We’ve been down this road before, and there are a few ways it typically turns.

None of them are good.

Yet here we are again, and no matter what you feel or what you’ve witnessed, this time it’s different. No really, it is.

This is the year Texas turns all of that massive potential into a special season.

“It’s one thing for people outside the program to feel like you’re pretty good,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said during a booster tour at the Houston Touchdown Club. “It’s another when you feel it internally.”

And away we go.

Tom Herman said the same thing. So did Charlie Strong. Heck, Mack Brown, at the end of his glorious run on the 40 Acres, believed Texas had the pieces to be special.

Only 1 of those coaches truly had a difference-maker at quarterback, and when Sam Ehlinger grabbed that microphone after a Sugar Bowl win over big, bad Georgia on New Year’s Day in 2019 and screamed “we’re back!” — well, we all know where this story ends.

Being “back” means winning the Big 12, and competing for a spot in the Playoff. It is here where I remind everyone that Texas hasn’t won the Big 12 since 2009.

That’s 13 years.

The university with the largest (by far) sports budget in all of college sports, the flagship program in the most talent-rich high school football state in the nation, is 28-20 since Ehlinger declared Texas was again among the elite of college football.

They’ve tried everything at Texas. They’ve changed athletic directors and coaches, and will soon change conferences, taking a significant step up and joining the SEC in 2024.

But year after year, season after season, the refrain remains the same: all hat, no cattle.

Only this time — I know just hearing it makes you puke — Texas really is in position to win the Big 12. Texas really is a threat, for the first time since 2009, to play in the biggest game of all.

The reason is simple: players.

This is what happens when you put together back-to-back top-5 recruiting classes and hit the transfer portal for key impact players. And this is what happens when you finally have a difference-maker at quarterback.

So forget about the fact that Texas has lost 7 of the past 10 to state rival TCU, which doesn’t recruit nearly at the same level as the Longhorns and still played in last year’s national championship game. Nor does TCU have similar financial backing.

Forget that Texas has lost 7 of 10 to Oklahoma State, which hasn’t seen a top-10 recruiting class in maybe ever. Or that Texas — and this is the big one — has beaten Oklahoma just 3 times in the past 10 games (including a loss in the Big 12 Championship Game).

The future is today, and it’s all about a coach and quarterback who, like Texas, are trying to rebound from failure and fill massive expectations. It’s a perfect storm of win big or fail for all 3 — with no gray area.

If Texas doesn’t win the Big 12 in 2023, it’s failure. If Sarkisian, in his 3rd season at Texas and with a loaded roster — and after the ugly firing at USC — doesn’t win big, it’s failure at arguably the 2 biggest programs in college football.

And if quarterback Quinn Ewers, 1 of 2 perfect score recruits in the history of the 247Sports, doesn’t develop into the elite thrower to match the No. 1 overall recruit status of 3 years ago, it’s failure.

But by the end of spring practice, it was already clear where this train was headed. Sarkisian — unlike many coaches who prefer not to choose a quarterback in spring practice to force all involved to work in the summer — made it clear that Ewers was his quarterback.

Not the latest No. 1 overall recruit (Arch Manning), and not another uber-skilled former blue-chip recruit (Maalik Murphy).

Remember, Ewers showed huge potential in 2022 (Alabama, Oklahoma games) but went through an inconsistent stretch of games to produce some hesitation — especially with Manning entering the competition and Murphy healthy for the first time in a year.

But Ewers changed his eating habits, got stronger, cut the mullet and got serious about playing quarterback. The difference was remarkable.

He was clearly the best quarterback (best player) during the spring game, and the offense is potentially the most dangerous at the school since the Vince Young-led 2005 national championship season. There’s already star WR Xavier Worthy and rising star TE Ja’Tavion Sanders, but 3 critical additions could translate to a scary good offense in 2023.

There’s Georgia transfer WR AD Mitchell (14.7 ypc.), and Wyoming transfer Isaiah Neyor (20 ypc., 12 TDs in 2022), who arrived last year but tore his ACL and missed the season. Then there’s 5-star RB CJ Baxter Jr., No. 1 at his position in the 2023 class.

Sarkisian is comparing the skill of the players, the comfort and knowledge of the offense, with the elite groups he had as Alabama’s offensive coordinator in 2019 and 2020. Is it to the level of Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones, and Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith and Najee Harris? Probably not.

But it’s more than good enough in the age of vertical passing first, run game second. And it’s more than good enough with a defense that finished No. 28 in the nation last year in scoring defense (21.6 ppg.) — and added critical pieces from the portal and the 2023 recruiting class.

Again, it’s all about players. The only way Texas gets back to the elite of the game is through player procurement and development. It’s how Clemson was built, and LSU re-emerged, and Georgia finally arrived.

You truly want to see Texas back? It begins and ends with recruiting high schools and the transfer portal.

Sarkisian and his staff landed 13 top-100 high school players in the past 2 years, that group already making a significant impact. Ewers, Neyor and CB Ryan Watts were signed from the 2022 portal, and Mitchell, DT Trill Carter (All-Big Ten, Minnesota) and S Jalen Catalon (All-SEC, Arkansas) from the 2023 portal.

“You’re like the kid who gets a bunch of new toys at Christmas,” Sarkisian said this spring. “And then you have those other toys you love playing with.”

We’ve been down this road before. This time, it begins with a measure yourself game at Alabama, and a final season in a conference Texas should’ve dominated over the last 13 years — but didn’t for any number of reasons.

Maybe this time it really is different.