Preseason is over. The Texas Longhorns open their Big 12 Conference schedule Saturday night at home against Oklahoma State (3-0).
Oh, for the days we called the Cowboys of Stillwater “Choke State” after they blew a couple of huge leads against Vince Young’s Horns, including a 35-7 start in 2004 that turned into a 21-point loss. The Horns had a 12-game win streak against the Pokes from 1998-2009, but since then Mike the Mullet’s gang has beat Texas five straight times in Austin. The Cowboys should wear home whites on Saturday.
It hasn’t been much better in Stillwater, where the Horns have lost the past two. Last year, Texas strutted onto T. Boone’s Farm as the No. 6 team in the country after defeating Kyler Money and Oklahoma, but apparently it’s hard to play defense when you’re strutting, and the Horns chased the unranked Cowboys all game for a 38-35 loss. Against the boys from Garth Brooks Country, Texas has had as much success as Chris Gaines.
Coach Mike Gundy has our number — and this year he’s bringing the nation’s leading rusher Chuba Hubbard to Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial, along with All-American receiver Tylan “Torch” Wallace, who put up Karen Valentine numbers against the Horns last year, with 222 receiving yards.
But if I was in Vegas, I’d put all the money I’ve made freelance writing this month on Texas to win. (Or do they have a $100 minimum?) If the Horns can’t get up for this game, then the season is lost. Bookmakers have the burnt orange as five-point favorites over the garishly bright orange. Under Tom Herman’s watch, Texas is 4-7 against the spread as a home favorite. But we’ll take a four-point win.
The difference is at quarterback, where Texas has Sam the Lion and OSU has a kid whose name belongs on the credits of an album by Vampire Weekend, not a football program. Redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders (no relation to Barry) was a standout dual threat QB at Denton Ryan, recruited by every major college in Texas except the most major one. But you can be sure the Horns will have a lot of interest in Sanders, who’ll be out to prove Herman’s hunch wrong and test a defense that has given up 330 passing yards per game (with Rice on the sked!).
Besides Wallace, OSU starts sure-handed receiver Dillon Stoner, who sounds like a Friday Night Lights extra in the audience for Crucifictorious.
Senior captain Brandon Jones had such a horrendous game in Stillwater last year he had to be checked by the burn unit, but pride is a great motivator, and I expect a couple takeaways by No. 19. The Horns lose a couple starters on defense — B.J. Foster and DeMarvion Overshown — but Todd Orlando’s DB unit is deep enough to withstand anything except a food poisoning outbreak. And T. Boone Pickens isn’t around this year to send oysters to the team hotel.
Oklahoma State will never forget its top benefactor, who passed away September 11. (They can’t, his name’s on all their buildings.) The same day, Austin also lost a key figure in its cultural makeup — singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston.
Don’t want the Daniel mural at 21st and Guadalupe to be defaced, but maybe someone can photoshop it so it says, “Hi, Pokes, how are you possibly going to beat us at home six times in a row?” Don’t know if it will help the Horns, but you can be sure some Austin hipsters will think it’s a restaurant that serves raw fish chunks.
Uncooked seafood makes me nervous before a big game. Don’t eat it, Horns! When Coach Herman says to leave it all on the field, he’s not talking about dinner.