Commentary: For Texas, The Bar Has Risen

Derek Jeter was in the house Saturday night in Austin, prowling the sidelines with his girl friend, Friday Night Lights actress Minka Kelly. For all of his successes – on and off the field – you had to wonder if Jeter ever-so-briefly thought, "Boy, it sure would be nice to be a part of this Texas team."

That's what it's come to for the Longhorns. Their triumphs have become the stuff of envy, so much so that the shortstop for the third place New York Yankees might even watch them wistfully. In fact, the Texas season continues to roll along in a way that makes you wonder: Can this continue?

For the Longhorns to win the national championship, it must.

Prior to the season, everyone looked at Texas' brutal October schedule of Colorado, Oklahoma, Missouri and Oklahoma State and said, "Win three of those, and it's a good season. It might be a good season if UT could win just two of them, and realistically, the Longhorns could lose all four."

With three of these teams vanquished – and the Heisman Trophy front-runner at quarterback – now just winning three of those would not make you happy, would it?

No, it wouldn't. And it shouldn't.

The Texas Longhorns will be the favorite in every game they play from here on out. After beating Oklahoma, the feeling was: that's great, now maybe UT can win the conference championship, which has happened only once in Mack Brown's Texas career. After stomping a heretofore dangerous Missouri team that started the season as Sports Illustrated's pick to win the national title, the expectations are now officially higher.

Much higher.

The Longhorns are winning with such ease that writing about the just-completed game on Saturday is inconsequential. The Missouri game is over and requires only a quick stating of the blatantly obvious: Texas is head and Brian Orakpo's shoulders better than the Tigers, whose points came primarily in garbage time. Colt McCoy was Zeus, again. Jordan Shipley was outstanding, and so was Chris Ogbonnaya and Brandon Collins. And Texas is great at rushing the passer of any team that throws the ball all the time (Missouri, Texas Tech, No more Missouri rehashing required.

Instead, the focus is always on next week. Like an alcoholic longing for his next drink, the Longhorns have already begun evaluating the Oklahoma State Cowboys, next week's opponent. As fans, the rest of us can look ahead more than merely one game at a time.

Let's take a look.

The Longhorns face Oklahoma State at home, followed by Texas Tech at Lubbock, Baylor at home, Kansas in Lawrence and Texas A&M in Austin.

Editorial opinion: Oklahoma State is the best team remaining on the Texas schedule, and that includes any potential Big 12 Championship Game opponent. And something else: barring injury, the Longhorns will be the favorite in every game they play for the rest of the season, national championship game included. Alabama, Penn State, USC…pick the team, and Texas will be the favorite.

Which means nothing, of course.

Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Kansas are all capable of beating Texas. Baylor and Texas A&M aren't. But Oklahoma State will not beat Texas in Austin. Texas Tech could beat Texas, in the same way that some obscure sprinter can win the gold medal in the 100 meters. The problem for the Red Raiders is they have to play four quarters, and a football game lasts 60 minutes, not 10 seconds. Oh, and they have to play defense, too. There's always that.

Now, about Kansas. They scored more than 30 points against Oklahoma, but who doesn't? I'm joking, sort of, but in all honestly, the Jayhawks can score. Granted, their defense can give up points, too, but the state of Kansas was not kind to McCoy on his last trip. Some cold weather and a turnover or two, and suddenly you're having to dodge fans and collapsing goal posts. College football euphoria is a fragile thing indeed.

Win all of the regular season games, and who will Texas play in the Big 12 championship game? Kansas? Nebraska? Missouri again? All beatable, all inferior to Texas.

So go ahead, Texas fans. Raise your expectations. It's official now: 10 wins will not be good enough. Eleven will be disappointing now. Twelve would be really good, but only if it was followed by a win in game 13, the Big 12 championship game. And even though the 2005 team had Vince Young, I'm not sure this year's team doesn't now have even higher expectations.

In 2005, USC loomed, and many of the burnt orange faithful were of the belief that winning the Big 12 title and getting to the national championship game would be enough.

The bar for 2008 has now been raised even higher.

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