Oct. 3, 2008
Bill Little, Texas Media Relations
BOULDER, Colo. -- With lofty dreams and focused goals, Texas embarks on their Big 12 schedule on Saturday. And 12 years deep into the league that has become a national power, the Longhorns find themselves on an excursion that will take them through half of what was the old Big Eight Conference during the next four weeks.
Colorado, Oklahoma, Missouri and Oklahoma State are the `Horns' next opponents.
Of the four, two - Oklahoma and Oklahoma State - are fellow rivals within the South Division of the Big 12. Three of UT's last four games, against Texas Tech, Baylor, Kansas and Texas A&M - will come against old Southwest Conference foes.
When the league was formed, most folks thought the North Division, with Nebraska, Kansas State and Colorado heading a group that also included Missouri, Iowa State and Kansas, would be the stronger half of the conference.
But with Texas and Oklahoma leading the way, and Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas A&M competing for slots as well, the South quickly rose to prominence.
By chance, Texas's schedule included alternating home and home games with three north division teams, and to start with, the presence of Nebraska, Kansas State and Iowa State seemed to make the home and home in those years the most treacherous.
Now, along comes 2008, and four of the Longhorns' next five opponents are unbeaten as league play begins. Missouri and Kansas both are coming off of superlative years last season, and Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech join them in the nation's top 25 as league play begins.
The only loss of the Colorado, Oklahoma, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech swing belongs to the Buffaloes, which fell to Florida State in Jacksonville last weekend.
So if you want good, you got it, pal.
Colorado's win over West Virginia solidified a reputation for playing well at home, and as the Longhorns head to the mountains, the old adage of "take `em one at a time" is the only safe way to approach this pending gauntlet.
It's the perfect way for the Longhorns to begin their quest for a Big 12 South Division title as they travel into hostile territory to play the Buffaloes. Texas under Mack Brown has been tremendous on the road in league play. Taking the neutral-site Oklahoma game out of the mix, the Longhorns have lost only to Texas Tech, Kansas State and Texas A&M on the road in the 21st century.
The two games Brown's Longhorns have played at Boulder both had particular significance. The first, in 2000, may have been the most pivotal. Texas was coming off of a crushing loss to Oklahoma, and was 3-2 on the season when Brown issued a challenge to his team before the trip to Boulder.
He told them basically that "anybody who steps on the bus to go to this game, be it a player, coach, manager or trainer, needs to have a purpose."
Texas won, 28-14 - the first of six straight victories.
In 2004, again the Longhorns were searching for an identity. The future Rose Bowl champs had lost to Oklahoma, 12-0, suffering their first shutout in almost 300 games. Next had come a narrow win at home over Missouri, and then a rebounding 51-21 triumph at Texas Tech.
Now, against the eventual North Division champs, Vince Young was in his second game of the revival of his career that came after the narrow win over Missouri. Texas, again challenged to play with a purpose, got one of its best defensive efforts of the year in a 31-7 victory.
This time, the Buffaloes are banking on a repeat of last year's stunning upset of Oklahoma. In a season where upsets have already stunned the college football world, Texas is well aware of the danger. But it is also aware of its own potential.
Mack Brown and his staff have made it clear. The motto of, "You have to be consistently good to be great," is a clear message. What is even more clear is that in today's world of college football, it is not necessarily the best team or the best program that wins the day, it is the team that plays the best that day.
That is why, one more time, Brown has emphasized the importance of doing what you came to do. The psychology of the game of football that he carries with him has come from many sources. Most important is to approach the game with the attitude of playing to win, and not with a concern of playing not to lose.
The first goal for any Texas team is to win the season opener. The second is to win the Big 12 South. Saturday in Boulder, that quest begins. If you are going up some stairs, it is important to remember that the first thing you do is take the first step.
So far, this has been a football team that has been fun to coach, and fun to watch, largely because they are having fun playing a game. On a chilly night in Boulder, the second season begins. A team nobody thought much of before the season is now the No. 5 team in the country.
What I have always noticed about the mountains, and what really makes them so cool, is that when you reach one peak, there is another higher one just beyond. Texas and Colorado will play in the foothills Saturday. The peaks are out there, if you choose to go and get them.