The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: What Are Best and Worst Case Scenarios For Texas Football?

How high is the ceiling for Texas, and how low is the floor?
Texas head football coach Steve Sarkisian tries to quite the crowd as the boo the Big 12 Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark following the Big 12 Football Championship game between the Oklahoma State University Cowboys and the Texas Longhorns at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023.
Texas head football coach Steve Sarkisian tries to quite the crowd as the boo the Big 12 Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark following the Big 12 Football Championship game between the Oklahoma State University Cowboys and the Texas Longhorns at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023. / Sarah Phipps/Oklahoman / USA TODAY

Entering the 2024 college football season, hype has never been higher for the modern-era Texas Longhorns.

For the first time in 14 years, Texas will likely enter the season as a top-four ranked team, as most sportsbooks currently have the Longhorns as a top-three odds to win the national championship.

Expectations are high for head coach Steve Sarkisian entering his fourth year as head coach. He’s had three straight years of top-six recruiting classes, and the 2024 team is ranked as having the sixth-best transfer class in the nation, all according to 247Sports.

But what is the ceiling for this uber-talented team, and just how low is the floor for a squad that has been criticized for underperforming throughout the 2010s? Here are five tiers of the Texas football 2024 season, from Amazing, to bad, to the worst possible outcome.

The Ceiling: National Champions

For the first time since Mack Brown left Austin, it feels like the sky is the limit for the Longhorns, From the start, opening with the third-best odds, according to BetMGM, to win a national championship proves that you’re a title favorite. But it doesn’t just feel like a pipe dream like it did in the twilight of Brown’s tenure.

With Nick Saban retiring, there’s a real chance Sarkisian can solidify himself as the second-best coach in college football behind Georgia’s Kirby Smart with another stellar season. If everything goes right for Texas, the team could have the best quarterback in the nation in Quinn Ewers, the best offensive line, the best-receiving core, and the best pass-rushing group. Entering the season, it’s hard to predict that even one of those is the best in the nation, let alone all four, but with a fantastic season who says the team can’t have a meteoric rise in all four of those groups? 

Texas’ schedule isn’t easy, but it’s also not as bad as SEC schools like Florida and Oklahoma. Texas faces four pivotal matchups: at Michigan, hosting Georgia, the Red River Rivalry, and of course, the reinstallment of the Lone Star Showdown, heading to College Station to face Texas A&M to end the season. That game could have serious national title implications. 

The Good: A Top Six Team in the Nation to End the Year.

This may seem a little light on expectations for “the good” result for Texas. If they are seen as a top-three team heading in, how is being just top six “good”? 

With the new setup in the College Football Playoff, there’s a chance the fourth-best team in the nation is a No. 6 seed. The conference champions will hold a first-round bye, and only one team out of Georgia, Texas, Alabama, Ole Miss or LSU can be in first place. If Texas loses a conference game at the wrong time, the Longhorns could still be one of the best teams in the nation at 11-1, but miss out on a bye. 

Texas fans would, and should, be happy with a sixth or better seed heading into the playoff. The sixth seed would play host to the 11th-best team in the nation, currently projected to be Notre Dame according to BetMGM title odds, and then face the three-seed in the bowl round. 

The difference between a six and seven seed is massive. Texas’ goal should be to avoid any of the above SEC teams, as well as Oregon and Ohio State, until the national championship game. The seventh seed would likely face the Big 10 or SEC champion in the second round of the playoff, while the sixth seed would likely face the Big 12 or ACC champion. Heading into 2024, Texas would much rather face Notre Dame and Florida State in its two playoff games than Michigan and Georgia. Finishing anywhere from a 1-6 seed for Texas would be a massive achievement. 

The Neutral: Texas Makes the Playoff

Neutral expectations for the year are simple. Make the playoff, even if you aren’t a top-eight team. This Texas team knows they have what it takes to win the national championship, and they shouldn’t be upset even if the team loses two regular season games and misses out on the SEC championship game. 

A 10-2 team would surely be a top-eight seed, but even if Texas can’t host its first playoff game the Longhorns would still be a feared opponent for any home team. If Texas lost to Michigan away and Georgia at home, fans would be upset but wins against every other team, including OU and A&M, would still feel like a strong regular season, with a chance to elevate in the playoff.

The Bad: Texas Misses the Playoff

Yes, these are the expectations for the Texas Longhorns heading into 2024. Not being a top-11 team in the nation would be a failure of a season for Texas. Sarkisian and the Horns would likely have lost three or more games, a rough showing in a season that seemed destined for greatness. 

The last time a Texas team was ranked top-10 in the preseason but outside in the post-season was 2019, Tom Herman’s fabled late-season collapse. Certain questions would definitely be asked about Sarkisian if the Longhorns missed the playoffs.

The Ugly: Texas Loses Every Big Game, Fails to Reach Double Digit Wins

Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian arrives for Texas Media Day at the Superdome on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2023 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Texas Longhorns will take on the Washington Huskies in the College Football Playoff Semi-Finals on January 1, 2024.
Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian arrives for Texas Media Day at the Superdome on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2023 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Texas Longhorns will take on the Washington Huskies in the College Football Playoff Semi-Finals on January 1, 2024. / Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman /

It’s hard to believe that after such a strong 2023, and an even stronger offseason afterward, this is possible for Texas, but stranger things have happened in the college football world.

One could definitely tell a story in which Texas loses all of the Big Four games. An away game against last year’s national champions? Very easily could be a loss. Same with an away game in the most hostile environment possible, College Station.

Texas, the superior team in 2023, lost to the Sooners in the Red River Rivalry, and every year that game is a toss-up. And would anyone outside of Austin be THAT surprised if Texas lost to Georgia, even at home? Let’s not forget Texas travels to Arkansas, a place that surprised the 2021 Longhorns the last time they were in Fayetteville. None of these games are gimmes.

If all goes wrong, Texas would end the year 8-4 or 7-5. Even with a bowl win, Texas would not hit double-digit wins and many questions would be asked about the legacy of Ewers and the status of Sarkisian’s job. For the sanity of the fans in Austin, and the fun of college football, one must hope the ugly does not come into play. But you’d be kidding yourself if you don’t think this is even a possibility for the Longhorns.


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Evan Vieth

EVAN VIETH