Not long ago, the Texas Longhorns were a once-legendary program in decline.

Now Head Coach Steve Sarkisian and surprise QB Quinn Ewers have put the Longhorns back in the national championship conversation. But as Uncle Ben once said to Peter Parker, aka Spiderman, with great expectations comes great pressure to win the whole damn thing… (or something like that.)

Head coach and former Alabama Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian has steadily improved his Texas Longhorns since taking over in 2021. He found a projected top 10 NFL Draft pick in Ewers and landed his heir apparent with the most famous last name in football, No. . 1 overall recruit Arch Manning, won the Longhorns’ first Big 12 title since 2009 and took his team to the College Football Playoff for the first time in program history.

Expectations are now higher than ever. Texas is ranked No. 3 in the preseason with the third-best odds to win it all in 2024. What do the Longhorns need to do to live up to high expectations?

Shut down opposing QBs

The glaring weakness in an otherwise impressive 2023 campaign for the Longhorns was a young secondary without much depth who ranked 113th in the country against the pass. This included a 430 yard, two touchdown strike by Washington Huskies phenom Michael Penix Jr. in a season-ending loss in the Sugar Bowl in the College Football Playoff.

But the Longhorns have taken steps to turn this weakness into a strength. They got the No. 1 safety in the transfer portal, Clemson standout Andrew Mukuba, who helped lead the Tigers to a top-5 defense against the pass. They also managed to bring back NFL-caliber cornerback Jahdae Barron, a fifth-year senior with a lot of much-needed experience who would have liked to leave for the draft at the end of the 2023 season.

With the continued development of second-year starter Derek Williams Jr., and incoming freshman talent like four-star recruit and track athlete Xavier Filsaime, improved secondary play will be essential, especially in an all-important game against the top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs. QB Carson Beck, who threw for nearly 4,000 yards in 2023.

Excellency from Quinn Ewers

High-level quarterback play is a no-brainer for any team, but Quinn Ewers will have to rise above multiple challenges that most signal callers never have to face, let alone at the same time.

For starters, Ewers lost his top four pass catchers from the 2023 season to the NFL Draft: wide receivers Xavier Worthy, Adonai Mitchell and Jordan Whittington, plus tight end Ja’Tavian Sanders. Additionally, the Longhorns’ move from the Big 12 to the SEC comes with a significant increase in their opponents’ defensive capabilities.

Only one defense Texas played in 2023 ranked higher than 50th in total defense — and that was Alabama at No. 18, a team that upset Texas with just a field goal. In 2024, Texas will face six such defenses against a host of SEC foes, including their new SEC rival Georgia Bulldogs, who come in at No. 9.

Ewers will have to quickly get used to his new receiving corp, including heralded Alabama transfer Isaiah Boyd, if he hopes to repeat his 2023 success and lead his team through a tough SEC and expanded College Football Playoff.

Watch out for Oklahoma

Who would ever think that the Red River Rivalry, an uninterrupted, heated, 95-year-old matchup that is one of the most celebrated in all of college football, against all-time nemesis and fellow Big 12 breakout Oklahoma, could be a sneaky trap game? are ?

It may seem especially unlikely given last year’s massive upset by the Sooners, led by a monstrous 398-yard performance from uber-talented QB Dillon Gabriel, now surprisingly an Oregon Duck of course. But when Texas and Oklahoma face off on Oct. 12, the Longhorns will play their first SEC game against the always-tough Mississippi St. Bulldogs on Sept. 28, then have the biggest game on their calendar the following Saturday, a visit from top SEC QB Carson Beck and the unanimous preseason No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs, a matchup chock full of SEC championship and playoff implications.

The good news is that Texas’ farewell comes just before this brutal stretch. The Longhorns will have to somehow keep Georgia out of their minds over the last two weeks and take care of business in Dallas before turning their attention to their toughest game of the season.

Expectations are high for the Longhorns’ breakout performance in 2024, but so are the challenges they will have to overcome. But on the other side of these obstacles is a realistic chance at a national championship trophy that they haven’t hoisted since 2005.