IRVING, Texas -- The last time Gary Barnett was in Texas Stadium was in July, when he and two players stopped by on their way to the airport following Big 12 media day.
The visit was Barnett's way of getting them to visualize their dream of returning to the stadium for the league championship game. It was a stunning move considering the Buffs were coming off a 3-8 season. It seemed even wilder when the Buffs lost their opener.
Barnett's faith was rewarded last week when Colorado beat Nebraska 62-36 to win the Big 12 North and earn a spot in today's game against South winner Texas. Whoever wins the Big 12 title also gets an automatic spot in the Bowl Championship Series.
Barnett returned to the stadium Friday, opened his remarks to reporters by smiling and saying, "We're back!" Then he told the story about the impromptu trip to Texas Stadium with offensive lineman Andre Gurode and safety Michael Lewis.
"It was just my way of showing my players the idea that you've got to have the end in mind," Barnett said. "It couldn't have been any easier for us to do -- we drove right by it and it was open. I think they were a little bit surprised. But they went through it, they enjoyed it and went back and told the other guys."
The No. 3 Longhorns slipped into this game when Oklahoma blew a shot at defending its national title by losing to Oklahoma State last Saturday. Now Texas (10-1) has a chance of making the Rose Bowl, although it'll take a few other slipups around the country.
A loss by No. 1 Miami or No. 2 Florida would be a big help for the Horns. With both teams playing before the Big 12 game starts, Texas will take the field knowing whether anything extra is at stake against No. 9 Colorado (9-2).
Yet Longhorns coach Mack Brown is encouraging players to watch the games and even study them. He's not worried about the results being a distraction.
"They understand that the only thing that matters with the BCS is us winning," Brown said. "If we don't beat Colorado, what happens before doesn't matter."
Knowing other results can be dangerous.
Oklahoma lost at home after knowing Nebraska was no longer an obstacle to the Rose Bowl. Three years ago, Kansas State led Texas A&M 17-3 in the Big 12 title game when it was announced that UCLA lost, paving the way for the Wildcats to go to the national championship game if they held their lead. The Aggies won in double overtime.
The Longhorns also have to suppress the memory of how easily they beat the Buffs when they played six weeks ago. Texas played its best game of the season in a 41-7 victory in Austin. Colorado was ranked No. 14 at the time.
The Buffs, though, are coming off their best game, the blowout against the Cornhuskers that certainly got the Longhorns' attention.
"To do that to Nebraska, they're ready," Texas offensive lineman Mike Williams said.