April 14, 2011
It's been a week since the Longhorns ended the first phase of football implementation under Mack Brown's New Edition staff with a two-hour scrimmage in front of the restless natives and if there's one idea that has bounced around in my head more than any other since then, it's the thought that the 2011 season will begin unlike any other in the last decade.
For the last 10 years or so, the discussions around every Texas football season have centered on the idea of Texas competing for a national championship and at the very least, a Big 12 championship. Never mind that so many of those seasons ended without either, the expectations for the program were high and have never dampened.
Yet as we enter this year, setting the bar for success has been incredibly difficult to determine. There's zero talk of national championships and while the Sooners are the overwhelming favorite to win the Big 12 in April, Longhorn faithful eye October this year with a little bit of apprehension.
Seriously, who could possibly know what Mack will have with him by the time they take on a likely top five Sooners in the Cotton Bowl? Usually, this is the kind of situation that would lead to panic in the streets of Austin. The restless natives would spend the entire off-season sharpening their pitchforks. Yet I'm about to type something that's not likely going to be well-received and flies in the face of all logic most here know.
In the 2011 season, the Sooners are not the most important conquest on the schedule. Oh sure, if the Longhorns get on a roll and the team emerges as a contending threat in a matter of weeks, then you can forget that I ever said any of this, although I don't think it matters.
For the first time since 2000, the season isn't about Oklahoma. It's about A&M.
Hear me out.
Once upon a time, Mack owned the Aggies on the field. I mean he owned their rear end something fierce. With the exception of the 1999 Bonfire Game, Mack never really had to sweat the Aggies much in the first eight years of his UT tenure, running off a dominant 7-1 start in the rivalry.
Once upon a time, Mack owned the Aggies on the field, but that time isn't now. In the last five years, the Longhorns have lost to A&M three times and if a probable favored A&M team wins in College Station this season, that's going to be make it four out of six.
Four out of six losses against a still-can't-win-a-bowl-game Aggies? That's not dominant. That's John Mackovic stuff. Or David McWilliams stuff. Or worse yet, the end of Fred Akers Era stuff. Whatever it is, it doesn't make any sense because outside of last season, the Longhorns shouldn't have lost any of those games.
But those A&M teams of 2006 and 2007 wanted those games more than Texas and this year the Longhorns need to want that game more than them. It's been a decade since the thought has crossed the minds of a single Texas football player, but winning this year over the only in-state rival that matters needs to be stressed.
This isn't about recruiting because I'm not sure Mike Sherman will ever threaten Mack in that area. This is about restoring the universe for a football program that has somehow allowed Texas A&M to get the jump on it when the shoulder pads and helmets come on.
If anything has to happen in 2011, this is it for the Longhorns. Perhaps it won't be this way in a year, but for now, nothing trumps the need to hand the Aggies a butt-kicking.