Coach Mack Brown said mid-week that he was concerned the bitter aftermath of the OU game was lingering longer than he thought. Of course, Brown somehow manages to rouse his team the week after OU and have it perform at an optimum level that you wished you had seen against the Sooners. Brown is 6-0 the week after the Red River Shootout and should be 7-0 by sundown Saturday. I suspect that Texas will beat Texas for about a quarter or so, until it shakes the cobwebs. Obviously, I'd like to see Texas block a punt early, or score on the opening possession, or anything to set the tempo from the outset.
Dual-threat QB Brad Smith is the most explosive signalcaller to visit Austin since Iowa State's Seneca Wallace came to town in 2002 (producing the only halftime deficit for Texas all season). He's got some big targets at his disposal (6-5 WR Sean Coffey, for one) but is most dangerous when he gets out in space and is allowed to create. He'll make some plays and he'll get some yards.
The Tiger defense, statistically, is tops in the Big 12 but don't be fooled. Those numbers might be impressive if they weren't compiled against Arkansas State, Troy, Ball State, Colorado and Baylor. Given the fact that neither OU nor Texas Tech are on the Missouri schedule, the fact that reeling Kansas State visits Columbia and that Nebraska is a shell of its former self, the Tigers will go on to win the Big 12 North. Texas has a knack for knocking off during the regular season the team that eventually wins the northern division.
It happens again Saturday. Texas 38, Missouri 17.
Pearle -- The Missouri game Saturday begins the Longhorns' new season, their annual post-OU-loss sprint towards the finish line. Is the game still important after yet another headline-making crater against the Sooners? (I think the ESPN bottom-of-the-screen scroll is tattooed on my eyeballs -- "Texas shut out for first time since 1980".) Well, sure, of course. We all know that anything can happen and that Texas could still wind up in the conference championship game if it takes care of business and wins out, beginning Saturday with the Tigers, and/or the Horns could go BCS bowling and actually face a marquee team this season instead of a relative nobody like Washington State. So yes, the game is important, it'll be thrilling, it'll feature two fabulous QB talents in Vince Young vs. Brad Smith, and I am afraid it will be really close.
But it's hard for me to get too pumped about Mizzou. I am still smarting from Number Five. I don't want to dissect what the Horns' problems against the Sooners were this season -- it's been well microscoped on this site and elsewhere. It's just that the OU game is almost like an entire season unto itself.
I felt really down last Saturday after the game, obviously because of the loss, but also because I kept thinking about walking out of the Cotton Bowl a year ago, after the 65-13 drubbing, strolling the Midway, grabbing my Fletcher's and a cold beer, and wanting to completely avoid eye contact with the thousands of crimson-clad Okies gloating it up all around me. They have become just so smug and arrogant, with good reason. I remember my buddy telling his 10-year old son after the game, don't worry, we'll get them next year, and this drunk Sooner fan stumbling by yelling, "Ha! Don't lie to that boy!"
So we waited a long year for a chance to see the team finally gut it up and do what it took to beat Oklahoma, to wipe the sick taste of 65-13 out of our mouths. Instead, we got a new defeat to ponder, to shake our heads about, to give the Okies a reason to gloat about. The fifth straight. So forgive me if I am having a little trouble turning to the new, post-OU season. Oh, I'll be at Royal -Memorial Saturday, wearing orange and screaming like a UT freshman, but my thoughts are still on OU and what in the world it's gonna take to beat those guys.
Luckily, Mack Brown does a great job of getting his guys over OU and focused on the next step. I think they will be focused Saturday. In a back-and-forth game, I look for the Horns to eke it out at the wire. Texas 28, Missouri 24.
Ross -- I'm looking for two things from Texas Saturday vs. the Tigers. Wait, make that three. One is a win. As I've written in these pages before, I'm a bottom-line kinda person. I'll take the win anyway it comes. But, the other two things I'm looking for aside from the win may well determine whether this team continues to win in each of the final five weekends of the season. First, Greg Robinson's defense absolutely must figure out a way to shore up at right defensive end and strongside linebacker. Whether it requires identifying and playing new, better personnel or, if that's not possible, scheming to cover for the deficiencies of the guys currently manning the positions, I don't care, but it must be done and pronto. Those two spots alone could cost Texas one, if not more, of its final games (starting eight days from now in Lubbock). And second, Greg Davis must figure out a way to solidify Vince Young in the passing game (it hasn't happened up to this point so I'm not hopeful it will magically happen this weekend) or adjust his scheme accordingly, taking full advantage of Vince's proven strengths.
That's not too much to ask, is it?
I guess we'll find out. But like Michael (and, apparently, the Longhorn players according to Mack Brown), I'm finding it difficult to get out of this post-OU funk. It's not that the loss was unexpected around these parts -- in last week's IT's Picks, we unanimously went with the Sooners -- but actually facing the reality of five straight losses, conference title hopes essentially dashed, and the near hopelessness for the future (as long as the game features Bob Stoops vs. Mack Brown/Greg Davis in the headsets) turns one's excitement level about playing Missouri down a few notches.
Regardless, a win over the Tigers is an absolute necessity. And Missouri is a good football team. Brad Smith, like Arkansas' Matt Jones a month ago, will challenge the Longhorn defense. The well-coached Tigers will assuredly learn from the Sooners defensively and put the offensive burden again on Vince Young. This time, though, against a weaker opponent, Young and his teammates come through. Texas 27, Missouri 20.