This has been a difficult week for Lou Holtz, the Arkansas football coach. While he has been thinking Houston, Houston, Houston, everyone else in the state has been talking Texas, Texas, Texas.
But Holtz isn't complaining.
"I was ust sitting here making some notes to talk to the squad about before practice," he said the other day. "The thing I have to remind them is that we've got the whole offseason to enjoy the Texas game. Heck, that's why we keep scrapbooks. Right now, we have to worry about Houston.
"Football is preparation. You don't just wake up Friday morning the week after a big win and say, 'Oh, who do we play this week?' When that happens, you get whipped."
Most college football experts thought Holtz and company would come in for a number of whippings in the 1979 season. The Razorbacks, picked by some in the 1978 preseason to win the national championship, graduated 15 starters off that year's team, which finished 9-2-1.
But after upsetting Texas, 17-14, Saturday -- the first Arkansas win over Texas since 1971 -- the Hogs are 6-0, ranked fourth in the country and facing what amounts to a Cotton Bowl showdown with undefeated Houston (6-0) Saturday.
Even though the Houston game is crucial, any win over Texas is The Big One of the season. Holtz, who lost three games his first two seasons at Arkansas, two of them to Texas, is finding that adulation and preparation don't mix.
"I didn't realize how much the Texas rivalry meant around here until Saturday," Holtz said. "My first two years when we lost to them, everyone was down and depressed. Well, that didn't surprise me because people always get upset when you lose.
"It was only when we beat them and I saw how crazy all our people went that I realized what this rivalry means, Our people don't get as excited about beating other teams as they do about Texas. It just isn't the same thing."
Nevertheless, a victory over Houston would be a giant step toward the Southwest Conference championship. That would be particularly satisfying to Holtz, because his team was picked for as low as sixth place by some people.
Taking teams picked to be losers and making them winners has been a habit with Holtz for a number of years. That ability, in fact, earned him his first big break -- the head job at North Carolina State.
"I first noticed Lou because his William and Mary teams seemed to do more with less talent than most teams," said State Athletic Director Willis Casey. "He beat North Carolina one year and tied Wake Forest another with a lot less talent than the other teams had. His overall record (13-20) wasn't all that impressive, but what did impress me was what he got out of his talent.
"The other thing that impressed me was that when I called and asked him to come down to Raleigh for an interview, he wouldn't take that much time away from his team. I had to meet him at a filling station halfway between here and William and Mary one night.
"He had all this nervous energy. I thought he could use it to help our program."
Holtz did just that, turning the Wolfpack, a consistent loser in the late '60s and early '70s, into a consistent winner. State went to four straight bowls under Holtz from 1972 to 1975.
Then came the lure of the NFL. Holtz went off to turn the New York Jets into a winner. One year and a 3-10 record later, he resigned.
"God didn't put Lou Holtz on this earth to coach pro football," Holtz said at the time. His resignation came 24 hours after he had denied reports that he would leave the Jets to take the Arkansas job vacated by the retirement of Frank Broyles.
Looking back, Holtz admlits the decision may have been hurried, but still says he does not regret it. "I think I did them a favor leaving when I did," he said. "They've got a good thing going there now. They went out and got themselves a damn fine coach (Walt Michaels).
"Of course, I still feel bad about what happened. Sometimes at the end of a long season like that, you're tired and you might make a decision you shouldn't have. I feel bad that I walked away without finishing the job I set out to do. I haven't forgotten it by any means."
Casey thinks Holtz could have turned the Jets around if he had stayed. "But Lou likes to mold people; he's a teacher," Casey said. "You can't really mold 28- and 30-year-olds."