Texas-Oklahoma Preview

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

State.

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

low.

“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

enough points.

“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

each game.”

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

development.

“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

said.

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.”