It’s very easy to see that title and find it somewhat disconcerting or annoying. It kind of annoys me.
The differences between BYU in 1984 and Texas in 2009 are there at the surface, of course. Texas is a “have” and BYU in 1984 was a “have not”. We have the early season poll validation that they lacked and the big conference that gives us inherent credit that they lacked, no doubt.
That considered, there are some terrific potential parallels when you get through the surface and look at what we have. And frankly, having something akin to what unfolded for them 25 years ago is not a bad thing. It worked out ok for those guys.
BYU ended up winning the mythical national title in 1984 after beating a mediocre Michigan team in the Holiday Bowl that season. Until LSU’s 2007 joke of an MNC, that 1984 title was considered one of the biggest title question marks of all time. I am sure it was for good reason, although all I remember as a kid was enjoying the few times I got to see Robbie Bosco play. They opened the season against #3 Pitt while they were unranked (the AP only went to 20 at that time) and beat them 20-14. They pummeled a decent Baylor team the following week, pushing them well into the top 10. The run to the top had begun.
That season saw BYU win a battle of attrition that is rarely seen in the college ranks on that scale. Basically every major conference team suffered losses. There were simply no dominant teams and BYU held on to undefeated much longer than anyone else could. They ended up being rewarded for it and that national title remains undisputed, if unheralded. I hold out hope that Texas can meet the same fate this season.
What is the logic? I have a few reasons:
1) Like BYU in 84, Texas has to hang on to undefeated to have a prayer of playing for it all. The Big 12 is relatively weak. It isn’t a bottom tier BCS conference like the Big East or Big 10 this year. Let’s not get absurd. That typed, it certainly isn’t a conference that can simply count on its winner playing for it all or being guaranteed a good shot at it all. OU is down but not out. Tech is out. OSU is out (Rice actually outgained them). ATM and Baylor? Right. Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas are ok but not good. KSU, ISU, and CU are flat out bad. A loss in the conference to any team and the weak non-con combined with that kills a Texas shot at it all.
2) Like 1984, the rest of the nation is mediocre as well. Some conferences are better than others and some non-cons are better than others and teams that have either one of those advantages will get the benefit of the doubt over this Texas team. Florida, Bama, Cal, maybe even USC with one loss surpasses a one loss Texas. Texas will not get in with one loss barring amazing circumstances.
3) Again, similarly to BYU then, this Texas team is not impressive enough without an undefeated record to get enough credit for anything, really. This isn’t last year, whatever the reason. The OL is poor. McCoy looks closer to 2007 than 2008. The defense is better but a ways away from being excellent. The WRs and TEs could use Quan. The OC could use a retirement package. The secondary could use a pair of hands.
Everything sets up really well for Texas to play for it all. This team is good enough to win a series of close matchups against inferior opponents if it shows up every week. It is capable of undefeated with the right problems and injuries for opponents.
The only shot for winning the title, which is obviously different from playing for it, is a series of collapses by the competition. So far this year, we’ve seen a few important ones. USC today, BYU today, OSU last week. We need a few more. Someone needs to beat UF. Cal. Bama. Blah, blah, blah. There are many teams that could simply beat this Texas team. We need some good fortune to wind up playing Penn State or Boise State for it all. If we do, we can beat those teams, if not handily.
I hope this team does indeed show up every week. There are no gimmes for the way they play and they way their offense is coached. If we do show up every week, we should be ok hoping that everyone else falls down around us.
Maybe others see it differently. Perhaps there’s something to the notion that we’re just getting some air beneath our wings, adjusting to some of the roster losses, and getting in gear for a big run. That would be ok too, but I just don’t see a dominant team from Texas this season. I see the opportunity for a title, nonetheless.