STILLWATER — Here we go again, with another Oklahoma State-Texas matchup providing a measuring stick for a program out to prove its rise is for real.
Except this time the age-old standard of comparison reveals a role reversal — it's the Longhorns readying for their moment of proof.
The Cowboys are still seeking traction and clarity in forging an identity of their own; however, more eyes are on Texas, now ranked No. 12 at 3-0, yet still dragging heavy luggage filled with question marks lingering from disappointments of the past two years.
How good are these 'Horns?
At this point, we don't know, due to a soft opening that served up comfortable wins over the likes of Wyoming, New Mexico and Ole Miss.
“I want to see our toughness,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “I'd like to see it against good competition. I want to see how good we are nationally.
“We're going to know that soon.”
As soon as Saturday, it would seem, against the reigning Big 12 champs before a prepped and pepped prime-time crowd at Boone Pickens Stadium, where OSU hasn't lost since 2010.
Why the wait-and-see on a Texas team that has done all that could be asked of it so far? The 'Horns have veered off course at similar stages the past two seasons.
In 2010, Texas started 3-0, then crashed to a 5-7 final record that included a 2-6 run through the conference and a last-place finish in the Big 12 South.
A year ago, the 'Horns opened 4-0, only to stumble again, ending 4-5 in the Big 12 (tied for sixth) and standing 8-5 at the finish.
OSU begins a three-week gauntlet of games for Texas, with West Virginia and Oklahoma up next.
“If we're going to show what type of team we are,” said safety Kenny Vaccaro, “it's going to be in these next few weeks.”
There is optimism that the 'Horns are indeed improved over the teams that lost at home to the Cowboys and finished unranked each of the past two seasons.
* Quarterback David Ash, who scuffled as a freshman in a time-share a year ago, seems to be growing with each game. Ash, who had four touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2011, has thrown for seven touchdowns without a pick thus far.
“After having started multiple games last year as well as spring ball and two-a-days,” said Cowboys defensive coordinator Bill Young, “he is just much more settled in. He looks a lot more confident in the pocket.”
In a 66-31 romp at Ole Miss, Ash threw for a career-best 326 yards and four touchdowns, although detractors will point out that Ash at times took advantage of overmatched Rebel defensive backs with lob balls that may not be so effective against better secondaries.