Good morning from Morgantown, West Virginia.
How about those country roads? I guess that’s why they call ‘em Mountaineers.
(Pause for laughter and joy)
Fresh off a long night at Mario’s Fishbowl, where I was invited to at least 47 West Virginia tailgates ahead of today’s game, I woke up feeling a little uneasy.
We’re staying at the same hotel as the Mountaineers. When we checked in yesterday, the entire offensive line walked behind us.
That’s not what has me feeling a little nervous. I could have easily handled myself in a hand-to-hand combat with all of the large human beings who strolled through the lobby yesterday during check-in.
Go for the neck while creating a distraction with your other hand. It’s literally rule No. 1 about fighting. Distract and attack.
Besides, I heard a lot of things about this place, the people, and the inferiority complex Mountaineers fans have when it comes to Texas. And even though I experienced a few Horns Down taunts on the drive in, these folks, these Mountain Mommas and Musket-toting Mountain Men, they’re easily some of the most pleasant opposing fans I’ve encountered.
But they don’t have a 50-ton elephant waiting for them next Saturday. West Virginia has a tough October slate of games, but they don’t have one of college football’s biggest games waiting in the wings.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that it doesn’t matter who Texas plays the week before the Red River Showdown — I tend to feel a little nervous. Let’s just put it that way.
Honestly, I don’t know how the players do it, come into a hostile place like Morgantown and staying focused on the task at hand with the Mobile Home Maniacs foaming from their toothless mouths up in Norman.
As Charlie Strong would say, when you look at it, it was easy for the Longhorns to get up for Louisiana Tech with LSU on deck. It was the first game of the season. You don’t spend the entire summer thinking about your Week 2 opponent. You spend the entire summer and fall camp thinking about your season opener, how badly you want to step on the field and show out and set the season off on the right note.
You might let some thoughts creep in and you might peak ahead and think about how big that game will be, but the first week of the season is a really difficult game to overlook when that’s the only thing you’ve been preparing for for several months.
But even as I sit here, at the West Virginia team hotel, where last night I thought about pulling the fire alarms on the fourth floor just to give the Longhorns a little bit of an advantage today, I can’t ignore what looms next Saturday in Dallas.
This makes today’s contest at old Musket Pile Stadium an official trap game.
Last year, Texas had to win at Kansas State for the first time since before YouTube existed the week prior to its big date with Oklahoma.
That felt spooky because of the myth of Bill Snyder and the Purple Wizard Magic. On paper, it was never really a game that brought concern beyond the “hey it would be nice to win at Kansas State on the road” vibes that surrounded that matchup.
Today feels scary. I’m not saying West Virginia is any good. But they’re certainly capable of ruining mine and your day given the Texas secondary injuries on top of a defense that already took a step back this season.
Add to this that they have the odd feeling that they’re Texas’ bitter rival and that it’s also homecoming here in Morgantown, and you have a recipe for a bad Saturday afternoon for Texas.
But here’s the simple way to avoid the reality that this is an incredibly dangerous trap game a week ahead of Boomer Thooner: All the hype Texas players and its fans may feel right now for the upcoming matchup with Oklahoma is lost if Texas rolls into Fair Park as a two-loss team to face a top-four-ranked Sooners team that would all but eliminate any hope of Texas getting to Dallas for the conference championship in December with a win next weekend.
The fact of the matter is, there is no “huge game!” next Saturday if Texas loses today. Texas-Oklahoma is always going to be a big deal, but for a program like Texas that still has to — for some unknown reason — prove it’s contending again at a high level and here to stay, you want the narrative next weekend to be an undefeated Oklahoma vs. a one-loss Texas, winner takes control of the Big 12 standings, and is back in the driver’s seat for a College Football Playoff bid.
So, don’t even think about Oklahoma, Texas fans, and players who casually read Burnt Orange Nation on game day.
Until Texas wins today, what everyone thinks they’re looking forward to next Saturday simply doesn’t exist.
If you want your big Red River narrative — a top ten matchup, all the hype, College GameDay at Fair Park, and those kind-of-cold beers to taste delicious out of those wax cups — you need a Texas win today.
You can’t look forward to something that doesn’t yet exist.
Win today, Texas, and prepare for a week of “it’s 9:06 a.m. and …” tomorrow, y’all.
With that said, I’ll take the Longhorns today and then take these country roads on out of here with a smile on my face and nothing but hatred in my heart for Oklahoma.
Texas 44, Davy Crockett Wannabe’s 27.