Back-to-back convincing victories over Big 12 contenders helped make Texas the first unanimous No. 1 in the AP poll in more than a year, but coach Mack Brown still doesn’t think his Longhorns are a great team.
Their next opponent might be.
In a matchup of undefeated rivals, the top-ranked Longhorns host No. 7 Oklahoma State on Saturday as both teams try to improve their positions in the conference title and national championship races.
Texas (7-0, 3-0 Big 12) cruised through its first five games, but didn’t really jump into the spotlight until notching wins over then-No. 1 Oklahoma on Oct. 11 and then-No. 11 Missouri last Saturday. Those victories made Texas the first team to get all 65 first-place votes from the media panel since Ohio State did it the last four weeks of the 2006 regular season.
Though his team passed its first two big tests with flying colors, Brown isn’t convinced it deserves the praise it’s getting.
“We’re playing at a high level, but we’re not a great team yet,” he said. “We’ve got to be a great team for 60 minutes for the next five weeks to get us the chance to play in the (Big 12) championship game, which is what we want.
“We’re at a point (right now), unless we play well, we’ll get beat.”
Brown is constantly warning his players against “eating the poison cheese” of believing all the good things being said and written about them, and they seem to be getting the message.
“I believe we’re good. I don’t believe we’re great,” defensive tackle Lamarr Houston said. “I don’t think you determine who is great until the end of the year.”
Whenever greatness is determined, this game between the Longhorns and Cowboys - two of the nine remaining undefeated teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision - could end up being a major factor.
The Cowboys (7-0, 3-0) were unranked coming into the season, but their longest undefeated start since going 9-0 in 1945 has helped them climb to their highest ranking since 1985.
Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Gunter Brewer thinks the Cowboys’ success will fuel them in this game, one of the biggest in school history.
“Any time you’re on a national stage and you’ve had a little success, I think it lends itself to give kids a little more confidence than they normally have,” Brewer said. “You feel good when you’re winning, and that’s a good thing. That’s what you want your program to get to and aspire to play games like this.”
That may be the case, but quarterback Zac Robinson is determined not to get too caught up in the hype.
“If you try to make one game bigger than the next, then guys might be pressing and trying to do too much,” he said. “We’re going to go out and just play the way we do. Our team’s so young that they don’t know any better than to do that.”
Robinson was 13-for-20 for 238 yards and two touchdowns in last Saturday’s 34-6 win over Baylor. He has a good chance of another big game against Texas, which is giving up 275.0 passing yards per game, ninth-most in the FBS.
Luckily for the Longhorns, they have the offensive firepower to back up their porous defense. Heisman Trophy contender Colt McCoy completed 29 of 32 passes for 337 yards and two touchdowns and Texas totaled 591 yards in a 56-31 victory over Missouri last Saturday.
Texas, which hasn’t committed a turnover in its last two games, is second in the FBS with 48.1 points per game. Oklahoma State isn’t far behind, ranking fourth with 46.4.
“We’re doing a lot of really good things,” said McCoy, leading the nation with a completion percentage of 81.2. “(The Cowboys) can score pretty much every time they have the ball, so we’re going to have to keep playing to that standard and keep getting better.”
Under Brown, Texas has outscored Oklahoma State 407-218 in winning 10 straight meetings to improve to 20-2 in the all-time series.
Last year’s showdown, however, was much more competitive. The Cowboys entered the fourth quarter with a 35-14 lead before the Longhorns reeled off 24 straight points to steal a 38-35 victory.
“There are some games that never leave you,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “… But there’s nothing you can do about it because it’s never going to change. I don’t think that’s much of a factor right now.
“I think we’re further along as a team, we’re a little more mature and we have more continuity. We feel like the players are more seasoned in situations like this. But it’s college football, and you never know what’s going to happen.”