SEC News: Baseball gauntlet illustrates what Texas can expect in football this fall

The recent skid by the Longhorns is a preview of what their fans can expect come football season. The SEC is not the Big 12.

Texas catcher Kimble Schuessler (10) heads to the plate before the first inning of the Longhorns'
Texas catcher Kimble Schuessler (10) heads to the plate before the first inning of the Longhorns' / Sara Diggins/American-Statesman / USA
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SEC News: Longhorns stumbling in SEC baseball gauntlet is a glimpse of conference’s unrelenting grind

In preparing preview articles and reactions to Texas A&M baseball’s victory over the Longhorns over the past couple of days, a thought has struck me. For those who don’t keep up with the ups and downs of Texas baseball night in and night out—as was the case with me before preparing said articles, as well as most of you, I’d assume—the Horns are now riding a four-game losing streak, with 3 of those losses coming to SEC teams.

Now, it’s well-established that, for however dominant the SEC is in football, it is even more so in baseball. More than half of the current members of the conference are ranked in the latest top 25—nine of the fourteen, to be exact. In the way-too-early top 25 for next year on ESPN, it’s exactly half—seven of the fourteen. Not too far off, but not quite the same.

This contributes to what I and others have written about extensively: the unrelenting grind of the conference, referenced in the title of this article. You can’t let up for a second. There are no weekends off, no easy series, no easy road trips (except, perhaps, to Vanderbilt in football, of which the Horns are indeed a beneficiary this fall).

This is what Texas fans—and, for that matter, Oklahoma fans—have yet to fully grasp about this conference. When perusing the football schedule for this fall, they write certain matchups off as wins without much thought; but the way the schedule wears on a team, you simply can’t do that. How many Longhorns had the baseball matchup with Texas State, sandwiched between contests vs LSU and Vanderbilt, already counted as a win coming into last weekend?

Let’s take an example for each team this fall. Oklahoma faces South Carolina at home this year. I’d bet most Sooner fans have that one chalked up as a win when they’re projecting how OU does this fall, and for good reason—Oklahoma is far more talented than the Gamecocks. But that matchup comes smack dab between Red River and a road trip to preseason top-10 Ole Miss. OU may well win that game, but that is a highly precarious spot to be in. South Carolina isn’t Iowa State; this is a team with five stars on each side of the ball.

Texas has a bit easier row to hoe than the Sooners this fall, schedule-wise, but there are still a couple of potential problem spots. A home matchup against Jeff Lebby’s Mississippi State team precedes back to back games against OU and UGA, but there’s a bye week in there before Red River. The other spot is a trip to Arkansas—a game that ended in an ugly way for the Longhorns last time—in their third-to-last game of the year, right before hosting Kentucky, a team often overlooked.

Here’s the upshot: it’s easy to count your chickens before they’re hatched. Aggies, Sooners, and Longhorns have all done plenty of this over the past decade-plus. If Texas won every game they were supposed to do over this past stretch of years, they’d have a much more dominating record to show. The same goes for A&M. 

In the SEC, much more than any other conference, teams you’re supposed to beat can leap up and bite you, both in conference play and without. This recent baseball stretch for the Longhorns is the perfect object lesson in what they should be expecting going forward—tough games against high-profile opponents making even the ones that should be easy into difficulties that should not be overlooked.

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