So on this particular Thursday, there was nothing that shouted, "TEXAS FOOTBALL!"
You double check. Yes, there still is a game Saturday.
It wasn't very different on Friday morning. The line outside Franklin Barbecue near downtown was cut off at 9:30 a.m. because there would not be enough food to feed everybody. The friendly hostess said the line was longer than usual not because of football, but because of the Formula One race.
Strolling along South Congress Avenue brought much of the same. While perusing the shop storefronts, it was no surprise to find "Keep Austin Weird" souvenirs, but there were still no "Beat Oklahoma State" buttons or signs to be found.
Returning to campus in the afternoon is a different story. Finally, all the telltale football signs. Students walking around campus with T-shirts that read, "Students Hooked on Texas." Barricades going up for on-campus tailgates. Much more traffic inside the University Co-Op, now brimming with fans upstairs and downstairs stocking up on burnt orange gear.
At 5 p.m., a 40-foot motor home is parked near Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, one of the first to arrive. A television is already plugged in outside, turned to the nightly news. Edward Taylor drove five hours from Angleton, the way he has done for years. The menu for Saturday is set: quail, sausage, ribs and stuffed jalapeno peppers. Inside, his wife, two friends and a dog relax on some couches. Suzann Smith tells stories about her father, Howard Terry, captain of the football team in 1937. The team's locker room bears his name. Cheering for Texas has always been a way of life, she explains.
By 6 p.m., trucks hauling smokers have converged on a parking lot near the motor home. An hour later, Chuy's, a Tex-Mex restaurant four miles from campus, has a wait. The influx of Texas fans has only just begun.
By noon Saturday, the streets close to and far away from the stadium are filled. A police escort blares its sirens, making way for Bevo XIV. Fans stop, put up their fingers and yell, "Hook 'Em!" Scholz Garten, a game-day institution, is standing room only. A black-and-white steer named Oreo sits in an alley next to the restaurant, docile enough to allow passersby to sit on his saddle and pose for photos.
By contrast, the iconic Bevo cannot be touched. It is time to head to the football stadium, but the walk is made more difficult with all the people who have descended here, from towns nearby like Georgetown and Elgin, to those further away, like Bandera and Houston. They are all Austinites today.
Once inside, all the football traditions are fully on display: Bevo in his corner, his handlers constantly gripping a rope to help keep him still; Smokey the Cannon on the other side, with select members of the Texas Cowboys student service organization in control (with ear plugs at the ready); the Longhorn Band pregame performance, complete with Big Bertha and "The Eyes of Texas."
Anticipation builds for kickoff. Plastic ropes cordon off the lane where the players will run onto the field from the locker room. You wait, find a place next to the rope. The smoke spills. The players run. The burnt orange-and-white crowd roars.
Welcome to Austin, college town.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- From Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, it's the same.