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Can Texas continue to run the gauntlet?

10/11/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

DALLAS -- Texas will have little time to celebrate after toppling No. 1 Oklahoma.

Texas will have to do it again -- and again -- and again. The Longhorns will be facing No. 3 Missouri next week, followed by games against Texas Tech and Kansas. All are ranked in the top 16 this week.

There are gauntlets. And then, there is Texas' schedule.

"We have the most ridiculous schedule ever," Texas quarterback Colt McCoy said. "We play good football teams week in and week out. We can't slip up. We want to face what we're doing and love the challenge of what's in front of us."

It started Saturday with the upset over the top-ranked the Sooners, significant because it was the first true upset victory for Texas in the series since 1992.

But the Longhorns exhibited many of the ingredients that constitute championship teams. They employed a steady defense that got better as the game progressed, despite yielding 35 points. And their running game made the Sooners wilt as the game continued.

"Not many people expected us to be able to do what we did today," McCoy said. "But we played smart football, we didn't turn the ball over and we made plays when we needed them. It was a great team win."

The game against Missouri next week in Austin could have all of the elements of a potential No. 1 vs. No. 2 battle. Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel will be returning to his home state. The Tigers haven't won in Austin since 1896 and will be itching for another statement victory to prove themselves as legitimate BCS title contenders.

"We told our guys before the game that next week was going be tougher than this one," Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis said. "If we had lost, we would be battling through all of the adversity of losing the game. But by winning, the challenges are even bigger."

In a way, this run is setting up much like Oklahoma's run to the 2000 national championship. To earn that title, the Sooners beat No. 11 Texas, No. 2 Kansas State and No. 1 Nebraska - all in the same month.

The rankings might not hold, but will face a similar challenge with their remaining schedule.

But the Longhorns' victory has catapulted them into the role of South Division favorites, particularly after Texas Tech's narrow overtime victory over Nebraska. And their gutty comeback over the Sooners actually gives them a two-game edge over Oklahoma because Texas would win a tie for the division championship because of the head-to-head win.

It's not unprecedented for the Sooners to be able to overcome an early loss to Texas and still win the Big 12 South title. Texas beat Oklahoma in 2006, but collapsed with a late two-game losing streak that allowed the Sooners to claim the division crown.

But this season could be a different story. The Sooners' running game is in shambles with two games in their last three producing less than 50 yards. And the season-ending injury to middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds will rob them of one of their most consistent and headiest defensive producers.

"We'll bounce back because we always do," Oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "The winner of this game usually gets a jump on the rest of the competition. We lost it, but we'll bounce back. We'll regroup, get in the film room, see what we did wrong and fix our mistakes."