After a wild weekend that was entirely about dreams - those achieved and those lost - this one is about the ring.
By now, you know the story. It is the stuff of which legends are made. Texas grinds out a victory against arch rival Texas A&M on the Aggies' home field and Colorado rises up and smashes Nebraska in the mouth to clinch the Big 12 North Division title in Saturday's Big 12 Championship game.
UT head coach Mack Brown, acting on an interpretation from the league office, proudly accepts the fact that his team has earned a co-championship of the South Division. Bob Stoops, whose Oklahoma Sooners needed but to dispatch 27-point underdog Oklahoma State to earn the other half of that championship and the right - by virtue of its 14-3 victory against Texas on Oct. 6 - to represent the South, declares that as far as he's concerned, Brown didn't understand the deal. If the Sooners beat underdog Oklahoma State in Norman, then all he knows is that they get to go to Dallas, co-champion or not.
Then, in the most recent testimony to the football premise of "on any given Saturday, anything can happen," Oklahoma State stunned Oklahoma, thus rendering moot the point of whether Brown understood or not. One league loss is better than two. Do the math.
Understand this. This game is everything the Big 12 Championship game should be. At the end of the season, which incidentally is when they play such games, Texas was the best team in the South and Colorado was the best team in the North. That is why they gather in Dallas ranked among the nation's Top 10. Both teams - Texas since its early loss to Oklahoma and Colorado after its loss to the Longhorns - just got better and better.
But for a failed pass into the end zone in the season opener against Fresno State, the Buffaloes would be sitting with the same 10-1 record which the Longhorns carry. The game between UT and Colorado during the regular season was a high mark for the Longhorns, but the victory was sealed because of Buffaloes turnovers that set the Longhorns offense up with a short field. Colorado had 244 yards at halftime. So it was clear that the almost 600 yards of total offense amassed against Nebraska was achievable.
This will not be an easy game for anybody. In fact, it shapes up as perhaps the best match in the six years the league championship has been played.
The Longhorns victory at Texas A&M was exactly what Brown's team needed. Winning a close game on the road in a hostile environment was a critical step in the return to glory Brown has been seeking at Texas.
Now, the two gather in Dallas to play for the right to wear a conference championship ring. When the media asked Brown about the BCS and the ramifications of the weekend's results, he made it clear that the point of emphasis for Texas was centered right in the middle of such a ring.
"Our goal every year is to win the league championship," Brown said. "That is all we are thinking about right now. This team got where it is by concentrating on the opponent of the week. They haven't looked back and they haven't looked ahead. The only thing we can control is what we do on the field this week."
Brown has said that since the Oklahoma loss when Texas fell to No. 11 in the polls. Slowly, with that week-to-week success, UT has climbed all the way to No. 3, its highest ranking this late in the season since 1990.
A dream that once seemed remote - the chance to play in a National Championship game - is even a possibility. With the way the season has gone, nothing should be surprising anymore.
It is a reinforcement of two things. First, college football has become about as balanced as you can get. There truly are no experts and no sure things. It also has proved it's okay to dream. Oklahoma State did that Saturday and the Cowboys fought their hearts out to make that dream reality.
This past summer, Colorado head coach Gary Barnett and several of his players who were attending the Big 12 Media Day, stopped at Texas Stadium on their way to the airport after their press conference. He wanted them to see it. To believe they could come back there.
The Longhorns dreams are well-documented. The dream catcher which Brown gave the players has done its magic and the nightmare of Dallas in October is latched somewhere between a web and a feather. It was never allowed to spoil a season. Now, it is for the ring that they dream, and if they get that, then they can go to the next level.
They have achieved something I have believed in for a long time. Some years ago, a close-knit baseball team from LBJ High School in Austin was playing for the right to advance to the state semifinals. With LBJ leading 4-3, in the bottom of the final inning, the opposing team had the tying run at third and the winning run at second. There were two outs. The third out or a base hit wins the game for one of the teams.
The young man who caught the ball that ended the game and sent the Jaquars to the next level said afterward, "I prayed that he would hit the ball to me."
He didn't pray the guy would make an out or that some divine source would guide the ball into his glove. He wanted the ball and a chance to make the play.
That is what the Longhorns - through weeks of practice, dedication and wins - have earned: the most valued prize any of us can ever be given, a chance.
Dreams without effort are but clouds in a wisp of the wind. They become reality when you make the play.