3:30 PM ET, October 6, 2007
Cotton Bowl, DALLAS, TX
DALLAS (AP) -- The old stadium will still be half orange and half crimson, with Bevo on one side and the Sooner Schooner on the other.
The State Fair of Texas will still be roaring all outside, with fans from both sides slipping out for a beer and a corny dog at halftime.
And the winning team will still get to take home the Golden Hat trophy.
Yet something is different about this year's Texas-Oklahoma game. Make that a lot of things, a lot of important things -- and they all trace to last Saturday, when both teams were upset.
With Oklahoma stumbling against Colorado and Texas getting stomped at home by Kansas State, the stakes for Saturday's matchup of Red River rivals have been adjusted. No longer a probable top-10 matchup between teams jockeying for a spot in the national championship chase, it's now a battle between clubs trying to avoid being buried in the conference race.
"Everybody sees the big picture and everybody has the same goal in mind," OU receiver Malcolm Kelly said. "Both teams."
The Sooners (4-1, 0-1 Big 12) are ranked No. 10 and the Longhorns (4-1, 0-1) are No. 19. It's the first time since 2000 that neither has come in ranked seventh or better.
The last time both teams were coming off a loss was 1999, so long ago that Bob Stoops was in his first year at OU, Mack Brown in his second at Texas. For the last time both teams came in with a conference loss, you have to go back to 1997, when John Mackovic was still coaching the Longhorns and John Blake was the Sooners' boss.
Records and rankings are only a part of what makes the Red River Rivalry one of the jewels of college football. The colors, the setting -- at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, where it's been held every year since 1929 -- and the hatred between fans makes this game worth watching regardless of how the teams are doing.
"It is almost like a bowl game within itself," Texas center Dallas Griffin said. "There are so many little things that make it special. The way the fans are seated, you drive into the opponent's territory and there aren't many louder places on the face of the Earth."
Adds Stoops, a man not prone to hyperbole: "This game will always be big. How you make it bigger, I don't know."
Actually, last week's losses make this game even more pivotal to the Longhorns and Sooners.
Now, the loser will have a 3 1/2-hour bus ride back to campus under the dark cloud of a two-game losing streak, two conference losses and being on the wrong end of a tiebreaker in the Big 12 South with the winner.
If Texas loses, it will be 0-2 in conference play for the first time since 1956, the year before Darrell Royal arrived. The Longhorns also would be in jeopardy of ending a 114-week stint in the AP poll, the longest in the country. The last time they were out: Oct. 21, 2000, soon after a 63-14 pounding by the Sooners.
As for the Sooners, history is against them: Of the 12 times since 1940 that they've gone into the Texas game following a loss, they've lost again 11 times.
"I think you will see both teams being hungry," Longhorns defensive tackle Frank Okam said. "I think you will see a lot of effort and guys giving their all."
Oklahoma dominated this series for five years, scoring in the 60s twice and drawing a lot of heat on Brown for how he handled the game -- on and off the field. Among his most memorable, most questionable moves was interrupting a question posed to embattled quarterback Chris Simms by saying, "I'll answer that for Chris."
Then Vince Young ended the skid in 2005 and went on to lead the Longhorns to a national title. Freshman Colt McCoy made it two straight over OU last October.
McCoy is back but he's hardly the same, especially after getting knocked out twice against Kansas State last weekend. He's shown all the signs of a concussion, prompting many to call for Brown to let McCoy have some time off for his own good. He's expected to start anyway.
"You'll know when the pain's too bad and you can't go any more," said McCoy, who has gone from the eighth-most efficient passer in the nation last year to No. 9 in the conference this year, a big part of the difference being an offensive line that lost three starters to the NFL.
The Sooners have a hotshot freshman quarterback in Sam Bradford, or at least thought they did until last weekend.
Bradford wowed everyone by setting a school record with 22 straight completions, then 21 the next game, and having 10 touchdown passes before his first interception. Then he went 8-of-19 with one touchdown and two interceptions against Colorado.
Now he gets this test. Although he stood on the sidelines last year while redshirting, he'll find the atmosphere quite different when he's under center.
"Hopefully," Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said, "he's got a calmness and a steadiness about him."
AP sports writers Jim Vertuno in Austin, Texas, and Jeff Latzke in Norman, Okla., contributed.
Top 25 Overview
The game has lost some of its luster after both teams suffered defeats last Saturday, but the Red River Rivalry now is practically a must-win for both Oklahoma and Texas. Horns QB Colt McCoy says he is ready to go after getting banged up versus Kansas State, while Sooners QB Sam Bradford has to rebound after suffering his first career defeat.
Oklahoma's offensive line will be the difference-maker versus Texas, writes Scouts Inc.
|Avg Points Allowed||15.8||23.5|