It’s a college football experience unlike any other.
It starts with a bus ride into the State Fair of Texas, with
fans thumping on the sides and cheering or directing insults and
unfriendly gestures toward the riders. Then there’s the walk down
the Cotton Bowl field, the chance to stare down your bitter rival
face to face before the game begins.
And no matter what’s on the line beyond the Golden Hat trophy at
the annual Red River Rivalry, it’s always something special – even
if the stakes are a little lower than usual.
No. 13 Oklahoma (3-1, 1-1 Big 12) and No. 15 Texas (4-1, 1-1)
will arrive in Dallas on Saturday playing catch-up in the
conference standings for a change. Instead of a showdown to get in
the driver’s seat in the Big 12, the rivalry is a crucial win both
teams need to keep up with No. 5 West Virginia and No. 6 Kansas
For the first time since 2007, and the second time since 1997,
both teams already have a conference loss behind their names.
“It doesn’t have any different feel,” Sooners coach Bob Stoops
said Monday. “Not in my eyes.”
It’ll be the 14th straight time Stoops has gone up against
Texas’ Mack Brown, with the two teams combining to win nine of the
last 13 conference titles. The loser this time could end up two
games back in the league standings.
So, could this be an early October elimination game?
“I wouldn’t ever say that,” Sooners cornerback Aaron Colvin
said. “We don’t want to get too high. We don’t want to get too
“You never know what’s going to happen in the Big 12 or in
college football, period. We’re definitely going to try to go out
there and get this win, try and give it our all but we don’t really
think of the negatives yet.”
Brown seems to agree.
“I think in my estimation we could see a conference champion
with one or maybe two losses this year the way this league is,
because there’s so much parity in the league,” he said.
Oklahoma fell on its home field against Kansas State last month,
and Texas lost a wild back-and-forth game against West Virginia
48-45 in Austin last Saturday. With the Mountaineers still on the
Sooners’ schedule and a season-ending trip to Kansas State looming
for the Longhorns, however, there are still plenty of opportunities
to get back in the conference race.
“We aren’t where we want to be, (but) we’re much better than we
were last year,” Brown said. “I don’t think last year’s team could
have even hung with West Virginia because we couldn’t have scored
“But we’re making a lot of progress, and at some point this
football team is going to be really good, and we are getting better
Texas is 13-13 in its last 26 regular-season games. However, the
Longhorns rank sixth in the nation with 46.8 points per game and
David Ash is third in passer efficiency at 180.1 with 11 touchdowns
and one interception.
Splitting time with Case McCoy in a 55-17 loss to the Sooners on
Oct. 8, 2011, Ash went 11 of 20 for 107 yards with a touchdown and
two interceptions while being sacked four times. Landry Jones threw
for 367 yards and three TDs, and one of Jones’ teammates wouldn’t
be surprised to see Ash perform much better with no one looking
over his shoulder.
“I think Texas letting him start and just letting him play his
game, it’s given him nothing but confidence,” Oklahoma defensive
end R.J. Washington said. “When you have more confidence in
yourself and you know your coaches are behind you, you’re going to
play better, you’re not going to worry about making mistakes,
you’re going to loosen up and go play.”
The Sooners are coming off of a 41-20 win at previously unbeaten
Texas Tech, ending a three-game losing streak in Lubbock. Before
that, they had off weeks bracketing the 24-19 loss to Kansas State,
and Stoops thought all the down time stunted the team’s
“Now, hopefully we can get in a rhythm. … You really make your
improvement, I think, when you’re on the field playing in game
situations, and hopefully we can take some strides and keep
improving,” Stoops said.
The Sooners have won the last two games in the series after
losing four of the previous five, and turnovers have been key.
Texas gave it away seven times in the past two matchups, while
Oklahoma coughed it up once.
“When we’ve lost and when we’ve lost badly, it’s been because
we’ve turned the ball over, and last year was no different,” Brown
With the often extreme momentum swings of a rivalry game,
there’s been a winner in turnover margin in each of the last seven
meetings. Each time, that team went on to win the game.
“It’s anybody’s game right now,” Washington said. “It could
come down to the wire, so every game is as important as every other
game. This just happens to be a rivalry game. There’s always a
little added incentive for that.”