A little more than three weeks ago, Mike Davis made a bold prediction.
“I feel like we can still go to a BCS bowl,” the junior wide receiver said Oct. 29. “We’ve got hope. College football today is crazy. You can lose at anytime. You don’t ever know what can happen. You just have to be ready.”
At the time, the assertion seemed far-fetched. Texas was coming off an unimpressive, 21-17 comeback win over last-place Kansas. The Longhorns’ 6-2 record wasn’t indicative of their recent struggles. Disappointing losses to West Virginia and Oklahoma preceded narrow victories over Baylor and Kansas that were too close for comfort.
But, suddenly, following stellar wins over Texas Tech and Iowa State, Texas is in the BCS bowl picture. A Big 12 title is not out of reach.
All that has to happen for the Longhorns to capture the conference crown is win out – beat TCU this Thanksgiving and take down Kansas State in Manhattan the following Saturday – and for Oklahoma State to beat Oklahoma in Norman this Friday.
That would create a four-way tie between Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State – all of whom would finish 7-2 in Big 12 play under this scenario. With Kansas State (2-1) and Texas (2-1) owning the best records over the other three teams involved in the tiebreaker, the Longhorns would win the Big 12 via their win over the Wildcats on Dec. 1.
“After the two losses we had, we all realized that you give up controlling your own destiny when you do that and all you can do is focus on what you can take care of,” junior guard Mason Walters said. “If you wish another team to lose, it’s not going to matter. The good thing is we’ve worked and continued to build something.” Now it doesn’t look too bad.”
Davis was right – college football today is crazy. Baylor’s stunning win over top-ranked Kansas State on Saturday, making it two straight weeks the No. 1 team in the land went down, was perfect evidence of that.
But he hasn’t been proven right quite yet. Assuming Texas will just stroll into Manhattan and stroll out with a win would be foolish. Even looking past TCU would be ill-advised.
The Horned Frogs have lost three of their last four games and have yet to beat a team with a winning record this year. They’re 6-0 against teams at or below .500 and 0-4 against everyone else.
But Texas having a chance to win the Big 12 doesn’t change the fact that Kansas State has its number. The Longhorns have not won in Manhattan in a decade. They haven’t beaten K-State anywhere since 2003.
Even when Texas has been better than K-State (see: 2006, 2007), it hasn’t been able to top the Wildcats. The Longhorns are going to see a Kansas State squad coming off a bye week, a crushing defeat in its most recent game and playing at home with one of the nation’s most dynamic quarterbacks in Collin Klein.
Not all would be lost with a defeat in Manhattan. At 9-3, Texas would still have a chance to earn a 10th win in a bowl game, although it wouldn’t likely a BCS bowl. But victory No. 10 would carry a ton of symbolic significance.
“We can still come away a 10-2 team in the regular season,” Walters said. “That’s if we take care of business every week. These big-picture talks worry you a little bit because you don’t want it to go downhill. You want to stick to what you’re doing.”
Before going 5-7 in 2010, the Longhorns won 10 games in nine straight years. A 10th win would go a long way toward proving that they’ve fully recovered from that abysmal season.
But if that 10th win came in Manhattan next weekend, the significance of that victory could be much more than symbolic. A very tangible Big 12 Championship trophy could be heading to Austin.