Big 12

Kellis Robinett’s Big 12 Report: Texas turnaround

Texas Longhorns coach Charlie Strong, right, congratulates players as they walk off the field after a game against West Virginia.
Texas Longhorns coach Charlie Strong, right, congratulates players as they walk off the field after a game against West Virginia. AP

Don’t feel bad if you wrote Texas off this season.

You have lots of company.

The Longhorns, behind new coach Charlie Strong, gave everyone outside of the most loyal Texas football supporters good reason to expect the worst. They lost badly at home to BYU, they failed to score a point against Kansas State and they started 3-5. A bowl trip seemed out of reach.

Yet, here the Longhorns are, eligible for a bowl game three weeks later. Dominating victories over Texas Tech, West Virginia and Oklahoma State have sparked a dramatic turnaround that has some already picking Texas to upset TCU on Thanksgiving and spoil the Horned Frogs’ dream season.

The reversal of fortunes reached new heights over the weekend when Strong prepared his team for a chilly game in Stillwater, Okla.

“They thought it was cold, but I told them it wasn’t cold,” Strong told reporters afterward. “It was all about our mindset. The weather was not going to be an issue.”

OK, then.

The temperature at kickoff was in the low 40s, but a strong wind made the night feel colder. Strong ignored the elements and wore his normal gameday attire of khaki pants and a mock turtleneck shirt without a jacket. His players followed suit by wearing their normal equipment.

Then they took the field and crushed Oklahoma State 28-7 to move to 6-5. Strong is pushing the right buttons.

Defense has been the key. Texas has allowed an average of 13 points during its winning streak. Defensive tackle Malcolm Brown has led the way up front, helping the Longhorns win the battle for the line of scrimmage.

Texas has a long way to go before it returns to the heights it so often reached under Mack Brown and previous coaches. But three straight victories and bowl eligibility is a decent start.

Narrowing the field

▪ Kansas State senior Tyler Lockett is one of 10 semifinalists for the Biletnikoff Award, presented to the nation’s top receiver. Lockett has caught 60 passes for 878 yards and six touchdowns this season. He recently broke K-State’s career record for receiving yards with 3,073.

▪ Kansas’ Jimmay Mundine is one of eight semifinalists for the Mackey Award (tight ends). Mundine caught a career-best seven balls Saturday in the TCU loss for 137 yards and a touchdown. It was the best game by a KU tight end since 1974.

Coaching changes

Florida announced that Will Muschamp will not be retained as coach next year over the weekend, and two Big 12 coaches were asked about their interest in the job Monday.

Strong, a former Florida assistant, said he already has a great job at Texas. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops had a similar answer.

“All I want to be is a candidate at Oklahoma,” Stoops said. “I’m not a candidate anywhere else. I’m finished with that question.”

Knight out

Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight missed Oklahoma’s victory over Texas Tech with an injury, and he will also miss the Sooners’ upcoming game against Kansas. Stoops said Knight will continue to rest on Monday.

Power rankings

1. TCU (9-1, 6-1 Big 12): Could a four-point win at Kansas end up hurting the Horned Frogs?

2. Baylor (8-1, 5-1): Style points will matter as Baylor tries to catch TCU in the playoff rankings.

3. Kansas State (7-2, 5-1): Last trip to Morgantown was a cakewalk. This game will be harder.

4. Texas (6-5, 5-3): Believe it or not, the Longhorns haven’t been mathematically eliminated from the league race.

5. Oklahoma (7-3, 4-3): A 10-win season is still a possibility.

6. West Virginia (6-4, 4-3): Beating K-State would significantly boost West Virginia’s bowl stock.

7. Kansas (3-7, 1-6): Interim coach Clint Bowen may deserve a promotion.

8. Oklahoma State (5-5, 3-4): The Cowboys are a train wreck right now, especially on offense.

9. Texas Tech (3-7, 1-6): Red Raiders need to stick with one uniform until they start winning.

10. Iowa State (2-7, 0-6): Can the Cyclones win a conference game?

Reach Kellis Robinett at Follow him on Twitter: @kellisrobinett.