AUSTIN, TX – NOVEMBER 25: Texas linebacker Jaylan Ford (41) reacts after making a tackle during the game against the Baylor Bears on November 25, 2022, at Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, TX. (Photo by Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
After a much improved season, No. 21 Texas will take on No. 12 Washington in the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio on Dec. 29.
Texas finished the regular season with an 8-4 record that was good enough for a third-place finish in the Big 12. This record shows a marked improvement in Steve Sarkisian’s second year in Austin, as the Longhorns were 5-7 in 2021. In recent weeks, an improved defense and potent ground game have propelled Texas to wins over Kansas State and Baylor and a close loss to No. 3 TCU.
Washington and its prolific offense will present a hefty challenge for the Longhorns. The Huskies will come into the bowl game with a 10-2 record that was good enough to tie for second place in the Pac-12. The Huskies recorded wins over a then top 10 Oregon team and Michigan State, who at that time was No. 11. Washington’s only losses came at the hands of Arizona State by seven, and UCLA, who is now ranked No. 18.
The Huskies’ offense features quarterback Michael Penix, who leads the nation in passing yards with 4,354. Penix has also passed for 29 touchdowns against seven interceptions. The pass-happy Washington offense also ranks in the top five nationally in scoring offense, averaging almost 41 a game. Washington has a pair of wideouts that have tallied over 1,000 receiving yards each in Rome Odunze, who has 70 catches, and Jalen MacMillan, who has 71 receptions.
Texas will hope to counteract this offensive juggernaut by dominating time of possession with running back Bijan Robinson and applying defensive pressure. Robinson finished the season with 1,580 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns. As the season progressed, he showed the ability to take over games even when the opponent knew what to expect. The bowl game practices will also provide redshirt freshman quarterback Quinn Ewers with valuable time to grow and improve. The transfer from Ohio State has flashed glimmers of talent, and the extra practice sessions should help him find consistency.
The Texas defense rounded into form as the season progressed. The Horns held each of their final four opponents under 30 points and recorded 10 sacks and 31 tackles for loss in that stretch. The combination of athleticism and scheme caused opposing offenses nightmares over the last several weeks. Especially in the latter parts of the season, the Longhorns’ defense created key turnovers and became adept at making crucial plays, reining in typically prolific Big 12 offenses. Leaders like Jaylan Ford and DeMarvion Overshown will relish the prospect of meeting the challenge presented by the Huskies and their potent attack.
As bowl games are intended, this matchup provides an intersectional matchup that also provides contrasting styles and should make for an exciting and entertaining game.