Texas walked into this season ranked a comfortable No. 15 in the nation and the Big 12 championship looked almost like an easy task.
But after an awful start to their hyped-up season, the Longhorns moved out of sight and a conference title looked almost unmanageable.
Now, after five straight wins, Texas is relevant again and in the Big 12 but, nevertheless, still sits nationally unrecognized.
“We’ve played like a Top 25 team enough in the past five weeks and in my estimation we should be ranked,” head coach Mack Brown said.
After two consecutive losses in non-conference play, the Longhorns lost most of their national interest and moved to the background of many college polls. The defense gave up an embarrassing 550 yards on the ground to BYU, which led to more defensive woes and to the eventual reassignment of defensive coordinator.
“We would like to be ranked, but obviously there’s a lot left out there that we need to prove,” senior quarterback Case McCoy said. “I think you always hear, you can only make a first impression once, and we made our first impression and it wasn’t what we needed to make. There are voters that it’s hard for them to overcome.”
Texas is using its unranked status to its advantage. A variety of motivational factors have become a key for the team this year in propelling to the top of the Big 12 and the fact they are unranked provides another. Some even prefer to remain unranked.
“I hope they keep us unranked,” junior defensive back Quandre Diggs said. “It just makes us hungry in the locker room. We really don’t care about rankings. We’ve got four tough games coming up, and I feel like we’ve got to take care of ourselves. We’ve just got to continue to go out and showcase what we can do and continue to get people on board.”
Four of the five wins the team has this season have been against teams bottom half of the Big 12. To prove they deserve to be ranked, the Longhorns need to continue their win streak and make it know they can be a dominant team.
“Our job is just to keep playing consistent,” McCoy said. “I think that’s what they’re looking for through us. If I was looking at this team, I’d want to say, okay, are you consistent? Can you continue to play at a level that you’re playing at?”
Texas, however, is trying to look past the rankings. Its main priority is its longtime goal, which has been in place since the Longhorns started fall camp. Once they find their way to the Fiesta Bowl for a Big 12 title game, everything else will fit into place.
“The goal here is to win the Big 12 and win out and go to a BCS bowl, and if we do that everything else will take care of itself,” McCoy said.