HORNS UP

Texas Longhorns score ESPN's No. 1 pick for best college football team in past 20 years

Texas Longhorns score ESPN's No. 1 pick for best college football team in past 20 years
The 2005 Texas Longhorns were crowned the best college football team by ESPN. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Originally appeared on CultureMap/Austin.

The 2005 football season will be forever etched in the burnt-orange hearts of Longhorn loyalists. As if any diehard Horns fan needed a reminder, that’s the season when quarterback Vince Young and his teammates captured the national football championship in a goose-bump-inducing matchup against the heavily favored University of Southern California Trojans. 

Now, the Horns can hoist another trophy of sorts, as ESPN crowned the 2005 Longhorns as the top college football championship team of the past 20 years. In order to determine the best team in college football, ESPN analyzed 15,000 games over 20 years, assigned each team offensive and defensive ratings, and then used that data to calculate an overall score.

In declaring the winner, ESPN also heaps praise on Young as “the best player of the past 20 years.”

“Quarterback Vince Young, remarkably, didn’t win the Heisman Trophy that season,” ESPN notes, “but he produced one of the greatest individual seasons in recent college football history, culminating with one of the greatest individual game performances the sport has ever seen.”

USC was the favorite in the 2006 Rose Bowl, which would determine the national champion of the 2005 college football season. Young had other ideas, completing 30 of 40 passes for 267 yards, and rushing for 200 yards. Young also scored the game-winning play — an 8-yard touchdown on fourth down with 19 seconds left on the clock. (Final score: 41-38.)

“That play defined the BCS [Bowl Championship Series] era. And turned Young into a legend,” ESPN says.

ESPN does point out, though, that Young didn’t single-handedly lead the Horns to victory. Michael Huff won the Jim Thorpe Award, recognizing him as the top defensive back for the 2005 season, and went on to join Young as a top NFL draft pick. Meanwhile, offensive tackle Jonathan Scott and defensive end Rodrique Wright were unanimous All-American picks that season.

In lionizing the Young-helmed and Mack Brown-coached squad, ESPN concludes: “The ’05 Longhorns never lost. And saved their best for the biggest stage.”

By the way, the 2000 Oklahoma Sooners football team turned up at No. 13 in the ESPN ranking. There’s something fitting about the Sooners being in the unlucky 13th spot, isn’t there?

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More changes are coming in MLB. Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images.

Ronald Acuña Jr. and Corbin Carroll just got a little more dangerous. Same for Bobby Witt Jr., Elly De La Cruz and the rest of baseball's fastest players.

Major League Baseball wants umpires to crack down on obstruction, and the commissioner's office outlined plans during a call with managers this week. MLB staff also will meet managers in person during spring training to go over enforcement.

The increased emphasis is only on the bases and not at home plate. The focus is on infielders who drop a knee or leg down in front of a bag while receiving a throw, acting as a deterrence for aggressive baserunning and creating an increased risk of injuries.

“I think with everything, they’re trying to make the game a little safer to avoid some unnecessary injuries," Phillies shortstop Trea Turner said Friday at the team's facility in Florida. “The intentions are always good. It comes down to how it affects the players and the games. I’m sure there will be plays where one team doesn’t like it or one team does.”

With more position players arriving at spring training every day, the topic likely will come up more and more as teams ramp up for the season.

“We'll touch on that. We'll show them some video of what’s good and what’s not,” Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “You know, it’s going to be a little adjustment.”

Making obstruction a point of emphasis fits in with an ongoing effort by MLB to create more action. Obstruction calls are not reviewable, which could lead to some disgruntled players and managers as enforcement is stepped up, but it also means it won't create long replay deliberations.

A package of rule changes last season — including pitch clocks, bigger bases and limits on defensive shifts and pickoff attempts — had a dramatic effect. There were 3,503 stolen bases in the regular season, up from 2,486 in 2022 and the most since 1987.

MLB changed a different baserunning rule this offseason, widening the runner’s lane approaching first base to include a portion of fair territory. MLB also shortened the pitch clock with runners on base by two seconds to 18 and further reducing mound visits in an effort to speed games.

“Last year, you know, a lot of our preparation was around like, especially just the unknown of the clock and making sure like we’re really buttoned up on that," New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "These guys are so used to it in so many ways that sometimes I even forget.”

Increased enforcement could lead to more action on the basepaths. But a significant element of MLB's motivation is injury prevention.

Top players have hurt hands or wrists on headfirst slides into bases blocked by a fielder. White Sox slugger Luis Robert Jr. sprained his left wrist when he slid into Jonathan Schoop's lower left leg on a steal attempt during an August 2022 game against Detroit.

“It’s been happening for a while. It’s been getting out of control," Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “I know some of the players complained about it the last two years.”

While acknowledging his reputation as a significant offender, Phillies second baseman Bryson Stott didn't sound too worried about his play.

“We like to fight for outs at second base,” he said. "It’s never on purpose, blocking the base. For me, or someone covering second to the shortstop side, it’s a natural move for your knee to go down to reach the ball. It’s never intentional. I guess we’ll figure out how to maneuver around that.”

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