Oklahoma, LSU, Nebraska, Colorado and Washington State round out the writers' poll top 10 while the Sooners are trailed by the Huskers, who dropped the national title game 37-14 to the 'Canes, the Tigers, the Buffs and the Terrapins of Maryland in the coaches' poll. With four teams in the top 10, the Big 12 outpaced the SEC, which placed three teams among the nation's 10 best teams. No other Big 12 team made the final rankings. A&M, 8-4 after its stirring galleryfurniture.com Bowl win over 6-5 TCU, landed in the Others Receiving Votes category (at No. 30). The Horns' Holiday Bowl opponent Washington gained ground in the rankings despite its loss to Texas, moving up to No. 19 in both polls.
UT's post-season poll standing almost exactly equals its pre-season rankings. The AP's pre-season poll put the Horns at No. 5 and the ESPN/USA Today pre-season rankings had Texas at No. 6.
Despite the disappointment of falling just a field goal short of playing for the national championship, UT's best-in-almost-two-decades season provides renewed hope that the Horns have finally rejoined the nation's elite teams. Texas finished 9-3 and No. 15 in '98, Mack Brown's first year in Austin, followed by a 9-5, No. 21 campaign in '99 and a 9-3, 12th-ranked season in '00, but this top five finish provides a measure of validation for a program short of major on-the-field accomplishments since Fred Akers walked the Memorial Stadium sidelines.
Brown's continued recruiting success also points to similar future rankings successes. With 22 verbal commitments, many from some of the very best prospects in the country at their respective positions, the Texas staff is set to sign one of the nation's top classes for the fourth consecutive year.
And in '02, the Horns now have an opportunity to post back-to-back top five finishes on the field for the first time since '69 and '70.
Hopefully, the first one will have been the hardest one.