* Date, Time: Sat., Sept. 10, 8 p.m. (ABC national).
* Location: Ohio Stadium.
* Last Year, Bowl: 11-1, beat Michigan in Rose Bowl. Big 12 South: 7-1/second.
* Coach: Mack Brown (eighth year at Texas, 70-19; 22nd year overall, 156-93).
* Returning Starters: 15. Offense (7): WR Limas Sweed, LT Jonathan Scott, LG Kasey Studdard, RG Will Allen, RT Justin Blalock, TE David Thomas, QB Vince Young. Defense (7): DE Tim Crowder, DT Rodrique Wright, DT Larry Dibbles, MLB Aaron Harris, CB Cedric Griffin, SS Michael Huff, CB Tarell Brown. Specialists (1): P Richmond McGee.
* Last League Championship: 1996.
* Last Time Didn't Go To Bowl: 1997.
* Series Vs. Ohio State: This will be the first-ever meeting between these two schools.
* Schedule: Sept. 3, Louisiana-Lafayette; Sept. 10, at Ohio State; Sept. 17, Rice; Oct. 1, at Missouri; Oct. 8, vs. Oklahoma at Dallas; Oct. 15, Colorado; Oct. 22, Texas Tech; Oct. 29, at Oklahoma State; Nov. 5, at Baylor; Nov. 12, Kansas; Nov. 25, at Texas A&M.
* Outlook: Brown's lack of success against Oklahoma – the Sooners have won five straight in the series – had many questioning his ability in the big games. However, UT's dramatic 38-37 win over Big Ten champion Michigan in the Rose Bowl soothed some of the fans' unhappiness.
"I've been a head coach for 22 years and that Rose Bowl win gave us more momentum for recruiting and for our players coming back than any other thing I've seen," Brown said.
Now comes this game with Ohio State, a match-up considered by many as the best nonconference game in all of college football for 2005. In fact, it is the only nonconference game that will match a pair of national top-10 teams.
"I'm not sure this game is smart for either one of us," Brown said. "With the BCS, we have begun to shy away from the big nonconference games. I don't think that's good for college football. Our game with Michigan, that's why it was so special because we had never played. The same thing with this game. It's fun for college football."
Brown will bring a battle-tested team to Columbus, led by the multi-talented Young. At 6-5, 230 pounds, he will be a load for every defense the Longhorns face in 2005. This dual-threat star threw for 1,849 yards and 12 TDs and also rushed for 1,079 yards and 14 scores last year.
"It's finally become his team," Brown said. "Vince is obviously a much better passer and has control of the team better than even when he left the Rose Bowl. He's very confident. The thing that I'm seeing with Vince is that he knows where everybody is on every play now. He has a chance to take another step and be better than he was last year. That's what has excited us so much."
Junior Selvin Young steps in for Cedric Benson at tailback. Thomas (25 catches, 430 yards, 5 TDs) is the top returning receiver.
Harris (118 tackles), Dibbles, Crowder (4-1/2 sacks), Griffin and Huff are the key names on a UT defense that only allowed two opponents to score more than 23 points a year ago. But the Longhorns could miss Butkus Award-winning LB Derrick Johnson.
"We won't replace people like Cedric Benson and Derrick Johnson," Brown said. "We'll have numbers filling those spots. But we have to hope we can go in different ways and be a different kind of team. That's the way it is every year when you lose players like that."
* Jerry Rudzinski Says: I think this game is huge any year because of the two programs. But then, when you factor in how good these two teams could be, and that makes it much more special. You look at Mack Brown and you see he is a winner. His teams have won at least nine games for nine years in a row and 10 games for the last four years.
This is the age-old debate. Would you rather play a good team or a good program? Who would you have a better chance to beat? Well, I can tell you this is a good program. They have the alumni, the boosters, a national TV audience. His recruiting records speak for themselves.
The Buckeyes are going to have their hands full here. This is not just a big-name program. This is a big-name program that will have a lot of great players getting off that bus and standing on the sidelines.
You look at Vince Young's passing numbers and he completed 59 percent of his passes. But the big thing is he also ran for over 1,000 yards. That's what he excelled at against Michigan in the Rose Bowl. They had some good receivers last year and Michigan just did not have enough focus on Young running the football.
They were actually down by 10 fairly late in that game and Young brought them back. It was the same way against Kansas. Same against Oklahoma State. I think this guy has more grit than a lot of people give him credit for. He's 17-2 as a starter.
The thing Ohio State has going for it is the best linebacker corps in the country – guys who can fly around and guys who can run. They have to bank on the speed of the linebackers and the safeties and the defensive line to contain him.
* Steve Helwagen Says: This joins the short list of some of the greatest nonconference games in the history of Ohio Stadium. You know the list – 1935 Notre Dame, 1977 Oklahoma, 1990 USC, 1995 Notre Dame, 2002 Washington State and so on.
I'm big on trends. Let's look at a few: Ohio State is 6-0 all-time in night games at Ohio Stadium since the first one in 1985 (Pittsburgh). The Buckeyes have also won 14 straight games against Big 12 competition since the 1977 loss to Oklahoma.
Oh, but Texas has some trends, too. Yes, the Longhorns are 0-4 over the last four years against Oklahoma. But they are 43-4 against everybody else. That's pretty impressive.
Football-wise, I'm sure the Rose Bowl tape of the way Vince Young – all 6-5 and 230 pounds of him – trampled Michigan is keeping Jim Heacock et al. up at night. But if there is a team that should be able to contain Young it might be Ohio State, which boasts one of the best corps of linebackers in the country with A.J. Hawk and Bobby Carpenter as the lead dogs. Maybe OSU will also call on Ted Ginn Jr. to play a handful of key plays on defense.
And we haven't even mentioned the match-up between the OSU offense and Texas defense. OSU runs the risk of ruining somebody's momentum if it jockeys QBs Justin Zwick and Troy Smith, who should be back to full eligibility in time for this game. Still, I see Smith giving OSU a second-quarter lift. The Texas defense boasts six senior starters. The Buckeyes will not be able to afford many (if any) turnovers.
The Notre Dame game in 1995 had about 10 years of build-up. We haven't had the same kind of wait for this game. But the hype is kicking into full gear. For about 12 hours, the state of Ohio will be in the state of nirvana as these two tradition rich powers prepare to square off on Sept. 10.
I am giving Ohio State the nod here. The experience on defense and the homefield advantage – particularly at night – is just too much to overlook.