At this point in the 2005 season, the Vince Young-led Longhorns looked pretty invincible. After a tough early season game against Ohio State , they romped over opponents with relative ease on the way to the BCS national title. These Colt McCoy-led Longhorns are doing the same with only their annual rivalry game against Oklahoma serving as the lone close challenge in putting together a perfect 9-0 record and a No. 2 national ranking.
It's just the second time since 1983 that the Longhorns have been 9-0. The other time, of course, was in 2005 when they put together an undefeated campaign that ended with a dramatic national championship victory over USC.
UT coach Mack Brown, who has gone through great pains at times to keep his team focused on the task at hand this season, agreed Monday that he sees favorable comparisons between his two teams. But he also cautioned there are still a couple obvious major differences.
"I would think right now you could compare them because there really has been only one close game from this team and there was only one through nine games for the 2005 team," Brown said during the weekly Big 12 conference call. "I think the biggest question will be the way that other bunch finished in 2005. Obviously they were the best in the country at this time and this bunch hasn't even won the Big 12 South yet."
McCoy, who was soaking it all up while as a redshirt in 2005, says he learned some valuable lessons from that team that he's passing along to this year's Longhorns as a seasoned senior.
"They had their edge," McCoy said. "They were focused every week. Not just focused and excited about going into the game, but focused all week, making sure everyone on the team is working hard and getting their minds right and understanding their jobs going into the game all week long.
"I think that is one thing that we have cleaned up well. We really practice hard. We really prepare each week so that we will be ready on Saturday."
While this year's team is undefeated, like 2005, these Longhorns are awaiting that complete game where they dominate an opponent from beginning to end and in all phases of the game. Defensively, they've been stout and arguably better than the 2005 defense thanks to defensive coordinator and head-coach-in-waiting Will Muschamp.
But offensively, Texas has frequently been slow to get going. This past weekend, Central Florida led the Longhorns 3-0 in the second quarter before the Longhorns scored the next 35 en route to a 35-3 win.
McCoy is on the way to being the all-time wins leader for football's top division and remains in the Heisman conversation. McCoy and receiver Jordan Shipley have been an unstoppable connection, but the running game continues to be inconsistent.
For whatever reason, it seems whenever the Longhorns get one area fixed another seems to break down. Brown was still bothered Monday by flaws in the kicking game after kicker Hunter Lawrence missed a 44-yard field goal in the first quarter this past Saturday.
"You are happy at 9-0 obviously," he said. "But it seems like holes in the bottom of your boat -- when you fix one hole something else pops up. "
Still, most expect little to get in the Longhorns way as they march toward the BCS national title game at the Rose Bowl, the site of their 2005 national title. With three games left in the regular season, including Saturday's game at Baylor, the Longhorns most difficult remaining challenge may be Texas A&M in the Thanksgiving night finale.
Texas remains ranked third in the BCS standings behind Florida and Alabama, but with the Gators and Crimson Tide meeting in the SEC championship that opens the door for the Longhorns to most likely meet the SEC champion in Pasadena provided they win out and emerge as Big 12 champs.
Then the comparisons to the 2005 squad would really come into focus.
"At this time they've earned the right to be in conversation with the 2005 team," Brown said, "but they haven't earned the right to be considered as good because they've got to finish like that bunch did."
More Bad News for Sooners
The season and the news just keep getting worse for Bob Stoops and his Oklahoma Sooners.
If it wasn't bad enough that they're coming off a 10-3 loss to Nebraske, a loss that ensures Bob Stoops will lose four games in a season for just the second time since 2000, they have now lost three players to season-ending injuries behind that game.
A day after expressing optimism that versatile offensive lineman Brody Eldridge would return this season from a shoulder injury suffered Saturday, Stoops confirmed Tuesday that Eldridge is one of three players lost for the season. Joining Eldridge are offensive lineman Jarvis Jones and defensive end Auston English.
Eldridge, who has started this season at center, tight end and guard, has a sprained shoulder, suffered while making a tackle following one of quarterback Landry Jones' five interceptions. Jones has a fractured heel and English is having surgery to repair an ankle tendon.
The Sooners (5-4, 3-2 Big 12), of course, lost Heisman Trophy quarterback Sam Bradford with a shoulder injury last month and All-America tight end Jermaine Gresham with a knee injury before the season began.
