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COLLEGE FOOTBALL

A Texas-sized chip on their shoulders should make the Longhorns No. 1

Texas has the motivation to win a championship, as well as a quarterback -- Colt McCoy -- with the talent and experience to lead them to the BCS title game at the Rose Bowl.

September 03, 2009|CHRIS DUFRESNE | ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

AUSTIN, TEXAS — A tree stump could pick Florida No. 1 -- we get it.

Everybody loves Raymond and the Gators. So why Texas?

Think of it as deja Bevo.

The clincher is a story told by a nice young man wearing Harry Potter glasses while standing in the hallway outside Texas' weight room/military industrial complex.

Hard to believe it was Colt McCoy, the team's superstar fifth-year senior quarterback, but he had a student ID card to prove it.

McCoy was a redshirt freshman standing next to quarterback Vince Young on the Rose Bowl sidelines in January 2006 when, in the climactic plot twist to one of college football's all-time page-turners, Texas stopped USC on fourth and two with two minutes left in the Bowl Championship Series title game.

The Longhorns trailed, 38-33.

"I was in the huddle and the coaches were telling him the play before he runs out," McCoy recalled. "I'm there with the clipboard, writing down the plays. Vince said, 'Hey, here we go; it's time to roll.' "

McCoy said Young then looked him square in the eye and said: "You'll be in this position some day. Do what I do."

Young drove the Longhorns 56 yards in 10 plays, scoring the game-winning touchdown on a fourth-down run with seconds remaining.

Texas won, 41-38.

Four years later, the BCS title game returns to the Rose Bowl.

Four years later, Texas enters the season No. 2 in the Associated Press and USA Today coaches' rankings behind a prohibitive favorite to repeat as BCS champion. Florida received 58 first-place votes in the AP poll. Texas got two.

In 2005, USC was an overwhelming preseason No. 1 after winning the national title in 2004. That year, USC had 60 first-place votes in the AP. Texas had four.

Four years later, a Texas quarterback coming off a spectacular bowl performance enters the season with something to prove.

After 2004, it was Young who shook off criticisms about his passing with an indelible Rose Bowl performance against Michigan.

Four years later, McCoy returns after leading a last-minute drive to beat Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl -- and after losing the Heisman Trophy to the quarterback from archrival Oklahoma, a team the Longhorns beat.

Texas Coach Mack Brown sat in his office chair and all but owned up to this alignment of stars.

"We tried to tell our team that," Brown said. "The stage is set for us going back to the Rose Bowl. Everything is in place like it was in '04 going into '05. You just got to be good enough.

"There are a lot of seniors on this team. And expectations are high. The standard is set very high here. This team should not be compared to that team yet because they haven't earned the right, but I think the circumstances are scarily similar."

If you believe in dynasties and the odds and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow's insatiable quest for perfection, go with the Gators.

If you believe in symmetry, karma, cycles, Texas is your team.

Florida will discover that repeating is hard. Every league game will be a fistfight that spills out of Southeastern Conference saloon doors.

The year after Florida won it all in 2006, the Gators went 9-4 with a loss to Michigan in the Capital One Bowl.

Louisiana State finished 9-3 the season after it won the BCS title in 2003 and 8-5 last year after winning the title in 2007.

The 10-3 season following Texas' national title in 2005 was one of the most difficult of Brown's career. With accomplishment comes satisfaction and, to some, a sense of entitlement -- especially when you're dealing with young adults.

Conversely, no team in America is more motivated than Texas.

Texas last year got the short end of almost every stick it drew.

Texas watched Missouri and Oklahoma, two schools it defeated, play in the Big 12 championship game.

Texas lost a three-way tiebreaker to determine the Big 12 South champion after the Longhorns, Oklahoma and Texas Tech all finished with one loss.

Texas was undermined, not by the BCS but by the Big 12's own rules. Had the Big 12 used SEC tiebreaking procedures, the Longhorns would have prevailed as winner of the head-to-head against Oklahoma, played Missouri for the Big 12 title and probably played Florida for the national title.

What's more, the Big 12 decided in the off-season not to alter its tiebreaking procedures. Why not? Well, it might have suggested the conference crowned the wrong champion last year.

If you want to get talented college football players charged up, tell them they got robbed.

For a brief period last off-season, in Texas' team meeting room at the Moncrief-Neuhaus Athletics Center, the school officially listed its Big 12 championships as 1996, 2005 and 2008*.

The asterisk of '08 has since been removed -- but the point was made.

Brown only needs to harness this pent-up energy.

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