Texas running back Ricky Williams is getting rare praise from the least expected source -- archrival Texas A&M.
There is still the usual growling and chest-pounding as the two teams prepare to go at each other today for the 105th time (11 a.m., Ch. 7), unless the subject is Williams -- who is poised to become big time football's all-time leading rusher.
Are the Aggies (10-1) trying reverse psychology on Williams?
"He's like the Michael Jordan of college football," said Aggies running back Dante Hall. "He can run around you, he can run over you, he can catch, kind of like Michael Jordan can shoot, dunk on you, anything."
Williams needs 63 yards against the sixth-ranked Aggies to break the NCAA record of 6,082 yards by Pittsburgh's Tony Dorsett from 1973 to 1976. The Aggies expect him to get it.
"I'm going to predict that Ricky Williams will get his 63 yards," inside linebacker coach Alan Weddell said. "It's an honor to be on the football field with a great player like Ricky."
The Aggies may be just acknowledging the obvious.
"He has everything," Hall said. "Most backs don't have all of the components, but he does, so he'll get it. Even if I didn't want him to get it, he will, but he deserves it. He deserves to win the Heisman. No one deserves it more than him."
The Aggies' Wrecking Crew defense ranks No. 2 in the Big 12 and 13th in the nation against the run, but they haven't been too successful against Williams. And they don't seem too worried about keeping Williams from his record.
"To me, it's like the baseball home run record. You'd like to see him get it, you just hope it's not against you," quarterback Randy McCown said. "I think he's worked extremely hard and he's very deserving of the record. I wouldn't mind if he got it as long as we win the game."
In three previous outings against A&M, Williams has averaged 163.7 yards per game and 7.1 yards per carry.
"A lot of good backs have gotten 60 yards against us, and he's a great running back," safety Rich Coady said. "It won't hurt our feelings if he gets the record."
How do the Aggies tackle Williams?
"Very carefully," Coady said. "You have to get a chest on him and then grab for something, a piece of clothing, a shoe and then hope the rest of the team can get there."
As a freshman, Williams gained 163 yards on 14 carries and scored twice as the Longhorns beat the Aggies, 16-6, in 1995. Williams got 145 yards on 22 carries in Texas' 51-15 victory in 1996, and had his best effort -- 183 yards on 33 carries -- in a 27-16 loss last year.
Now, the Aggies have one last shot at Williams, averaging 183.5 yards and 16.2 points this season for the 7-3 Longhorns.
"A lot of people say one person can't tackle him," linebacker Roylin Bradley said. "You can't stop him, just contain him."
In other college football games on TV today, West Virginia (7-3) is at Pittsburgh (2-8) at 2:30 p.m. on Ch. 4 and Colorado (7-3) plays at No. 14 Nebraska (8-3) at 2:30 p.m. on Ch. 7.