ARLINGTON, Texas -- For the first time in over a decade, the Texas Longhorns find themselves at the top of the preseason Big 12 poll. The last time Texas held such a position, Colt McCoy was leading the team on the field, and Mack Brown was at the helm as head coach. Now, under the leadership of head coach Steve Sarkisian, the Longhorns are the clear favorites to win the conference, with even odds listed by Caesars SportsBook.

Sarkisian expressed confidence in his team's abilities and noted the distinctiveness of this year's squad. He highlighted the team's focused and determined approach, with players displaying a different level of commitment and unity. The Longhorns have not tasted Big 12 success since McCoy's unfortunate shoulder injury during the 2010 BCS National Championship Game. Although they came close in the 2018 Big 12 title game against Oklahoma, this year's team is eager to break the drought and claim the conference crown.

However, the road to victory will not be an easy one. Several Big 12 teams have been to the conference title game more recently than the Longhorns, and five teams have won conference championships more recently than Texas. With the 2023 season marking their final chance before transitioning to the SEC in 2024, the Longhorns will face increased scrutiny and pressure, especially from in-state rivals Baylor, Texas Tech, and Houston, as they square off against them for the last time in the Big 12.

Quarterback Quinn Ewers acknowledged the target on Texas' back but highlighted the team's aggressive mindset, likening it to the character John Wick, who hunts his adversaries while being hunted himself. The Longhorns understand the weight of expectations and are prepared to embrace the challenge.

For incoming players, the drought seems like a distant memory. Many of the freshmen in the Class of 2023 were not even of school age when Texas last claimed the Big 12 Championship Game against Nebraska. Linebacker Jaylan Ford, who was a young child during that victorious season, sees this as an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy and honor the program's rich history.

As Texas enters the 2023 season, numerous players, including Ford, are in their final year with the Longhorns, having spent three seasons under Sarkisian's guidance. The team boasts five selections on the preseason All-Big 12 team, demonstrating their talent and potential. With a solid offensive foundation, including a second-year quarterback and experienced playcallers, Texas ranks third nationally in returning offensive production.

While acknowledging the heightened expectations, Ford emphasized the importance of remaining focused and not letting external pressures affect their performance. The Longhorns understand that they are the team to beat, and they are ready to embrace the challenge head-on.

As the countdown to the 2023 season begins, all eyes will be on the Texas Longhorns as they aim to reclaim their spot at the top of the Big 12 and bring a championship back to Austin.