By RJ Young
FOX Sports College Football Writer
In preparation for conference media days throughout July, I posed five questions I want answered in the latest episode of “The No. 1 Ranked Show.” One of those questions has to do with just what the Big 12 has to gain — and not — from Texas playing a nonconference game against SEC power Alabama.
Does Texas have to beat Alabama (Sept. 10, Big Noon on FOX) for the Big 12 to be taken seriously by the CFP selection committee in 2022?
It couldn’t hurt.
RJ Young’s five questions for conference media days
FOX Sports’ RJ Young shares the questions he wants answered when he visits coaches and players at conference media days in the coming weeks. To start, RJ wants to know if the Big 12 is back.
The fact is the selection committee showed what it thinks of the Big 12 and its chances in the CFP last year. In years past, the Oklahoma Sooners have been the fourth team in because, frankly, there hasn’t been a better alternative for the selection committee to choose.
The Sooners benefited from being undefeated in the month of November since 2014 and rode that momentum to a Big 12 title and invitation to the semifinals. When Baylor blew that up last year, ending Oklahoma’s 23-game November winning streak, and Oklahoma State buried the Sooners two weeks later, that left only the winner of the Big 12 Championship — BU vs. OSU — with the chance of representing the conference in the CFP.
Despite an outstanding game that the Bears won and OSU fell six inches short of winning, the selection committee opted to put a non-conference champion (Georgia) into the CFP. That decision was vindicated when Georgia won the national title against Alabama, the team it lost to in the SEC Championship Game.
Now, the selection committee has all the ammo necessary to disregard the Big 12 — like it has the Pac-12 — in a four-team playoff format. The only way it seems the Big 12 will find its way into the CFP this year is if one of its programs runs the table.
If Texas manages to beat Alabama, the strength of schedule for every Big 12 team would get a lot better. If — if — one of those teams manages to go undefeated, it would be a nice data point to have. But I believe (cynically, I’ll admit) that a win for the Longhorns might just be touted as an opening salvo for their first season of SEC football in 2025.
Let’s focus in on Sept 10, when Nick Saban takes his Crimson Tide to the Forty Acres for a Big Noon showdown.
Does Texas have a chance in that game?
Yes, the Longhorns have a chance. They’ve added the nation’s No. 1 recruit for the 2022 class in quarterback Quinn Ewers, the most underrated tight end prospect in the sport in Jahleel Billingsley and former Group of 5 dynamo in Wyoming transfer wide receiver Isaiah Neyor. The Longhorns also return their best chance at a Heisman Trophy winner since Vince Young in running back Bijan Robinson.
The issue for Texas, though, isn’t on its offense but on what must be a remarkably improved defense if it’s going to combat reigning Heisman winner Bryce Young and the Bama offense. Even so, Texas probably needs to turn this matchup into a shootout and hope to have the ball at the end with a chance to win it.
Is Quinn Ewers the starter?
I’d be shocked if he’s not. Yes, the Longhorns still have Hudson Card on campus — Card beat former Longhorns QB Casey Thompson to open the 2021 season — and perhaps the toolsiest quarterback in the country in Maalik Murphy.
But Ewers didn’t transfer from Ohio State after one year to the place many believe he should’ve started his college career to sit on the bench. And Longhorns coach Steve Sarkisian didn’t recruit him out of the transfer portal to pad the Longhorns’ roster.
Ewers is at Texas to do what only Vince Young has in this century: Lead the Longhorns to a national championship. If Texas brings Ewers to Big 12 Media Days — which I highly doubt — Sarkisian would leave no doubt about who’ll start behind center against Louisiana-Monroe in Week 1.
Is Arch Manning’s commitment the beginning of Texas is Back?
RJ Young breaks down why Arch Manning’s commitment to the Longhorns will have a significant impact on the rest of their recruiting class and why Texas will be ready for the SEC in 2025.
Will the outcome of Alabama-Texas be a telltale game for Arch Manning’s commitment to Texas?
No, it won’t be.
While I believe Texas has a decent chance of upsetting Alabama, I’m also willing to admit that I’m in the minority with that opinion outside of Austin, and even some Texas fans don’t believe their Longhorns stand a chance of holding up longer than a snowball in hell.
However, this game will serve as a benchmark for the Longhorns not just for this season but also for their next three. Manning, the top 2023 recruit in the country who committed to Texas last week, will either be a redshirt sophomore or junior when the Longhorns play their first season in the SEC.
A win against Alabama in 2022 puts them ahead of schedule, especially following a 5-7 season with a loss to Kansas in 2021. But I don’t think Manning will break his commitment over a loss or even a bad loss to Alabama.
RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast “The No. 1 Ranked Show with RJ Young.” Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young, and subscribe to “The RJ Young Show” on YouTube. He is not on a StepMill.
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