I'm walking to post-practice interviews on Tuesday, okay? Just happened to be walking past the team bus as it unloaded outside of Moncrief. Ordinarily, all you hear is the crunch-crunch-crunch of plastic cleats on the pavement as players silently file into the dressing room. On this night, you could hear the raucous from a half-mile away. Senior LT Jonathan Scott was a one-man pep rally. He was in the face of teammates -- yelling, encouraging, exhorting -- and it became contagious. It built and it built and, soon, this was a bunch of high-fiving, chest-bumping herd of Longhorns hungry for a championship.
Next day, Mack Brown spoke about the need to calm his team down just a little bit. The other carrot dangling in front of this team is they feel like they have something to prove following the relatively subpar performance at Texas A&M. (The Aggies spoke of "exposing" Texas, but all A&M revealed was just how lightly regarded their program has become.)
Add it up, and you've got a focused and pissed-off Texas team. You've also got a Colorado team whose most recent football memory was that of its own students throwing trash at them.
There's no doubt that CU's run defense (No. 2 nationally) is the real deal. Then again, they've not faced a healthy Jamaal Charles; nor was Ramonce Taylor a factor in the running game on October 15. And Henry Melton has averaged 7+ yards-per-carry the past three ball games. Vince Young, meanwhile, is not about to have consecutive subpar outings, and certainly not in his hometown. Conversely, Colorado's offense isn't even averaging three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust as of late (netting just 2.6 yards-per-attempt during the past two ball games).
It adds up to a title game that Chris Simms could win.
Mack Brown gets his first conference title while Horn fans can finally heave a heavy sigh of relief for having purchased those airline tickets to California the week after Ohio State. Texas 42, Colorado 16.
Pearle -- The '05 Longhorns exorcised one demon this season by ending OU's five game win streak. Saturday, they can send another one packing by beating Colorado and erasing the memory of that painful-beyond-belief loss to the Buffs in the '01 title game.
Texas Stadium that night in Irving four years ago felt absolutely electric. I still remember the super-charged atmosphere as the Horns emerged from the tunnel to start the game. Tennessee's upset of Florida, a game that concluded minutes before the UT/CU game, meant the Horns were in the Rose Bowl to play for a national championship if they could beat Colorado, a team they had thrashed by 34 earlier in the season. Thousands of Texas fans had watched Florida-Tennessee at tailgate parties outside Texas Stadium and they were almost in a frenzy. They knew the Horns were 60 minutes away from a shot at that elusive national championship, and the players, pumped up to the max, knew it, too.
Sixty minutes of football later, the Horns and their fans left Texas Stadium dazed after suffering one of the most shocking losses in school history.
With a win this Saturday, the 2005 Longhorns can make that 2001 game no more than a painful memory, rather than an albatross that continues to hang around the program's and Mack Brown's collective neck.
Texas, after the close call at College Station, with a national title appearance on the line, and with a chance to give their beloved coach the first conference championship of his otherwise impressive career, should come out focused and ready to play. But which Colorado team will show up Saturday? The one that played good, tough football to race out to a 7-2 record and a national ranking, or the bizarre bunch that lost ugly and uglier at the close of the regular season with the Big 12 North title on the line?
From the quotes I have heard this week from Gary Barnett, I think he will have his team past the recent collapses and confident they can play with Texas. In this one-time shot, winner-take-all battle, I expect the Buffs to come out unafraid and physical and try to smash Texas in the mouth.
But Texas will win because it is deeper, faster, and way more talented than the Buffs, and because Vince Young, playing at home in Houston, will have a monster game running and passing. By about 4 p.m. Saturday, the Heisman voters are going to be back in a quandary, because Vince is going to be right back in the hunt. Texas 37, Colorado 13.
Ross -- So I'm sitting in a Chinese restaurant Thursday, and I crack open a fortune cookie, anxious for guidance on my prospects for fame and fortune, Friday night's lottery numbers, and perhaps a sneak peek at whether travel to California is in my near future. But instead of a universal truth, what do I find... nothing. Absolutely nothing. I'm sure I could Google it and find out just what a fortune-less cookie portends, but I'm a bit terrified that it'll say something along the lines of, "Your judgment (in already booking a trip to Pasadena) is poor."
Or perhaps, "Be wary of wounded Buffalo."
Not that the Buffs have recently shown much of anything to be wary of, but you just don't know about a fortune cookie curse. Or, in UT's case, the 36-year national championship curse (know to some as the curse of Craig Curry).
Seriously, the question heading into Saturday is not curses, or Big 12 Championship Game history (I vowed before writing this that I would not even mention that game; you know the one), or any number of other imagined factors. The real question is whether we'll see in Reliant the Texas team from the vast majority of this season -- including the first Colorado game, a 42-17 Longhorn win in Austin -- or the Texas team that showed up for the first half of the Oklahoma State game and again last Friday in College Station.
If it's the former, then those airline and hotel reservations for California in early January won't be for naught. If it's the latter, well, I have a feeling we'll have a second consecutive fourth quarter nail-biter for the right to play in the Rose Bowl. But that could also depend on which Colorado team shows up. The Buffs have been schizo since playing Texas in Austin, clobbering Kansas and Missouri by 30 but also squeaking by K-State as well as losing despite easily-outgaining Iowa State and then just flat out getting blown out by Nebraska in Boulder last Friday. If that Colorado team catches the plane to Houston, it won't matter one whit which Texas team shows up.
But what's the case for a Buffalo upset? Well, the Buffs had some success in mid-October slowing UT's ground game, holding the Horns to 145 rushing yards on 47 carries (just over three yards per attempt, although current RB depth chart toppers Ramonce Taylor and Jamaal Charles rushed just four times that afternoon). Vince Young, of course, had his best day ever as a passer, completing 25 of 29 for 336 yards. Let's say that Colorado can duplicate that defensive performance against the run, Vince plays an average game rather than a spectacular one, and Joel Klatt becomes an option QB overnight, well, then we've likely got ourselves a ballgame. My bet is that Colorado goes about this one exactly the same way it did the first one, hoping to slow the Texas ground game and force Young to win it through the air. It's a good plan. If Vince is off, as he was vs. the Aggies, and Colorado has similar success in slowing the Texas run, the Buffs could realistically keep the Horns well below their season scoring average, and thus in range of an upset if the ball bounces in their favor.
The chances of that happening are slim, in my opinion, largely because Texas played so poorly last weekend. The Horns have turned in their worst performances of the season when big-headed -- after taking over the No. 1 spot in the BCS, and then again when many talking heads starting proclaiming Texas to better than USC and Vince to be the Heisman front-runner. The A&M performance should, should smack that ego back down a bit. For the upset to happen, a lot of things would have to go against character Saturday, and if I've read this team right -- from Mack Brown down -- character, talent and, maybe most-importantly, leadership is what will keep it from losing this game to an inferior opponent. Here's what the fortune cookie would have said Thursday, if I had gotten one: Texas 38, Colorado 17.