive time for us. I thought it was a good night. … But we’ve got work to do.”

And he’s got a big decision to make. Does he stay with Ewers, or turn the team over to highly recruited prep QB Arch Manning?

After the spring game, Sarkisian declined to name a starter, saying the competition would go into fall camp. Since then, he’s made a few statements that seem to indicate Ewers is the leader.

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And that’s probably a good choice, seeing as how Ewers completed 58% of his passes for 2,177 yards and 15 touchdowns, with six interceptions, last year while appearing in 10 games.

Manning, meanwhile, struggled in the spring game, completing just 5 of 13 passes.

Ewers is one of nine starters back on offense. However, running back Bijan Robinson, who won the Doak Walker Award, is now competing for playing time with former BYU RB Tyler Allgeier in Atlanta.

Sarkisian said he’s not concerned about finding a replacement for Robinson, as the running backs room is filled with the likes of Jonathon Brooks, Keilan Robinson and true freshman CJ Baxter, who was ranked as the No. 1 RB recruit in the country from the 2023 recruiting class.

Whoever wins the starting job will have a plethora of outstanding receivers to work with, including Xavier Worthy and Jordan Whittington.

“Football-wise, we’ve raised our football IQ, understanding situational football,” Sarkisian said. “The game is made up of different situations. I thought we really grew in that area.”

Texas led the country in quarterback pressures in 2022 and returns most of its top defensive linemen, players such as T’Vondre Sweat, Byron Murphy II and Barryn Sorrell.

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Add some outstanding linebackers, a couple key acquisitions from the transfer portal and a top-10 recruiting class, and Sarkisian seemingly has it rolling in Austin.

Of course, that’s been written before, only to have the Longhorns suffer a couple of inexplicable losses and fade into mediocrity.

After the spring game, Sarkisian said team chemistry has improved, chemistry that might come in handy if Texas gets a comeuppance from Alabama.

“We’re a team. I don’t know if I could say that a year ago,” Sarkisian said. “They’re actually doing things necessary because they don’t want to let their brother down. That’s going to get us a long way.”


Texas Longhorns 2023 preview

2022 record: 8-5 (6-3 Big 12).

Local ties: Head coach Steve Sarkisian (former BYU quarterback).

2023 schedule

Sept. 2 — Rice.
Sept. 9 — at Alabama.
Sept. 16 — Wyoming.
Sept. 23 — at Baylor.
Sept. 30 — Kansas.
Oct. 7 — vs. Oklahoma at Dallas, Texas.
Oct. 21 — at Houston.
Oct. 28 — BYU.
Nov. 4 — Kansas State.
Nov. 11 — at TCU.
Nov. 18 — at Iowa State.
Nov. 24 — Texas Tech

Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers celebrates after scoring a touchdown against Baylor in Austin, Texas, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. Ewers appears the frontrunner at QB for the Longhorns, but will get competition from prized recruit Arch Manning. | Eric Gay, Associated Press