AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — In February 2010, the Texas Longhorns signed a group of recruits ranked among the best classes in the nation. They were supposed to be the next group chasing Big 12 and national championships at a powerhouse program.
Many of them will play their final home game Thanksgiving night against Texas Tech having come nowhere close to what was expected over the past four seasons.
Since losing to Alabama in the 2009 season championship game, Texas is 29-19 overall, with a 17-16 mark in the Big 12 without a conference title. Against ranked teams, the Longhorns are 4-13 over that span. Check that against the Crimson Tide, which is 46-5 over the same time period and in position to play for its third straight national title.
"To their credit, they would tell you they haven't accomplished what teams at Texas want to accomplish," coach Mack Brown said of his seniors. "This year was a year we anticipated we had a chance to win every game. It hasn't gone that way ... A lot of teams would have folded after a 1-2 start. They stepped up with their leadership. I'm really proud of them."
The Texas seniors still have one last chance to win a league title if the Longhorns (7-3, 6-1 Big 12) beat Texas Tech (7-4, 4-4) and then Baylor on Dec. 7. Win those games, hope Oklahoma State loses to Oklahoma, and Texas can claim its first league crown since 2009 and just the third in Brown's 16 seasons.
"I came to Texas to win the Big 12, to do great things here," senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said. "That's what we're fighting for."
Texas Tech is trying to end a losing skid that has spoiled a tremendous start under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury. The Red Raiders were 7-0 and ranked No. 10 before spiraling into a four-game losing streak punctuated by miserable defense. Texas Tech has surrendered an average of 50 points during the losses.
"We kind of lost our swagger, I feel like, the last four weeks," Red Raiders senior defensive lineman Kerry Hyder said.
Here's five things to watch when Texas and Texas Tech play on Thursday night:
EMOTION: Who will bring the most energy to a holiday night game? For generations, Thanksgiving weekend was Texas vs. Texas A&M. Now that the Aggies are in the SEC and off the schedule for the foreseeable future, the Longhorns are trying to recapture the emotions of a rivalry game. It didn't work last year when a flat Texas team lost to TCU in front of a flat home crowd. If the Red Raiders take an early lead, Texas may never recover. Texas Tech is playing its first Thanksgiving game in school history.