Commentary

Bevo primed for Rodeo return

Originally Published: October 31, 2009
By Pat Forde | ESPN.com

STILLWATER, Okla. -- I'm not saying this is a cow town, but you do drive over Cow Creek on Oklahoma Highway 51 as you hit the outskirts.

So it's fitting that out here on the prairie, half the debate about the BCS National Championship Game became a moo-t point Saturday night. Stillwater is a long way from anywhere, but it suddenly seems like a straight shot from here to Southern California.

[+] EnlargeEarl Thomas
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiEarl Thomas and the Horns raced past the Cowboys.

After demolishing overmatched Oklahoma State 41-14, the Texas Longhorns are going to the BCS title game in Pasadena, returning to the site of their last national title. Send Bevo to Rodeo Drive once again.

The only thing that could stop Texas at this point would be choking on a turkey bone Thanksgiving night against rival Texas A&M in College Station. And I'm sorry, but any team that trailed Kansas State 38-0 at halftime is not going to pull the upset of the year in college football.

Between now and then, the Horns have milk runs against Central Florida, Baylor and Kansas. They'll win each of those games by two touchdowns, minimum, probably more. Then they'll beat the Aggies. And then they'll maul the miserable winner of the Big 12 North in the annual conference championship mismatch to make official what became unofficially clear here.

We know that if Texas keeps winning it will not relinquish its spot in the top three of the BCS standings. And once we have a loss by one of the Southeastern Conference teams in the top three -- Florida or Alabama -- the Horns will lock up a spot in the top two and book their ticket to the title game. That point was emphatically made on Halloween night, against an opponent that thought it was ready to finally win on a big stage. Instead, Oklahoma State played down to its undistinguished pedigree while Texas played up to its championship-level heritage.

The other moment of clarity Saturday was this: USC is done as a title contender, dispatched with startling impunity by onrushing Oregon. And while the Ducks' victory only further validates Boise State, there's only so much the Broncos, Cincinnati and TCU can do.

Condolences to you folks, but you have no chance of overhauling Texas in the BCS standings. You all might be as good as Texas, but we'll never know for sure without a playoff. (Iowa, forget it. Don't even bother mounting an argument.)

It's just that simple. This was the hurdle Texas had to clear, and it did so with impressive ease.

"We've got a lot at stake now," Longhorns coach Mack Brown said. "Everyone understands that."

Maybe not everyone. The fans and the media are all fast-forwarding to January. The hard part will be keeping everyone on the inside from joining them in looking ahead.

Coaches are focus fanatics, and they always get their players to say the right things about "one game at a time." But sometimes they slip up and tell you what they're really thinking. Or not thinking.

"The big prize is next week -- Florida Atlantic," said linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy. "That's the next big prize on the menu."

Umm, Roddrick? The next opponent is Central Florida, not Florida Atlantic. If you don't know who you're playing, chances are you might not be giving the Knights (as opposed to the Owls) too much respect.

[+] EnlargeMack Brown
John Rieger/US PresswireMack Brown and UT have a trip to the BCS title game in their sights.

But the fact is, there is no need to accord UCF excessive respect. Texas is simply too good to lose that game or any other between now and January.

A team that had snoozed through several first halves this season has altered course. In consecutive road games against Missouri and Oklahoma State, the Horns have won the first half by the combined score of 59-14.

That included a 24-7 strafing of the Cowboys on a night some here billed as the biggest Big 12 home game in school history. Texas held an opening Oklahoma State drive and forced a missed field goal, then drove for three points of its own, and the tone was all but set.

"Usually if we can do that, we've won the game," Brown said.

Just to make sure, the Horns added two more touchdown drives by the offense and a 77-yard pick six by defensive back Curtis Brown. Fellow DB Earl Thomas added a second-half pick six of his own, as defensively dominant Texas intercepted four of Zac Robinson's passes. The Oklahoma State senior had never thrown three picks in a game before, much less four.

But this Texas defense has a way of making good players look bad. The two pick sixes ran the Longhorns' total of non-offensive touchdowns to nine on the season.

For the record, that's three interception returns for scores, two kickoff returns, two punt returns and two blocked punts for TDs. Texas' offense is steadily getting better, but it's also getting a lot of help along the way to leading the nation in scoring.

"Scoring in all three phases allows you to be really, really good," Brown said.

Right now, Texas is certainly good enough to maintain its prime spot in the BCS championship chase. And given the competition in front of it, that isn't going to change.

Bevo is going to Rodeo, and taking the shortcut through Stillwater to get there.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.

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