The Horns followed that successful 10-4 campaign with an 8-5 mark the next year and a 7-3 record in a COVID-shortened 2020 college football season that doubled as head coach Tom Herman’s last with the burnt orange.
So maybe Texas wasn’t back back.
Fast-forward to the present day and things are undoubtedly more promising around Austin. Third-year head coach Steve Sarkisian just guided Texas to the College Football Playoff for the first time in program history, and he’s infused his roster with three straight top-five recruiting classes. And, when it comes to the betting odds, the Longhorns currently sit at +750 to win it all, third on the betting board.
The linchpin of Sarkisian’s talent wave is arguably the greatest recruiting victory in the history of college football: Arch Manning to Texas.
As my FOX Sports teammate Joel Klatt said at the time, “Sarkisian may have won the most coveted prize we may have ever seen in recruiting. It’s not just because that guy chose Texas, it’s that the Manning family chose Texas.”
Still, despite the hoopla around his arrival in Austin, Manning still isn’t QB1 heading into 2024.
Incumbent starter Quinn Ewers (3,479 passing yards and 27 total touchdowns last season) will return for the Horns, and he’ll presumably be the starter once again.
And on top of that, Ewers is on top of the Heisman oddsboard nearly a year before the award will be delivered to its next recipient, tied with Georgia’s Carson Beck and Alabama’s Jalen Milroe at +750.
Only a Heisman favorite can keep Manning on the sideline.
Arch’s uncle Peyton was thrust into duty during his freshman season at Tennessee and never relinquished the job. His uncle Eli redshirted his first year at Ole Miss, was the backup his second, and started his third.
In a perfect Longhorn universe, Ewers balls out again, departs for the NFL and leaves Manning with the keys to a souped-up sports car. After all, Texas signed a five-star and three four-star wideouts in its last two recruiting classes.
“I haven’t looked into transferring at all,” Manning told reporters before Texas faced Washington in the Sugar Bowl. “I’m just focused on developing and helping this team any way I can and hopefully one day playing for the University of Texas like I’ve always wanted to.”
I wrote about Arch Manning’s gambling impact two summers ago and asked nine Las Vegas betting sources about his future at Texas. Some of them were super pumped, others were a little more hesitant, and a couple wanted to wait and see before rushing to judgment.
We still don’t know Manning’s true value to the point spread, and odds are good there won’t be much of a drop-off from the senior Ewers to a young Manning whenever the initial transition takes place.
It’s scary, though, when you envision Manning’s potential in 2025 and beyond.
“Any legit quarterback has to be worth at least a touchdown if he wants to be like Peyton,” WynnBET senior trader Motoi Pearson said from Las Vegas.
We do know the Longhorns are absolutely loaded with talent, and Sarkisian just put the finishing touches on another top-five recruiting class. He also added three legit starters in the transfer portal to a team that was a play away from getting to the national title game.
“And that might not be high enough.”
Sam Panayotovich is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and NESN. He previously worked for WGN Radio, NBC Sports and VSiN. He’ll probably pick against your favorite team. Follow him on Twitter @spshoot.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL trending
Get more from College Football Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more