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The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

What to expect from Texas and Oklahoma football in SEC

CW / Riley Thompson
Alabama wide receiver Kobe Prentice (#6) looks to avoid a Texas defender.

After playing in the Big 12 conference for over 25 years, Texas and Oklahoma football are gearing up for their first seasons in the SEC.

Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin expressed his opinion about playing the Longhorns and Sooners this season.

“Our schedule is like playing in the NFL in the SEC now, especially after adding those two. So hats off to the commissioner for getting that done and making the super conference of all time,” Kiffin said.

Texas and Oklahoma have both reached the College Football Playoff before and understand what it takes to get there. The two teams bring distinct football identities to their new conference. 

Texas Longhorns football

Last season, the Longhorns’ offense averaged 478 yards per game. Led by third-year head coach Steve Sarkisian, Texas defeated Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium, finished the regular season with 11 wins and reached the College Football Playoff for the first time. 

Before taking the job at Texas, Sarkisian served under former Alabama head coach Nick Saban as the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator from 2019-2020. He took the job at Texas in 2021 and has turned the Longhorns into a championship contender. 

Texas offensive coordinator Kyle Flood said that Sarkisian is the best play caller he has ever worked with and is arguably the best in the nation.

“I think what makes him that is his ability to see the game in real time,” Flood said. “I think as the game is happening and as the teams that we’re playing are adjusting, he’s adjusting with them. And I think that makes him unique, his ability to do that at a really high level.”

During last season’s matchup with Alabama, Texas kept the chains moving by catching defenders off guard, selling the run and getting the ball to its explosive receivers in space. Sarkisian’s game plan led the Longhorns to a double-digit victory over the Crimson Tide. 

Sarkisian’s unique philosophy starts on the ground. If the Longhorns establish the run game against their opponent, he designs plays with a run-pass option that can stretch out a defense and set up complementary plays through the air.

The first quarter is the most crucial part of the game for Sarkisian. In 2023, the Longhorns outscored opponents in the first quarter 120-50. 

Looking ahead, redshirt junior quarterback Quinn Ewers will return for another year under center. The Longhorns reloaded their team with more talented weapons after losing some of Ewers’ favorite targets in the NFL draft. 

Former Alabama wide receiver Isaiah Bond found a new home this offseason. After hearing the news that Saban was retiring, Bond entered the transfer portal and joined Texas. Shortly after, former Alabama tight end Amari Niblack also transferred to the Longhorns.

A player like Bond can thrive in Sarkisian’s offense because of his speed. Bond’s experience in the SEC can give Ewers and the Longhorns a leg up on top teams like Georgia and Alabama.

On the defense, Texas brought in game-changing edge rusher Trey Moore. Before entering the transfer portal, Moore made a name for himself during his two seasons at UTSA by collecting 22 sacks and 104 tackles. 

The secondary is the position group that will be challenged this season. Last year’s core gave up 285 or more passing yards in six games. 

Texas brought in senior Andrew Mukuba through the transfer portal to add depth at the free safety position. Mukuba started 31 games for the Clemson Tigers from 2021-2023 and tallied up 149 tackles with 20 pass breakups.

The Longhorns will not face the Crimson Tide this regular season, but they do have an important matchup on the road against the defending champions, the Michigan Wolverines. 

Oklahoma Sooners football

The Sooners were the only team to beat Texas in the regular season last year. Despite that, Oklahoma finished with two losses that kept them out of the playoff. 

Before joining Oklahoma two seasons ago, head coach Brent Venables won two national championships at Clemson as defensive coordinator. Venables signed a massive contract extension with the Sooners this offseason, giving him a significant raise and causing an uptick in recruiting.

Oklahoma’s new defensive coordinator, Zac Alley, will take over in the spring. Alley will reunite with Venables after working under him as a student and graduate assistant at Clemson.

Venables said that it felt like the right time to bring in a guy with fresh ideas as the Sooners prepare for the SEC.

“He is a great teammate and he’s tough as all get out,” Venables said. “[He] really understands offense and understands defense and understands how to take advantage of the players that you have on your roster.”

Senior linebacker Danny Stustman will return to the Sooners to play alongside sophomore Kip Lewis. These two led the team in tackles last season and played together as a cohesive unit. 

Oklahoma’s defense also brings back senior safety Billy Bowman, who led the team in interceptions last season.

Defensive lineman Damonic Williams transferred in from TCU. At 320 pounds, he will be tasked with eating up blocks, which will allow the linebackers to attack the ball carrier. 

Offensively, the Sooners lost quarterback Dillion Gabriel in the transfer portal. He joined the Oregon Ducks this offseason.

Sophomore Jackson Arnold appears to be the favorite to secure the vacant starting job. Arnold came out of high school with a 5-star ranking and got the opportunity to start in last year’s Alamo Bowl for the Sooners. 

At the receiver position, sophomore Nic Anderson is expected to play an important role. Last season, Anderson averaged 21 yards per catch and found the end zone 10 times. 

The Sooners will host the Crimson Tide November 23rd in Norman, Oklahoma.

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