- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 5, 2009

ARLINGTON, Texas | This is it for the Texas Longhorns, the chance they’ve been waiting for since last December. There are no tiebreakers or computer formulas in their way.

All Colt McCoy and the No. 3 Longhorns have to do is beat No. 21 Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game Saturday night and they will be playing for the national championship.

Texas coach Mack Brown spent the past 12 months reminding his players they were spit out by the system last year. He challenged them to “take it away from the system” by winning all their games and, so far, they have.

Do it once more, and the Longhorns (12-0) will clinch a spot in the BCS title game Jan. 7 against the winner of Saturday’s SEC championship game between No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Alabama.

“This is a team that started out in the top two or three in the country, and if we had not been in this game a lot of people would have felt like the team had not lived up to the standards,” Brown said. “So they’ve had pressure every game. There’s been speculation about a lot of things every week, and I don’t think it affects them very much. They just keep playing.”

The Cornhuskers (9-3) can force their way into a BCS bowl with an upset. It would be quite a coup for second-year coach Bo Pelini - and terrific payback for Nebraska, which was No. 3 and eyeing a national championship when Texas, a 20-point underdog, won the inaugural Big 12 title game in 1996.

If Pelini is using ideas like getting revenge and playing spoiler as motivation, he’s not saying. At a news conference Friday, he insisted the focus is merely on Nebraska continuing the roll it has been on since back-to-back home losses in October.

“Everyone’s going to have their different motivations,” he said. “Ours is strictly [being] motivated by what it does for us and our football team.”

These Cornhuskers are winning the way several generations of Cornhuskers did: with a stifling defense and a powerful running game.

Hulking tackle Ndamukong Suh, the Big 12 defensive player of the year, and his mates might be able to keep McCoy and the Longhorns below their average of 43 points a game. The bigger question is how many points quarterback Zac Lee and running backs Roy Helu Jr. and Rex Burkhead can put up against a Texas defense that is No. 1 in the country against the run, allowing 61.8 yards a game.

“Their stats and the things they’ve been able to do defensively speaks for itself as far as what we’re facing,” Pelini said. “But it’s 60 minutes. … I believe our offense, I like our plan. I like who is executing it, and we look forward to it.”

Brown is pretty fond of the guy running his offense, too.

McCoy has won 44 games, the most by any quarterback in NCAA history. He needs one more for his senior class to match the most wins by a four-year class at Texas, a mark held by predecessor Vince Young and the team that won the national championship in 2005.

Yet another dangling carrot for McCoy is the Heisman Trophy. He likely has done enough to be a finalist for the second straight year, but a shaky start to this season may have him playing catch-up with one game to go.

Brown is a grandfatherly leader, reminiscent of his college coach, Bobby Bowden. But he hasn’t been so tender when it comes to using the memory of last season, when they were not just one game or one play from reaching their goals, but one second away.

Had the Longhorns kept Texas Tech from scoring on the final play, they would have been in the Big 12 championship game, playing for a spot in the national championship game. Instead, the loss left them in a three-way tie for first in the South Division. Oklahoma - a team Texas beat 45-35 on a neutral field - went to the conference championship, then played for the national title.

How often has Brown reminded them?

“Eight times a day,” he said, smiling.

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