Texas may have improved since last season, but so has the Big 12.
The Longhorns open conference play this weekend against Iowa State, a team that beat them on their home turf last season. Texas and Iowa State are two of seven unbeaten teams in the conference as the Big 12 has posted a collective 26-2 record in non-conference play.
Those two losses were to a 4-0 Georgia Tech squad that pounded Kansas, 66-24, and to a 3-1 Arizona State team that beat notched an overtime win over Missouri earlier this year.
But Iowa State is the only team Texas is thinking about this week, especially since it’s hard to forget what the Cyclones did to the Longhorns in 2010. After an impressive victory in Lincoln, Texas came back to Austin, only to be embarrassed by an inspired Iowa State team that jumped out to a 28-6 fourth-quarter lead and never looked back.
“I think it was the lowest point [of the season],” said head coach Mack Brown. “We go beat Nebraska and then we come back and stink against Iowa State. I got fooled because I thought we were back on track. I couldn’t believe that we wouldn’t play with more emotion or passion than we did against Iowa State. They outcoached us, they outhit us and they outplayed us.”
Some players have mentioned how the team is entering its “second season,” which encompasses their next three contests — a road game against Iowa State, the Red River Rivalry against Oklahoma, and a home game against Oklahoma State. Two of those are away from home and two are against top-five teams from Oklahoma.
BYU and UCLA are better than the cupcakes Texas usually feasts on in their non-conference schedule, but the Longhorns will face tougher tests in their next three games than they have in their previous three.
“None of us like each other in this conference,” said senior guard David Snow. “We’re playing great teams now. They’re all going to give us the fight of their life. There are great rivalries in this conference. Everybody wants to beat everybody.”
The matchup against Oklahoma is just two weekends away but Texas remains focused on its game this Saturday. The Longhorns have done well in its games right before facing the Sooners, going 9-2 in those contests since 2000 and winning by an average score of 35-17.
“The first step is Iowa State and that’s all we’ve got to look forward to right now,” said senior offensive tackle Tray Allen.
“The other games, we’ll get to them. But Iowa State is the only roadblock we’re looking at. They’re 3-0. They’re just as good as any team in the Big 12 right now and that’s who we have to handle right now.”
If the Sooners win out, they should find themselves in the national title game. But it’s going to be much easier said than done considering the fierce competition they’ll face the rest of this season. They handled Missouri last week but have four more games against ranked opponents, three away from Norman.
One of them, Texas A&M, who plays Oklahoma on Nov. 5, will be playing in the SEC next season. But thanks to Larry Scott’s decision to not expand the Pac-12, the Big 12 will stay intact.
“I’m so excited that the Big 12’s moving forward,” Brown said. “Not that it’s not a great game but how many people would get pumped about Oregon State-Texas? What we saw as kids is not going to continue to happen. Everybody gets so excited about realignment. We’re going to lose some of who we are by realignment if it continues. We better be careful what we wish for.”
The SEC and Big 10 have the next most undefeated teams with four apiece and three conferences don’t have any unbeaten squads. As good as the Big 12 is, Brown may be the one that should be careful what he wishes for. Because the conference he wanted all along to stay together may be the best conference in college football right now.
Printed on September 30, 2011 as: Big 12 to provide challenges for Texas