Thomas Giving Wildcats a Boost
Junior college transfer Daniel Thomas came to Kansas State as a quarterback-wide receiver from Northwest Mississippi Community College
Yet, Thomas has certainly had one of the greatest impacts on the Wildcats surprising season as a hard-charging running back. Thomas leads the Big 12 in both rushing (1,087) yards and rushing touchdowns (11) through 10 games.
"Daniel is a very good young person, very conscientious," said Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, whose team is 64- (4-2 in the Big 12) with a half-game lead over Nebraska for first place in the Big 12 North. "He's a hard worker. He's obviously has some physical capabilities. He gives us a kind of multi-purpose dimension."
Most importantly, he gives the Jayhawks a ground-controlling presence as a 6-foot-2, 227-pound power back. Thomas became just the ninth player in KSU history to go over 1,000 yards rushing this past weekend when he ran for a career-best 185 yards in the win over Kansas.
"I like that as a running back, he's a pretty physical running back," Snyder said. "He has reasonably good size, but he has, as demonstrated this past weekend, a major motor that kind of keeps him going. He stays on his feet well.
"He's gotten better as the season has progressed. That comes from understanding the system a little bit better, some comes from experience some of it from the daily practice routine. But his development has been very good and he's playing well."
Up and Down Aggies
Second-year Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman is probably as frustrated and confused about his team as anyone.
Just when it looks like the Aggies are ready to turn a corner, they pull a confusing loss like Saturday's 35-34 stumble at Colorado. Texas A&M looked like it were about to cruise to a third-straight win and bowl eligibility for the first 56 minutes against the Buffaloes.
Then things fell apart as Colorado rallied in the final minutes. Suddenly, things were feeling a lot more similar to the night they lost 62-14 to Kansas State.
So once again, Sherman is trying to pick up the pieces and making something positive happen in these final three games.
"We've had to do that before this year. I tell the guys I knew the season was going to be one that was going to be some high points and some rough spots, as well," said Sherman, whose 5-4 (2-3) Aggies travel to Oklahoma on Saturday for its final road game. "You just have to move on whether you win or you lose. You look at yourself critically whether you win or you lose and you learn from your mistakes.
"This was a tough one because certainly it was a winnable game and one we had in check for about 56 minutes of the ballgame and then at the end there... That's tougher than getting your butt kicked like we did at K-State in many ways because you are so close. We were never in the K-State game, but we were in this one until the last four minutes.
"With young guys we've just got to get them back on track again and try to go against a very good Oklahoma team."
Uncertainty at QB for Huskers
If Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is in a quandary over his quarterback situation, he certainly isn't letting on.
Junior Zac Lee struggled in his first year as a starter, so the Huskers turned to freshman Cody Green. But this past weekend, with the offense struggling to get anything going against Oklahoma, Pelini turned back to Lee.
Lee didn't do muchl, but he steadied the offense to help Nebraska to a surprising 10-3 win at home.
So how will Pelini, whose Cornhuskers are still very much in the North division race, deal with his quarterback situation during these final three games?
"That remains to be seen. We kind of go week to week," Pelini said. "We are going to do what we need to do to win each football game. I think it could a combination of the two. It could be Zac or it could be Cody. That's something we are going to figure out as time goes on and we put in game plan to give ourselves an opportunity to win football games."
Pelini insists he still has confidence in Green, who is Nebraska's future. But there is no denying that Lee seems a lot less rattled at this point.
"He's a little bit older, obviously he doesn't have a ton more experience but he has a little more experience," Pelini said. "I go by off what I see in practice. For the most part I have confidence in both guys. We'll just see how it plays out."
Leach Closing in on Milestone
Texas Tech coach Mike Leach says he didn't necessarily look at Lubbock as a destination spot or somewhere he'd achieve greatness when he came aboard 10 years ago.
"I never really thought about it," Leach said. "I just tried to be the best I could from week to the next and see where that all takes you."
Where it has taken Leach is on the brink of becoming the program's all-time winningest coach. Leach needs just one more win to surpass Spike Dykes' 82 career wins collected over 13 seasons with the Red Raiders.
Leach has brought recently unthinkable levels of success to Tech. He hasn't come close to a losing campaign and last year tied at the top of the competitive Big 12 South.
"I'm just excited for Mike, he has done a great job there with Tech," said Stoops, who hired Leach as his offensive coordinator at Oklahoma before Leach left for Tech. "He did a great job for us. ... I obviously felt he could be a head coach when I hired him and those were my words to him. I felt if he did a good job here and we got things rolling here that he'd have an opportunity to be head coach in the first year though. It just happened quickly but he's done an excellent job. All of here still keep in touch with Mike and we're happy for him."