Longhorns look SEC ready, but SEC doesn't look so hot

By: Ralph D. Russo, The Associated Press
Published: Saturday, September 9, 2023
Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy (1) and Texas wide receiver Adonai Mitchell (5) celebrate a touchdown by Worthy against Alabama during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)
Texas wide receiver Xavier Worthy (1) and Texas wide receiver Adonai Mitchell (5) celebrate a touchdown by Worthy against Alabama during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

Texas is ready for the Southeastern Conference. Then again, the SEC doesn't look so tough right now.

In their final season as a member of the Big 12, the No. 11 Longhorns made a statement against Alabama and came away with the biggest victory of Steve Sarkisian's three seasons as Texas coach.

Is Texas back? Who cares. Here's what's important: Texas was better than No. 3 Alabama in almost every way in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night.

The biggest difference between the two? Texas has difference-makers at quarterback and receiver.

“The players understood that we're good enough to come in here and win. But the moment doubt starts to creep in, that's when you start making the mistakes that get you beat,” Sarkisian said.

A year after losing by one to the Crimson Tide in Austin, the Longhorns never had a reason to doubt they belonged.

Quinn Ewers was every bit the five-star he was touted to be for the Longhorns, throwing for 349 yards and three touchdowns. Sarkisian has always been one of college football's best play callers. He won a national championship with Alabama in 2020 and helped turn DeVonta Smith into a Heisman Trophy winner.

Now with Texas, Sarkisian has a wealth of weapons in receivers Xavier Worthy, Adonai Mitchell and Jordan Whittington and tight end Ja'Tavion Sanders, and he used them to carve up his old bosses' defense.

Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban's team had not lost a regular-season nonconference game since 2007, a 57-game winning streak that was the longest of its kind since the AP poll started in 1936.

Be careful pronouncing the dynasty dead, but coming off a two-loss season, Alabama still doesn't look like its old scary self.

“This was a test for everybody. For me, for the staff, for the players. We didn’t do very well, but it’s the mid-term, not the final,” Saban told reporters.

For most of Saban's historic run with Alabama, he dominated his former assistant coaches. Sarkisian is just the third to beat Saban in 31 tries, but all three have come in the last three seasons.

“It all starts with me, and I obviously let our team down with the way we executed," Saban said.

It's not just Alabama. The SEC as a whole has had a rough start to the season, going 3-6 against Power 5 teams, including 1-4 against the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Mississippi State's overtime victory over Arizona and Auburn's late-night win at California helped salvage the weekend for the SEC and finally handed the Pac-12 its first losses after 18 straight victories to start the season.

Instead of asking whether Texas is ready for the SEC, maybe the question should be: Is the SEC ready for Texas?


Last September's Texas A&M-Miami game was a slog that portended poor disappointing, losing seasons for both programs.

A little more than a year later, the Aggies and Hurricanes played a game that barely resembled the same sport, one that should bring hope for both programs — and maybe a real breakthrough for coach Mario Cristobal and Miami.

The Hurricanes broke a five-game losing streak against SEC teams — notice a theme — running away from No. 23 Texas A&M 48-33 in one of the most encouraging performances by Miami of the last decade.

“We work hard, we practice hard, we train hard," Cristobal told reporters. "We felt if we’d eventually eliminate mistakes we’d take control of the game.”

The celebration of Miami's biggest nonconference victory since the 'Canes pounced on Notre Dame in a deafening Hard Rock Stadium in 2017 was tempered by a scary late-game injury to All-America safety Kamren Kinchens, who was carted off on a stretcher.

Cristobal said the initial report he received on Kinchens was positive.

There is no way to overstate how bad Cristobal's first season was at Miami last year. The Hurricanes didn't just finish 5-7 but they had a series of embarrassing performances and team chemistry bad enough to be visible.

Everything about the Hurricanes looked different against the Aggies, starting with Tyler Van Dyke, who passed 374 yards and five touchdowns. Miami has discovered weapons in Jacolby George (three touchdown catches) and Brashard Smith (98-yard kickoff return).

They helped erase an early 14-3 deficit,

“I think last year, I think we would have quit, honestly,” Van Dyke told reporters.

The Hurricanes victory capped a huge opening two weeks for the ACC against the SEC. The last time the ACC had four wins in an entire a season against the SEC was 2017.

As for the Aggies, it will be tough to sell moral victories to the folks in College Station after going 5-7 last season.

Coach Jimbo Fisher seems to have an offense now, coordinated by Bobby Petrino and led by Conner Weigman (336 yards, two TDs and two picks).

That's the good news.

The bad? A&M is 3-9 in its last 12 games against Power 5 teams.


In front of a full-house at Folsom Field, Deion Sanders and Colorado showed last week's rousing upset at TCU was no fluke.

Shedeur Sanders and Co. turned it on in the second half to rout of old Big Eight rival Nebraska and set up a huge rest of September for the No. 22 Buffaloes.

The more notable story in Boulder on Saturday was the other team with a famous first-year coach.

Matt Rhule is taking a different approach to rebuilding Nebraska and there are already signs that, much like at his other college stops, the Huskers might take a step back before moving forward.

Rhule has talked a lot about how Nebraska is in much better shape than the previous programs he took over at Temple and Baylor. That might be true, but his rebuilds tend to take a minute. Temple was 2-10 in Rhule's first season. Baylor was 1-11. Both took big leaps in Year 2 and won double-digit games in Year 3.

“I think we’re better than we’re showing. But what does that mean? It’s just words,” Rhule said. “I told the team, ‘We’re going to get this right.’”

Nebraska fans can forgiven a lack of patience after six straight losing seasons.

The Huskers have home games against Northern Illinois and Louisiana Tech the next two weeks, but a quick fix doesn't seem to be in the cards.


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