On a day when the road was supposed to rise up and conk the contenders, Texas laid down and made a mockery of its home.
OK, "laid down" is an inflammatory term, not to be applied hastily to any team. With Texas, we're way past that stage. But you don't need to be told that. After losing to Baylor 30-22, Texas is the leader in the clubhouse to become The Most Disappointing Team of 2010.
Who's No. 1? Up for debate. Who's No. What Happened? Again, you don't need to be told that. The 'Horns woke up Sunday morning in fifth place in the Big 12 South. At 4-4, they need to win two of their last four to go to some low-level bowl. They have lost three consecutive times at home for the first time since 1988. How bad is it? Mack Brown has lost more home games in the past two months (three) than Bob Stoops has in his entire career at Oklahoma (two).
|Dodd's Power Poll|
|2. Boise State|
|9. Ohio State|
|15. Michigan State|
|17. South Carolina|
|18. Oklahoma State|
|20. Mississippi State|
|21. Florida State|
|23. Virginia Tech|
|24. San Diego State|
|25. N.C. State|
And it's not like Texas has run a top 10 gantlet. The losses came to UCLA, Iowa State and Baylor at the stadium named after Darrell Royal. If the biggest story of Saturday was four undefeated teams winning on the road, then the sidebar is mighty Texas' inability to win at home. At the top of the polls we're marveling at the joystick ability of Oregon and Auburn to score 50, give up 30 and dominate everyone. Meanwhile, Texas can't find the control stick.
The program with the biggest budget suddenly has the biggest problems. It is officially a lost season, the first of Brown's wonderful run in Austin. And it came out of nowhere. Yes, we knew there would be a certain amount of rebuilding after last year's national championship run. But was Colt McCoy that good?
The national scene has been dominated by Ducks, Tigers and Broncos. Meanwhile, the Longhorns have fallen off the map. Media don't gather around press box TVs anymore to watch the burnt orange upset carnage because 1) The results are hardly upsets at this point and 2) well, the only No. 2 is what Texas plays like these days.
The 'Horns don't compete enough. Worse, they seem to compete only at times. That makes it all the more maddening. This is a team that lost to a dreadful UCLA squad but somehow manned up later to win in Lincoln, where Nebraska might win its first conference title in 11 years. This is a team that fell behind 28-6 to Iowa State then, as Brown noted, decided to play with about 12 minutes left. Baylor was down 19-10 on Saturday, then scored 20 consecutive points. Texas was either bored or outplayed. Maybe both.
Only the Las Vegas sports books are having a harder time figuring these guys out.
For years there has been a sense of entitlement in Texas. That was fine. All great programs act pompous at one time or another. Just don't let it carry over to the field. It becomes disaster when your nose is in the air and the team's mental state is in the dumper. In that case, you just look foolish. USC (5-3) is playing harder and better, as the ravages of a devastating NCAA probation settle in, than Texas, which is armed with a full complement of players who were supposed to compete for the Big 12 title again.
It's becoming clear why scholarships are renewable year to year.
"I told the kids in the dressing room if they had played this hard against Iowa State and UCLA, they would have won both games," Brown said. "That's kind of the sad thing about where we are."
Which is in the middle of the worst season at Texas since 1997. That 4-7 season led to the firing of John Mackovic. No one is saying Brown is going out in any other way but on his own terms. You've got wonder now about the pressure going into 2011. That has to be a bounce-back season. Brown doesn't need this aggravation. He could retire tomorrow, and his statue would go up in a few months. But that would be giving in. Brown wants to win another championship. He's at a place where it is possible every year.
Just not this one.
There are other teams on the all-disappointing list -- Miami, Notre Dame, BYU, Tennessee. None compares to Texas. It's situation that can't be explained away by parity. Nine-win seasons are considered underachieving under Brown. The standard is so high you need an oxygen mask. But in less than one year, systemic problems have popped up. Good luck figuring them all out. No one expected a drop from national championship caliber to also-ran. The tired bashing of offensive coordinator Greg Davis is just that, tired. It's a crutch for when things go wrong. In the same season it was speculated he would take over for Mark Richt at Georgia, 'Horns defensive coordinator/coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp deserves his share of blame too.
Other than that, Texas is willing to take your suggestions. That's why they made message boards.
In the middle of ripping Texas, there should be some props to the Bears, who lead the Big 12 South. Quarterback Robert Griffin III should be getting some Heisman buzz. But the 'Horns should never, ever, lose to Baylor. One program has a budget that rivals Dubai's GNP. The other hasn't been to a bowl in a decade and a half. As the shock wore on in Austin Saturday, the chant coming out of the visitors' locker room mocked the advantage Texas has lost.