DALLAS–For players across the Big 12, Texas is still "Texas" even if they’re not quite Texas anymore.
Let me explain.
It’s been five years since Texas has claimed the Big 12 or Big 12 South, its longest such streak in Big 12 history.
"People don’t respect us the way (Texas was) respected back in the day. It’s up to us to change that," Diggs said. "Hey, they have a point. We haven’t won the games like they won back in the day."
For fans and media around college football, Diggs is right.
"On that six game win streak, we didn’t jump into the top 25 until the last game," he said. "People expect a lot from Texas and I respect that. That’s what made us want to come here."
I was curious if Diggs’ presupposition applied to players across the league, too. The short answer? The Longhorns rep hasn’t taken as much of a beating in the last five years as the critics who don’t step onto the field might think.
"Texas is never a team to take lightly," Iowa State senior defensive end Cory Morrissey said. "It’s like waiting for the dragon to wake up and come out of its lair."
Iowa State, who hasn’t won a conference title since taking home the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association trophy in 1912, beat Texas in 2010 and nearly did it again last year, but the Longhorns escaped with a late game-winning drive.
The Longhorns burgeoning budget hasn’t translated to wins since their 2009 Big 12 title and BCS Championship Game appearance. An 18-17 record in Big 12 play in the following four seasons cost Mack Brown his job, but it’s not enough to change how Texas is viewed by players around the league.
"My first year, I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m playing Texas’" Iowa State center Tom Farniok said. "That was pretty intimidating and it was kind of my first, ‘Wow, I’m playing at a high level’ moment."
Farniok, by the way, is talking about the 2011 Longhorns, who were coming off a 5-7 season and finished 7-5 in the regular season before beating Cal in the Holiday Bowl.
"They’re always going to get the top recruits. They always have all the talent," Oklahoma defensive end Geneo Grissom said. "They’re always going to be a team that can beat anybody."
The Longhorns’ recruiting experienced only marginal slippage during the down years, which makes it easy to look at more than just win total. Players like Oklahoma’s Chuka Ndulue, who played high school football in Dallas, knew the top talent from the metroplex and saw them become Longhorns.
"Texas will always be Texas," Oklahoma defensive lineman Chuka Ndulue said. "(Down years) happen. Look at Muhammad Ali. He lost his championship and then got it back."
The Longhorns may not be truly feared on the field like they were when Colt McCoy was tossing an incompletion every four games, Vince Young was breaking three tackles a play and Brian Orakpo was bullrushing double teams of tackles and guards, but history and talent are impossible to ignore.
"Texas is Texas, whether they’re undefeated or didn’t win any games. They’re a big name school," West Virginia receiver Kevin White said. "If you can’t get up to try and beat Texas, something’s wrong with you."