Texas Longhorns get chance for validation against Oklahoma

AUSTIN -- In the poll-driven world of college football, the fine line between perception and reality is blurred by slumps and hot streaks.

And the latest perception of the Texas Longhorns, because of an extended slump against Top 25 opponents, is one of a fallen power struggling to reclaim its status among the nation's elite.

No. 15 Texas (4-1, 1-1 in Big 12) has lost its last eight games against teams ranked in The Associated Press' college football poll and is 1-10 in such matchups since Jan. 1, 2010. The latest missed opportunity came in Saturday's 48-45 loss to No. 5 West Virginia.

But the Longhorns could begin reversing that trend Saturday in Dallas against No. 13 Oklahoma (3-1, 1-1). A victory is a step players and coaches consider necessary to validate their status as a Big 12 contender -- and a team on the rise nationally -- after posting a combined mark of 13-12 the past two seasons.

"Any time you beat a ranked opponent, it's big for your program," said defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. "We need to ...get back to what we've been doing, what we know we can do."

Jeffcoat, a junior, joined the program in February 2010 -- one month after the Longhorns lost to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game. Like many of the upperclassmen on this year's roster, he was recruited during a stretch when Texas put together a combined record of 25-2 in the 2008-09 seasons.

Those Longhorns were 7-1 against ranked opponents and coach Mack Brown, during one extended stretch (2004-2009), won 20 of 23 games against Top 25 teams. But the tide began turning in the title game against the Crimson Tide, and Brown acknowledged that his team missed a great chance to make a statement last week against West Virginia.

"That was the disappointing thing. We missed an opportunity to get back in the mix quickly," said Brown, who considers the Mountaineers (5-0, 2-0) a national title contender. "So, now we've got to keep playing. We're going to have a chance to play some other ranked teams, it looks like, this week and down the road."

Technically, the Longhorns defeated a ranked opponent on Sept. 29. Oklahoma State was unranked by AP, but No. 22 in the coaches' poll, when the Longhorns won 41-36 in Stillwater, Okla. But the rest of Texas' record shows nothing but struggles against Top 25 teams since the Longhorns upset No. 5 Nebraska 20-13 on Oct. 16, 2010.

"Usually, when you're bad, you struggle against ranked teams. When you're 5-7, you don't beat a lot of good teams," Brown said, reflecting on the Longhorns' season mark in 2010.

Boosted by a roster loaded with young skill-position players, Texas has clawed its way back into the polls but could use an eye-catching victory. Beating Oklahoma, said safety Kenny Vaccaro, would give the team momentum and let the Longhorns "know we are an elite team."

"To go up to Dallas and win would be a big statement," Vaccaro said. "We fix a couple of things and we'll be as good as any team in the country."

Quarterback David Ash said: "To be considered one of the best, we have to beat the best. That's what we're trying to do ...Most people rebound after they're at their lowest point. No one wants to stay down. Everyone wants to get up. We've been trying to get up for a while now."

Texas gets another chance Saturday to get back on its feet by recording an elusive victory over a Top 25 team.

Ranked encounters

No. 15 Texas (4-1, 1-1 in Big 12) has lost eight consecutive games against opponents ranked among the Top 25 in The Associated Press' poll heading into Saturday's game against No. 13 Oklahoma (3-1, 1-1).





No. 8 West Virginia

L, 45-48


No. 19 Baylor

L, 24-48


No. 13 Kansas State

L, 13-17


No. 6 Oklahoma State

L, 26-38


No. 3 Oklahoma

L, 17-55


No. 17 Texas A&M

L, 17-24


No. 10 Oklahoma State

L, 16-33


No. 25 Baylor

L, 22-30

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @Jimmy_Burch

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