Hype is loved as much as it is loathed.
Whether you choose to embrace it or despise it, hype is hard to ignore.
Hype is always loud — often times down right obnoxious — and it’s almost always overwhelming, no matter if you love it or loathe it.
Hype can be a distraction and a motivator, a gift and a curse. Hype is what makes even the most mundane of sporting events feel like the Super Bowl.
Texas and Oklahoma, the Red River Showdown — none of it needs additional hype.
However, for the first time since 2009, the hype is back, and it is very real.
Because of this phenomenon, hype, the Red River Showdown can quickly become treacherous waters for the team that doesn’t handle it the right way.
So, here’s my advice to the No. 19 Texas Longhorns: Shut it off. All of it.
Turn off social media, avoid reading articles online, and keep yourselves away from TV shows that only aim to stoke the fire until the hype is as large as Big Tex himself.
Without taking away from the fact that Texas does indeed seem to be ascending towards a return to being, well, what most expect of Texas, I don’t think everything building up around this weekend’s clash at the Cotton Bowl is good for this hungry Longhorns team.
What I’m saying is, the hype might not be for you, Texas.
No, not at all, actually. Not yet, at least. Because in each of the last three seasons, the Texas Longhorns football team has dissolved whenever the hype started heating up.
Don’t believe me?
Let’s start with 2016, when the Longhorns were crowned as officially being “back” (I know, I’m tired of this narrative, too). Texas jumped to No. 11 after a 2-0 start before it crumbled at Cal, where a somewhat promising season snowballed into a 5-7 finish at the hands of the miserable Kansas Jayhawks.
How about 2017?
Well, I don’t know how a preseason Top 25 ranking was warranted, but somehow the Longhorns received enough votes to put a fancy number next to their name. Led by the hottest name in the college football coaching carousel, experienced returning talent — I’m sure it all played a part in the hype. Of course, in recent Texas fashion, this was all just a waste of everyone’s time.
Maryland walked all over Texas before strolling out of Austin with a 10-point win.
2018? Maryland. Rinse. Repeat.
But here’s the good news, Texas fans: when this team feels slighted, overlooked or disrespected, it shows up and it shows out. If there’s anything this team should look at, it’s the fact that they, the Longhorns, a team who has two wins over Top 25 teams, are seven-point underdogs to an Oklahoma team that has not played a ranked opponent.
But I still say forget about all of that. This team should spend the next three days dedicated to avoiding and ignoring the hype. Go off the grid.
Because the hype may finally be real for this program. No indicator is as glaring as the fact that ESPN’s flagship college football program, College GameDay, chose the Red River Showdown as its destination this Saturday for the first time in six years.
Sorry to break it to you, Oklahoma fans, but ESPN and the crew aren’t headed to Dallas if Texas is 3-2, or 2-3. College GameDay’s decision has everything to do with the fact that not only is this Texas team among the hottest in college football, but it is looking like it’s going to give OU everything it can handle, and then some.
Just look at the last five seasons. Texas is 2-3 against OU with both wins coming when an unranked Texas beat a ranked Oklahoma. In the Longhorns’ three losses during that span, Texas never lost by more than five points.
Even without Texas’ 4-1 start to the season, this Red River Showdown was already going to be a competitive. That was evident last year when the Longhorns almost beat the Sooners and their eventual Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, Baker Mayfield. That game setup this season’s contest as one that just felt like it was going to be a dog fight.
But that was before the hype. Now, with a 4-1 start to the season, which includes back-to-back wins against ranked opponents, Texas is rolling, and the hype is alive and well at the Red River Showdown. This game is now so big that it’s being touted as a vital Big 12 Conference game that has national title implications.
National championship implications? That’s big hype.
At his weekly press conference on Monday, Tom Herman addressed the hype by explaining how it has been emphasized to his players that they need to ignore the hype.
“They’ll handle (the hype and noise) great. They handled the USC week great. They handled the TCU week great. They handled the silence and the trap game noise great going into Kansas State,” Herman said. “We talked at length yesterday about tightening your circle, don’t let it grow. In fact, in times like this you need to tighten it. And then let your preparation and your focus on Saturday eliminate and silence the possibility for any noise. So I think our guys are do great.”
How Texas approaches this game is going to tell us everything we need to know about the progression and maturation of this team. The fact of the matter remains that neither Texas nor Oklahoma need the additional motivation — no storylines, no pregame shows, nothing — for this game.
But this is how the game plays out when these programs are in good shape. This is how the Red River Showdown should be every year. Quite frankly, this is what a Texas football season is supposed to feel like.
For Texas, this is something these players are going to have to understand: If you beat No. 7 Oklahoma on Saturday, the hype won’t just come around for Red River Showdown weekend.
The hype will be here to stay.