AUSTIN (KXAN) — Going on a walk can serve a lot of different purposes. Some use walks for exercise, to take a break from life’s stresses or just to have some time to themselves. When Texas head football coach Steve Sarkisian takes his pregame walk around DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium before his team hosts Rice, his goal is to enjoy the moment.

It’s something he does before every game, and when he’s leisurely making his way around, he’s reflecting on all the work that gives him the opportunity to soak it all in.

“It’s like the walks we all go on. I have some music on and I try to take it all in,” Sarkisian said. “There’s a lot of cool things that come with being a football coach, and there’s a lot of hard work to get here. I never want to miss the moment. I want to enjoy the opportunities we have.”

DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin on the University of Texas campus (KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)

He’s typically on the field when the students start filing into their seats in the northeast corner of DKR, and he said that in itself is a special moment for him. He thinks about the stadium staff, his own staff and everybody else around DKR who help create the atmosphere that UT football and Austin are nationally known for.

“I try to take all that in and get myself in the right frame of mind to stay focused,” he said. “When you have the job that I have, when you start talking about managing the game, motivating your players and calling the game, I need to have really good focus. I try to get myself into that head space.”

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It’s Texas’ last season in the Big 12 Conference before making the leap to the Southeastern Conference, and in Sarkisian’s third season at the helm, expectations haven’t been higher. The Longhorns were picked by media members to win the conference title in their swan song season, and according to metrics by ESPN, the Longhorns have the fourth-best chance to qualify for the College Football Playoff at 24.3%. The 2023 season is also the last for the current CFP 4-team format — it will expand to 12 teams in 2024.

Things seem to be coming together for the Longhorns in order to meet those lofty expectations. Quarterback Quinn Ewers has repeatedly talked about how he’s matured and made a commitment to being a more vocal leader, the defense made a huge improvement last season and the offensive line is as deep as it’s ever been under Sarkisian. Throw in the group of receivers and young talent at running back, and it’s easy for people to think this Longhorns team could be playoff-bound.

Sarkisian acknowledges that, and he knows what kind of game-breaking players he has. At the same time, however, the Longhorns aren’t going to win anything significant by people talking about it in front of a camera. They have to beat Rice first. Kick-off is set for 2:30 p.m. and the game will air on FOX.

“This is an exciting time, and I think our players did a great job at being present day in and day out,” Sarkisian said. “The guys wanted it to be game day on Monday, but the reality is we needed a good week of preparation and we challenged them to be present each day. We’re going to learn a lot about our team on Saturday.”