Since Tinseltown is Texas' venue of choice this bowl season, we do well to recall that sequels rarely surpass the quality of the original production. The 42-17 shellacking that the Horns reeled off against Colorado on October 15 was Oscar-worthy on several fronts. QB Vince Young broke his own record for completion percentage by going 25-of-29 (86.2 percent) against the Buffs. He also passed the 300-yard mark in passing yards for the first time in his career with 336. (Flip-flop that game with Friday's performance at Texas A&M and Young is still the leading man for the Heisman.) Meanwhile, the run defense enjoyed its best outing of the season by limiting CU to 45 yards.
Colorado QB Joel Klatt approached Brown during the post-game and said, "Coach, we'll see you in Houston."
Many of us (present company included) fully excepted to see Colorado in Reliant Stadium on December 3. It's just that we didn't expect to see so much of Klatt's teammates' posteriors, as this herd of Buffaloes has backed its way into the program's fourth Big 12 title game in five years. One month ago, Colorado was a nationally-ranked team whose only losses came at No. 2 Texas and then-No. 7 Miami. But then the wheels came off in season-ending consecutive losses in which Iowa State and Nebraska beat the Buffs by a combined score of 60-19.
Saturday's sequel was made possible only by Kansas' OT win over Iowa State, but Brown has found a way to pump some sunshine into CU's two-week tailspin.
"They had Iowa State beat and turned it over twice late for touchdowns. Colorado really should have won that ball game."
And as far as the 30-3 home loss to Nebraska on Senior Day, in which livid CU students pelted the field with concessionary debris before officials halted play in order to clear their section: "They were probably trying too hard. And they had all the pressure on them."
One of the sub-plots Saturday is that both teams feel like they have something to prove. Almost to a man, the Horns insist that Friday's lackluster performance is not indicative of how the team has played all season nor how it intends to perform Saturday. Just because Texas branded these same Buffs by 25 points last October, and just because the Horns are projected to win by more than that margin again, does not mean the team is taking anything for granted, several Horns have said.
CU coach Gary Barnett publicly called out his team last weekend, rhetorically asking why his team has failed to win the big game these past several seasons. Why, these Buffs haven't won a big game, Barnett said, since it beat Texas in the 2001 Big 12 title game.
Ahh, the other sequel.
It was another time (December 1, 2001), another place (Irving, Texas), and another (wink, wink) Texas quarterback but, still, a remarkably similar plot-line: all the Horns had to do to play in the Rose Bowl for the national championship was to win a Big 12 title game, held in the Lone Star State, against a Colorado team that it had blasted earlier that season. The result: Colorado 39, Texas 37.
But that was a surging CU team ranked in the Top Ten while Texas, despite its No. 3 ranking, was the crew that backed in. These days, there has been such a reversal of fortune in the two programs that many have asked why Saturday's sequel is even necessary. Didn't Texas, in essence, win the Big 12 title back on October 15?
"We've got some history that says just because you beat them once sure doesn't mean you can beat them twice," Brown said.
So, is that why they're playing this game Saturday, even though other conferences (Big Ten, PAC-10) allow the regular season to determine the champ rather than 60 minutes of unpredictability?
Nawww. It's for the same reason Hollywood cranks out a follow-up in any series: cha-ching!
TITLE TOWN FOR BROWN?
With an 81-19 record in eight seasons at Texas, Brown has posted the most wins of any collegiate coach during that stretch and is off to the best coaching start in school history. The Longhorns are the only school in the nation to record at least 10 wins in each of the last five seasons. The 2005 team has notched UT's first undefeated regular season in 22 years and has won 18-straight, the second longest streak in program history.
About the only thing Brown has not done in 22 years as a head coach is win one of those measly 'ol conference titles. What would his first conference championship mean to him?
"When I get through with coaching, and I'm gumming my food, it will mean a lot," Brown said. "As far as today, it would give our players, coaches and our university something we haven't done since we've been here. We've checked off a lot of lists (of accomplishments), and that's one that needs to get checked off."
The Buffaloes' ground game has been grounded as of late, and never really got untracked this season. CU averaged 121.4 ypg (NCAA No. 88) during the regular season but generated just 359 yards rushing during the past four games on 137 attempts (2.6 ypc). RB Hugh Charles averages 64.8 ypg and has six TDs on the season. He is also a receiving target with 221 yards on 24 grabs.
Klatt is the school-record holder for passing yards (7,275), attempts (1,071) and completions (652). Yet, he has thrown three INTs and no TDs during the past two losses. The Buffs average 243.6 yards through the air (No. 36). In coach Gary Barnett's perfect world, the Buffs would have a punishing power-running game that would set-up the play-action pass.
"They've got a really nice play-action game and they want to run the football," Co-Defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik said. "That's what they did last time and I don't think their game has changed philosophically. They're going to do what they believe in, and that's run the ball and run the play-action off of that.
TE Joe Klopfenstein is a 2005 first-team All-Big 12 selection. He led all league TEs in receiving the first nine games of the season but has been slowed the past two games by a shoulder injury. He has 28 catches for 440 yards and four TDs this year. The Buffs enjoy the same type of one-two punch at TE that Texas had last season with David Thomas and Bo Scaife. If you merge Klopfenstein's numbers wit Quinn Sypniewski, the front-line TEs have combined for 822 yards on 52 catches.
The strength of this team is stopping the run. The Buffs boast the nation's second best rush defense (trailing only Ohio State) by giving up just 79.5 ypg. Texas was one of just three teams all season to pass the century mark against the CU run defense, but it took 47 attempts to net 145 yards. No RB has surpassed the century mark against the Buff defense all season. In fact, CU has allowed just three running plays of 16+ yards all season, and one of them belongs to Selvin Young (17 yards).
That's why so many offenses have tended to head them off at the pass. Case-in-point: Vince Young's record-setting performance on October 15. Colorado is giving up 255.7 (No. 95) ypg through the air.
ILB Thaddaeus Washington leads the team with 102 tackles, 13 TFL and five QB sacks. Safety J.J. Billingsley is CU's second-leading tackler with 77 stops. He also has two INTs and two fumble recoveries this year,
Nobody in D-I football has a pair of kickers like Colorado.
PK Mason Crosby, one of the three finalists for the Lou Groza Award honoring the nation's top kicker, represents the type of kicker that Brown inexplicably has failed to recruit despite the other positional talent he gathers by the truck load (and despite the fact that Crosby hails from the Austin area). Crosby has 43 touchbacks on 59 kickoffs. If you take Crosby out of the equation, this is a 5-6 Colorado team: it took a 50-yard FG against Kansas State and a 47-yarder against Colorado State late in the game for the Buffs to avoid a losing campaign.
John Torp is a finalist for the Ray Guy Award recognizing the nation's top punter. He averages 39.4 yards net punting (No. 4 nationally) and has 24 boots inside the 20.