Colt McCoy has a rare opportunity in Saturday's Big 12 Championship game.
A victory over Big 12 North champion Nebraska and the Texas Longhorns play for a national championship. McCoy was redshirted in 2005, when Vince Young led Texas to the program's fourth national title. Now McCoy, in his senior season, has a chance to repeat Young's feat.
But there's an added bonus for McCoy, too. The quarterback has a chance to make one more case for the Heisman Trophy. McCoy's play against Texas A&M on Thursday -- he accounted for 479 yards of offense and five touchdowns -- increased his Heisman stock. It's still a wide-open race with a handful of candidates still in the mix, including Stanford's Toby Gerhart, Alabama's Mark Ingram, Clemson's C.J. Spiller and Florida's Tim Tebow.
McCoy has said all season that what he wants most is a Big 12 championship and a national title. And I believe him. But it sure would add to his legacy at Texas -- and increase the discussion of whether he's the greatest quarterback in Longhorns history -- if he can take home the Heisman Trophy along with a national championship. Even Young didn't do that.
"I think every college football player that suits up on Saturdays dreams about the Heisman Trophy," McCoy said during a Monday media conference call. "It's a very special award, a very hard-to-get award. It's a team award. The success you and your team has determines [who wins] it. I don't go into a game trying to win a Heisman Trophy. Never in my career have I done that for any award. If we go in there and play well and we win, there's obviously an opportunity for that."
McCoy has put himself in that position with his play the past six weeks. McCoy has put up numbers in that span similar to what he did in 2008, when he was one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the country and finished second in the Heisman balloting to Oklahoma's Sam Bradford.
He has 1,791 passing yards -- nearly 300 per game -- and 16 touchdowns to go along with 277 rushing yards in his last six games, which include road wins at Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. He has less than 100 fewer passing yards, but one more touchdown and more yards on the ground than he did in the final six regular-season games last year.
His last two games in particular, both prime-time television games, certainly impressed Heisman voters. McCoy threw for 396 yards and four touchdowns in a 51-20 win over Kansas in Austin. He then put on a show on Thanksgiving night in College Station, throwing for 304 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for another 175 yards and a touchdown in a 49-39 win that put Texas at 12-0. McCoy is the first Texas quarterback to lead his team to consecutive 12-win seasons.
"I think Colt has been as good this year as anybody in the country," Texas coach Mack Brown said Monday. "He's definitely the most valuable player on this team. He's the leader on this team."
McCoy hasn't put up the flashy numbers all season like he did a year ago as the offense struggled to find its rhythm early in the season.
"It started out really rough," McCoy said about the offense.
Brown listed several reasons for that, including some injuries on the offensive line, a different running game, new receivers and the fact that McCoy was sick for two games. McCoy had the flu during the Texas Tech game -- he had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some Pedialite at the half and played better -- and said he was fighting a respiratory infection during the Oklahoma game. Brown said the offense had to reinvent itself, adding a tight end to more formations, putting more emphasis on the run game and getting more physical.
McCoy said things changed for the better with the offense after the Oklahoma game, as the team prepared for consecutive road games at Missouri and Oklahoma State.
"We had to bond and come together as a unit and I feel like from that point on, we started the season over," McCoy said. "We said, 'We're better than this. We're capable of being the best offense in the country.'"
The Longhorns will get another chance to prove it Saturday against a Nebraska defense that is allowing an average of 11 points per game, No. 3 in the country. The Huskers are No. 11 in total defense, one of just a dozen FBS teams allowing fewer than 300 yards of offense per game. And they have game-changing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh hoping to apply plenty of pressure.
McCoy said it will be one of the better defenses he's faced all season and a big challenge. But if he can get the win and make some impressive plays, he could be headed to New York to collect some Heisman hardware on his way to Pasadena, Calif., to try to win a national title.
Richard Durrett covers college football for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.