Originally written on Talkin' College Football  |  Last updated 10/25/10

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Be aware of the hangover effect from big wins.  Just ask Mack Brown of Texas, and to a lesser degree Dan Mullen of Mississippi State.

About 10 days ago Brown’s Longhorns upset the then #5 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers, 20-13 in Lincoln, as they worked to scramble their way back into the Top 25, entering this past week at #22.  You see, the ‘Horns lost consecutive home games a few weeks earlier—one to a rather average UCLA team and the other to Oklahoma.  If you saw Coach Brown’s face in the post-game press conferences you saw a man who was experiencing something in Austin, TX that was totally foreign to his past history, as well as being foreign to his vision for this season.  But, the huge win over Big Red gave the Burnt Orange an enormous boost and life was good…for about six days.

This past weekend the Longhorns were a victim of a very severe hangover from the Nebraska game.  Taking absolutely nothing away from the Iowa State Cyclones, Texas, unquestionably, suffered the most devastating loss in the Brown era while in Austin.  Iowa State came into the came at 3-4 and was outscored by a total of 120-27 in just their last two games.  Their total offense ranked 104th and total defense 112th out of 120 D-I schools. Okay, those games were against Utah and Oklahoma, but a 93 point spread in two games?

Iowa State’s approach was to gain back their pride, prove the hecklers of the past couple of weeks wrong, and to prove the old adage that teams can actually come closer together and refocus their energy following near-devastation.  They entered the game with nothing to lose, but more importantly the belief that they had a chance.  As Texas’ mistakes mounted, the Cyclones’ confidence grew, and so did the point total on the visitor’s side of the scoreboard.

As Brown said after the game, “Coaches did a poor job, obviously. I told the players it’s hard to figure out whether you blame coaches or players. The players didn’t get ready to play, and it’s the coaches’ job to get them ready to play. That’s my job to get the coaches ready to play.”

There is no doubt in my mind that Mack Brown is smart enough, experienced enough, and a good enough psychologist to know that he would have to guard his team against a let-down vs. Iowa State.  I’m confident that he started talking about putting the Nebraska game behind them last Sunday in their team meeting after they watched the Husker game tape.  But, these are 18-22 year olds.  They watched all of the Iowa State game tapes in their game week preparation.  They saw the Cyclones do some good things against Texas Tech, but they also saw them get whacked by the Iowa Hawkeyes (35-7), along with the two blowouts by Utah and Oklahoma.  The three games against ranked teams totaled 155-34.

The eyes of Texas, at least the college-aged ones who wear a white helmet with a longhorn on it, while enjoying all of the pats on the back after Nebraska, and while on campus throughout the week leading up to Iowa State, they sure didn’t focus on the Cyclones like the Cyclones were focusing on them.

Mississippi State cracked the Top 25 ranking for the first time since 2001 when they edged the Florida Gators in The Swamp last week, 10-7, despite mustering just 246 total yards, including just 33 passing!  Former Gator offensive coordinator and current MSU head coach Dan Mullen figured his team was finally on their way to something special with a signature SEC win on the road.  The Bulldogs were subject to the same hangover as Texas.  But, they were a little more fortunate.

MSU played a non-conference game this past weekend against a mediocre C-USA team, the Blazers of Alabama-Birmingham, who came into the contest with an overall mark of 2-4 and 1-2 in the conference.

UAB outgained Mississippi State 207-103 in the first half, and briefly took a 24-23 lead after a touchdown with 10:16 remaining in the game.  But, then Miss. St. got a couple of field goals to take the lead and seal the win.  Could you imagine beating Florida and then losing to UAB?  Neither could the Bulldogs, but it almost happened.

The hangover effect can be talked about by coaches and it can be emphasized.  But, the players on the favored team have to believe that they, too, can be vulnerable to an upset and they have to respect every opponent they face.  Coaches can only do so much.  A team’s level of maturity, their level and quality of player leadership– their attitude in the locker room when coaches aren’t around—that’s what is most critical.  That’s what prevents catastrophic events like these from happening.

Congratulations, Iowa State, for believing you could do it.  Shame on you, Texas, for not believing this could happen to you.

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