This one is really simple.
Every day to reach my office on the third floor of Bellmont Hall, I climb two sets of escalators that are not running. The steps are steeper than regular stairs. They are jagged metal, interlocking as they move, but with rough edges when stopped.
The only time I stumble is when I look up to the top of the stairs and do not pay attention to where I am stepping. So, let us put aside all conversation of what might happen at the end of the season and concentrate on what is going on IN the season.
In other words, the BTT is way more important than the BCS. That's BTT, as in "Beat Texas Tech."
When you fix your eyes on the top of the mountain, that's when your foot hits a loose rock and you fall. So keep in mind where you want to go and concentrate on how to get there.
Image gurus will tell you that the media likes it when you are creative with your comments and they don't like clichés such as "we're gonna take this one game at a time."
However, being creative when it comes to talking doesn't win championships. What wins championships is, well, taking them one at a time.
Life isn't about challenges. It is about how you handle challenges and get past them. That's the message of climbing the mountain. Learn three things about it. First, it's nice to know from whence you have come, but don't get caught looking backwards. Second, it is great to have a goal, but don't get caught looking ahead.
I think it was Lou Holtz who said that the light at the end of the tunnel could be an oncoming train. Always know where to find the switch to change the tracks. In other words (stop me if you've heard this before), take one step at a time and the next is in Lubbock.
In 1998, the Longhorns had a dream season diminished by losing to the Red Raiders in Lubbock. With RB Ricky Williams running toward the NCAA rushing record and the Longhorns headed to a showdown with Texas A&M for the Big 12 South Division title and the right to play in the championship game, the only thing that stood in the way was Lubbock and Texas Tech won. UT went on to beat A&M, Ricky won the Heisman and the Longhorns beat Mississippi State in the Cotton Bowl.
Fast forward to this coming Saturday. It's the same deal.
A win keeps Texas in the hunt for lots of nice things. A loss ends the hopes of playing in any BCS bowl. A year ago, the season came down to a similar situation, although things happened so fast over that final week before and during the Big 12 Championship game against Colorado that no one had time to pause and figure out what was happening.
Now, they do. Since Texas cannot control its own destiny as far as the Big 12 South Championship is concerned, it really serves no purpose to fret over the current BCS standings or "what if" with the remaining league and national games.
What we know is that Texas Tech does control its destiny. The Red Raiders have two league losses and still have Texas and Oklahoma on their schedule. If Tech were to win both games, then it would tie for the Big 12 South title and represent the division in the championship game by virtue of its victories over the two teams with which they potentially could be tied. For Texas and Oklahoma, that tie won't be a given because each must play its traditional in-state rivals in the final regular season game of the year.
Years ago, the Los Angeles Dodgers had a great pitcher named Don Sutton. He came to the UT campus for a visit and went to the Longhorns dining hall for lunch. As the athletes came in for their noon meal, Sutton asked me to point out Johnny "Lam" Jones, the world class sprinter who was having a great season as a receiver. Jones was a senior with a chance for a promising professional football career.
Sutton went over to him and I wondered what kind of words of wisdom or encouragement he would give him.
As Jones waited in the food line, Sutton looked him right in the eye and said, "Son, it's out there for you. Just reach out and get it."
That is what makes this game Saturday so much fun. Texas Tech has a marvelous passing game, and like the Longhorns, battled its way into contention for reaching a space they've never been before. While Texas has national title aspirations, and by winning out can clinch at least a share of its fourth Big 12 Division title in the seven-year history of the league, Texas Tech could win its first Big 12 division title. On top of that, ABC will televise the game, so a lot of folks will get to see it.
The match-up is a coach's nightmare and a player's dream. If you love the game, this is what you play for.
What we saw in dangerous trips to Kansas State and Nebraska, and home games against Iowa State and Baylor, was a team that seemed to come together for a common purpose. It wasn't about lofty goals or dashed dreams. It was about having fun playing a game and that is what Saturday in Lubbock should be all about. Just reach out and get it.