60 days, 60 stats: No. 1

Each day, as a countdown to fall camp opening Aug. 5, we are going to provide you with a number that was important in 2011 and let you know why it will be important in 2012.

It’s been nearly four years since Texas held the No. 1 ranking.

It figures to be at least one more. The Longhorns, however improved one might think they have become over the offseason, still face longs odds to becoming the top team in all the land.

Inside the number

The No. 1 ranking has not come easily to Texas or frequently. During Mack Brown’s 14-year tenure, Texas has only held the No. 1 spot during the regular season for three weeks.

Texas grabbed it the week of Oct. 18, 2008 and held onto it until Blake Gideon couldn’t hold onto an interception against Texas Tech Nov. 1. Texas, of course, has walked out of the postseason with the No. 1 ranking. Not many will soon forget the 2005 title.

The Longhorns have been a top-10 team for 105 weeks since the arrival of Brown in 1998. But the last time they reached those heights was during the nonconference run in 2010. Clearly that ranking was more about history than current performance.

The performance of last year’s defense coupled with the returning experience has some picking Texas to possible knock on the door of the top 10. Phil Steele, a vaunted college football prognosticator, labeled Texas as one of the 11 teams that could win a title. Oklahoma is in that mix as well.

Where it counts in 2012

It would be a rather far-fetched scenario that would have Texas at the top spot in 2012. First there would have to be an upset win over Oklahoma -- that’s something the Longhorns have proven incapable of doing since 2008 -- along with Texas not avoiding a pratfall against a lesser opponent. The Longhorns might not be mature enough quite yet to avoid such a stumble, although a stalwart defense should help their cause.

Still, the prevailing thought, among those who follow the game and even the coaches who wear the burnt orange, is that Texas is one more year away from contending. This might be a year where Texas does gain a measure of respectability or at least regain what it has lost on the national stage.

But 2013 could be a year when those novelty foam fingers can be held aloft and those who didn’t pass by the souvenir shop can just thrust pointer into the air without the accompanying pinky and overlapping thumb.