IRVING, Texas (AP)—While Oklahoma got to play in the Big 12 and BCS championship games last year, Texas and Texas Tech had the same regular season record as the Sooners.
All three were 11-1 overall with a 7-1 mark in the Big 12 South, and each loss was to another team in that trio. The Big 12’s fifth tiebreaker—BCS standings—was needed to send the Sooners to the conference title game they won.
All that even though the Sooners lost by 10 points to Texas, which lost at Texas Tech with one second remaining—before the Red Raiders lost by 44 points at Oklahoma.
The tiebreaker formula hasn’t changed, yet Texas coach Mack Brown—who didn’t like the setup even before last season—said there is an easy way around it for the Longhorns.
“If we had played better at Tech and won the game, we’d have been in the conference championship game,” Brown said Wednesday at the Big 12 media days. “A lot of that comes from us. We need to learn from that and move on, quit talking about the system and just go play.”
The Longhorns, with Heisman Trophy runner-up Colt McCoy back at quarterback, should be in the title mix again this season.
Texas and Oklahoma tied for the top spot in the Big 12 South preseason poll determined from a media vote. Texas got 17 first-place votes and Oklahoma got the other 15, but both had the same number of poll points.
What about the Red Raiders?
With quarterback Graham Harrell and receiver Michael Crabtree gone, it could be difficult for Texas Tech to match the Sooners and Longhorns again though coach Mike Leach insists things might not be that much different.
“I don’t think it’s really that dramatic,” Leach said. “A lot’s been made out of it, but there was a time when nobody had heard of Harrell and Crabtree too. … The questions were a little more along the line of, `How’s this Harrell going to be any good? How’s this Crabtree guy?”’
The Red Raiders were fourth in the preseason poll, behind Oklahoma State.
Harrell threw an NCAA-record 134 touchdowns and finished with consecutive 5,000-yard seasons in which he completed more than 70 percent of his passes. Crabtree caught 97 passes for 1,165 yards and 19 TDs his sophomore season before leaving.
McCoy also pondered leaving early for the NFL, and said “that was definitely a hard decision” based on the draft projections he knew about then and wouldn’t discuss Wednesday.
Already with a school record 32 victories, two more than national championship winner Vince Young, and virtually every Texas passing record, McCoy came back to try to win a title of his own.
“Obviously, the only thing Colt wants is to be one second better,” Brown said.
McCoy redshirted in 2005 and got a championship ring when the Young-led Longhorns outlasted USC for the win. But he doesn’t wear it because he doesn’t feel like he earned it.
Now he enters his senior season with the same kind of expectations Texas had four years ago.
“The 2005 team lived up to those expectations,” Brown said. “So we feel like that if this team will play up to their ability, they do have a chance to be really good. That’s obviously our goal.”
After being left out of the Big 12 title game because of the tiebreaker, McCoy turned his attention to the Fiesta Bowl, where the Longhorns beat Ohio State. They have been trying to build off that momentum.
“We worked so hard to win 12 games, and everybody that’s coming back this year knows how hard we worked to win 12,” McCoy said. “The intensity’s picked up a little bit.”
Texas Tech was ranked No. 2 after its first 10-0 start in school history before the devastating loss in Norman. The Red Raiders later lost to Mississippi in the Cotton Bowl in the last game for Harrell and Crabtree.
“It’s something you have to learn to overcome and helps motivate you for the next season,” defensive lineman Colby Whitlock said. “But, then again, we had a great season.”
Leach said Taylor Potts, who watched Harrell from the sideline the past three seasons, is a bigger guy with a stronger arm.
“He could have started for a lot of teams last year. Could have started for ours except for Graham was ahead of him,” Leach said. “If Potts is our starter, I know we’ve got a good one. If somebody beats out Potts, I know we have an even better one.”