Texas fans would be celebrating Sooner misery no matter the circumstance, but tonight's rerun of Choke was especially sweet for 'Horns fans who feel like the wrong Big 12 South team got to play for it all. 45-35 aside, I objected to the pro-Sooner voters because... well, because I watched an unhealthy amount of Big 12 football this year and at season's end was without doubt that Texas had a notably better defense led by a notably better defensive coordinator, as well as a comparable (if less gaudy) offense, led by a quarterback whose invaluable mobility and insane accuracy (as well as poise) made up for his OU counterpart's enormous advantage in surrounding talent at skill positions.
Talking with Barking Carnival's Scipio Tex in the weeks after Texas' victory in Dallas, we agreed wholeheartedly that Texas wins the '08 RRS seven or eight times out of ten: Oklahoma's defensive line and linebacking units are one-man shows, and (against a top-end defense) their offense needs Demarco Murray providing A+ production to thrive consistently for four quarters. Further, as critical as we Texas fans like to be, the Longhorns have the better coaching staff.
Oklahoma bettered Texas in only one regard: on paper. The Sooners in 2008 excelled at one thing -- thrashing inferior competition, and they parlayed that with surprise Top 20 seasons from good-not-great TCU and Cincinnati to overcome their neutral field defeat to Texas. If I'll concede that voters who rewarded them acted rationally, I certainly felt a little vindicated this evening watching the Sooners lose. Oklahoma played one great, talent-equal team during the regular season and lost -- by 10 points on a neutral field. They blew out every team which suffered any talent disadvantage. And then tonight they played on a neutral field another great team with comparable talent -- and lost by 10 points.
This isn't just about Texas, for the record. I'm not writing to make the case for Texas at #1. This year the system didn't break our way, the Gators beat a very strong OU team, and Florida is a deserving honoree as 2008 champion. And really, this extends beyond Miami as well: I wouldn't argue with anyone who thought USC was the most impressive team of the bowl season, and I thought Utah's Sugar Bowl performance was exceptional and validated the opinion of every fan who wants to argue they're a title-worthy team.
All I really mean to say is that we were right: Texas was the Big 12's best team. We beat Oklahoma in Dallas, and the strength of the Sooners' (admittedly impressive) resume didn't negate that. And for all the fans who argued in the aftermath that Mack Brown needs to be more like Bob Stoops in gunning to score 100 against the weak... I hope, tonight, that we can agree that it would be better to ask voters to think critically about what they reward than to ask Mack Brown to become more ruthless in one-sided contests.
(For the concerned, I'll add that while I think Mack Brown needn't sacrifice his fundamental desire to play second-team players when a game is well out of reach, he shouldn't simultaneously feel obligated to run-run-run-punt. Competing to the final gun isn't unsportsmanlike -- certainly not when the first team players have been replaced.)
And so the 2008 season comes to an end. Congratulations to the Florida Gators for a great win tonight and for their 2008 national championship. Congratulations to Utah for an inspiring undefeated season. Congratulations to USC, who at their best looked as tough to beat as anyone. And congratulations to Mack Brown, Brian Orakpo, Roy Miller, Ryan Palmer, Aaron Lewis, Henry Melton, Rashad Bobino, Colt McCoy, Quan Cosby, Chris Ogbonnaya, Cedric Dockery, Jordan Shipley and all of the 2008 Texas Longhorns -- the Big 12's best team, with every right to believe they join Florida, Utah, and USC as the best of the best in 2008.
And Oklahoma? Just make sure you show up in Dallas next season. And hang on to Brent Venables for us, will ya? Boomer, baby.