Horns Vow Not To Be Title Game L'OU'sers

One blowout was to the tune of 70-3; the other was 66-19. But the lopsided score that several Longhorns were asked to reconsider Monday, as the Rose Bowl countdown began, was actually 55-19.

The outcome of the 2005 BCS national championsip is permanently seared in the psyche of Sooners everywhere but, to some extent, it serves as a rallying cry for No. 2 Texas. After all, the Big 12 didn't exactly represent when it sent its undefeated challenger to face top-ranked Southern Cal in last year's Orange Bowl.

"We're a totally different team; we're Texas," DE Tim Crowder said, before adding, "We're going out there to win the game. If you're not going to win the game, there's no use in going at all."

Versus the Sooners, Trojan QB Matt Leinart was 13-of-23 for four TDs... by halftime. He finished 18-of-35 for 332 yards and an Orange Bowl record five TDs. But that was then, this is now, says Longhorn head coach Mack Brown.

"I really don't think the year before relates to this year," Brown said. "As I watch college football, I'm not even sure the week before relates any more."

Oklahoma was guilty of three interceptions and three fumbles (losing two) as the score quickly got out of hand.

"I was surprised because I thought things were going to be a little bit closer than it was," SE Limas Sweed said.

So did the odds-makers, who made USC a 1.5-point favorite. The handicappers have made Texas an early seven-point 'dog.

"Personally, I don't care," said SS Michael Huff. "We're going to go out there and play football whether we're the underdog or whether we're picked to win by 40. I'm going to play the same and go out there and win."

Added Sweed: "It doesn't matter being the underdog. USC is a great team. They've won the national championship twice so it's only fair that they're the top guy. As far as us being the underdog, I think that's where we should be because USC is a great team and they've been winning."

Even without coordinator Norm Chow (now with the Tennessee Titans), many pigskin pundits point to the 55-19 shellacking, along with the 34-game win streak, to conclude that Southern Cal's offense is unstoppable. Crowder said the best offense he has faced on Game Day, up to this point, was Oklahoma's in 2004.

"They had the quarterback (Jason White), they had the running back (Adrian Peterson) and the best offensive line and the best receiving corps I've ever faced," he said. "Texas Tech will try to throw the ball 70 times a game but OU and USC is more balanced. If the running game is working, they won't throw it at all."

For Crowder, the pressure was in maintaining the lofty preseason ranking and running the table for 12 games.

"It's hard to stay No. 1 and No. 2 all year," he said. "Once you get that out of the way, the pressure is off I think."

Meanwhile, USC coach Pete Carroll said Sunday that one advantage his team may have is its been-there, done-that attitude, allowing the Trojans to approach the title game with a decided sense of "normalcy". Texas, however, seems to be just as California cool.

"We're going to keep playing Texas football like we've been playing and come out there loose," said Sweed. "We've been loose from Day One. Coach Brown has allowed us to be loose because he understands that helps the team and helps us get into our groove. There's no doubt in my mind that we'll be loose."

The attitude, in part, stems from the collective confidence instilled in the program following it's Rose Bowl win 11 months ago. It's a team that not only expected to be back in Pasadena, it also expects to emerge with another win and a decidely bigger prize. At the very least, they do not expect a 36-point embarassment in which the title bout is, in essence, determined by halftime.

"It's going to be a hard fought game to the end," said FS Michael Griffin.

The Horns are devoting much of this week to making travel arrnagements to California, hitting the banquet circuit and studying for finals. Practice resumes this weekend and the team departs for Los Angeles on December 28.

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