However, the Longhorns were not up to the lofty standard that their position has brought them. As the No. 1-ranked team in the land, Texas' performance against Oklahoma State is not just judged against Oklahoma State, it's judged against every team in the country and Saturday was not a National Championship performance.
Of course, the Longhorns didn't need a National Championship performance, they needed a win, just as they will in each of the remaining Big 12 games. Texas can play like it did against the Cowboys and still make it to Miami for the title game, but to bring home the Crystal Football, there are still some things that must be proven.
1) Can Texas run the football?
It was a question that plagued the Horns at the start of the season and was seemingly answered with the emergence of senior running back Chris Ogbonnaya as a big play runner. But that was against Colorado, Oklahoma and Missouri. Good teams, for sure, but they've had their issues stopping the run and Oklahoma State did a solid job of hounding the Longhorn running backs all game. The Texas zone running scheme typically requires a back to move laterally until a hole opens and that's when he makes his move (this is why it's often referred to as a 'one-cut' system). It seemed every time Ogbonnaya or Vondrell McGee took the ball, the Pokes had every gap filled. It all added up to Oklahoma State holding Texas to 113 yards on the ground, well below the season average of 193.43.
2) Can Texas stop the run?
Heading into the game, the Horns were ranked No. 2 in the nation in run defense, giving up only 48.14 yards per game on the ground. An impressive statistic, but teams have been doing nothing but throwing on Texas, whether it be because of gameplan (e.g. Rice and Missouri) or just the Horns jumping out to a huge early lead (e.g. Arkansas and, well, Missouri).
The number of passing attempts by opponents this season (308) compared to rushing attempts (214), has skewed the statistics. The Longhorns don't have the eighth-worst pass defense in the country, but they also don't have the second-best rush defense. On Saturday the Oklahoma State ground game gained momentum as the afternoon continued, opening up more in the passing game.
This question won't be a concern next week against Texas Tech...or for any of Texas' remaining opponents (Baylor, Kansas, Texas A&M and probably Missouri again in the conference title game), but in a National Championship game it could be crucial.
3) Does Texas have an answer to a great tight end?
Few teams do, but it's still a concern for the Horns. Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham caught five passes for 90 yards and a touchdown. Missouri's Chase Coffman caught 12 for 140 and a touchdown. Oklahoma State's Brandon Pettigrew pulled in eight for 83 and he was the go-to-guy when the Cowboys needed a first down (except on the last fourth down, but that's another matter).
There are other concerns, but these three are a few of the most pressing questions that this team needs to take a hard look at as the season continues.
And I know. I know, I know, I know. It's nit-picking details after a huge win over a top ten team, but that's the point we've gotten to. The goal has moved from Kansas City, site of the Big 12 Championship game, to Miami, site of...well, I'm sure you know. As such, the standard has moved with it.
There's a ton of positive things to pull from Saturday's win, such as holding Oklahoma State to 22 points below its season average and a third consecutive win over a top 15 team. Plus, it's a pretty good sign when your quarterback's 'worst' game of the season is a 432-yard, three-touchdown performance in which he completes 84 percent of his passes.
The Longhorns have shown they can be a truly great team this season, but to play like a National Championship team they're going to have to bring it every week.
The motto Mack Brown chose for his team at the beginning of the season was "Consistently good to be great."
Based on the standard the Longhorns are playing to now, they must be consistently great.