Texas makes case for title despite close win

January, 6, 2009
1/06/09
2:50
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
 Colt McCoy threw for 414 yards and the winning touchdown with 16 seconds to play Monday night against Ohio State.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Roy Miller sounded like an Ohio State infomercial.

Minutes after No. 3 Texas posted a dramatic Fiesta Bowl win, Miller began talking up the team his Longhorns had just beaten.

"Great team, great players, Terrelle Pryor, [Chris "Beanie" Wells] is healthy," said Miller, the Longhorns senior nose tackle who was named Defensive Player of the Game. "You've got award winners on that side. You've got future Heisman candidates, you've got a running back that'll probably be the top pick in the draft, an offensive line as big as any, a defense that's played as well as any defense.

"When you look at those things and you look that this team had an opportunity to scout us for a month and a half, I really feel like we deserve that top spot."

It will be a tough sell, but the Longhorns began campaigning for the No. 1 ranking immediately after their 24-21 win. Head coach Mack Brown on the victory podium said he planned to vote Texas at No. 1 regardless of what happens in the BCS title game Thursday night.

But there's a force working against Texas, the same force that worked in favor of Oklahoma and Florida.

The Longhorns won by only three points Monday. They showed tremendous fortitude, made key plays and rallied past an Ohio State team that finally began to play to its potential. Yet a 3-point win against the runner-up from the beleaguered Big Ten Conference won't convince many that Texas should be at the top. Neither will an offense that produced well below its season averages.

"Style points, I don't care about scoring 80 points and them scoring seven," Longhorns defensive end Brian Orakpo said. "If it's a battle between two great teams, it makes football even more fun to play. It's very unfortunate because nowadays it's all style points and who can keep their starters in the longest and keep running up the score.

"Style points shouldn't matter."

Orakpo makes an excellent point, but one that likely will fall on deaf ears when the final polls come out. Texas entered the game as a 9-point favorite, and after impressive BCS wins by both USC and Utah, the Longhorns likely needed to trounce Ohio State to open the door for a split national title.

Though Texas certainly has the best case of any team not spending the week in Miami, the Longhorns were seconds away from a loss. USC thumped a Penn State team that beat Ohio State on Oct. 25, and Utah also posted a two-touchdown victory.

"Things weren't easy tonight," Brown said.

"You can throw [margin of victory] out the window," Orakpo said.

Unfortunately for Orakpo, the voters don't.

Texas' best argument for the No. 1 spot in the polls had nothing to do with what happened at University of Phoenix Stadium.

"It's called the Red River Shootout, and 45-35 was that final score," Miller said, referring to Texas' win against Oklahoma on Oct. 11. "We have an opportunity to win the votes over, hopefully, and possibly get a national championship with the votes."

Miller spoke last week about losing confidence in the voters toward the end of the regular season, as Oklahoma moved past Texas, thanks in large part to style points. History is not on the Longhorns' side.

But after Monday's win, Miller is beginning to feel more hopeful.

"I'm optimistic," he said. "I'm hoping that since our team played so strong and showed so much heart, I'm hoping those things can come through transparent, everybody can see 'em. Especially if Oklahoma wins [Thursday night]. We beat Oklahoma. We felt like we should have been in Florida. We felt like we should have had that opportunity.

"If they beat Florida, we feel we should be No. 1."

Miller doesn't plan to sit around and fret over the final polls. But he hopes the voters will do the right thing.

"Anything can happen," he said. "We know it, and we just hope we can win a couple votes. I'm proud of my team. Being a part of this team and knowing the things that we've been through, the teams that we've beat and the situations we've been in, I personally feel this team can play with anybody in the country."

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