The non-conference part of the schedule is in the rear-view mirror, and for the first time this season we're looking at an all-Big 12 weekend. There are several big games this weekend, but none more important than the annual Red River Rivalry showdown between Oklahoma and Texas at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
If you've never been to an OU-Texas game, you've missed out on a very special experience and one of the greatest rivalries in all of college football. The capacity crowd of over 85,000 loud and highly cantankerous fans is evenly split, with the 50-yard-line in the fully-enclosed stadium serving as the dividing line. Half of the stadium dons crimson apparel and the other half is proudly clad in Texas burnt orange. A sight to behold that certainly catches your attention, not to mention your spirit.
As for the game itself, throughout most of the past dozen years, both teams have come in nationally ranked. Saturday's game will be the 106th edition of this historic rivalry, which began in 1900. It will be the 13th meeting between Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Texas head coach Mack Brown, who was once an assistant coach at Oklahoma under Barry Switzer. Stoops' Sooner teams are 7-5 vs. the Longhorns and are favored coming into this game, which hasn't really meant that much throughout the long, rich history of this annual grudge match.
Oklahoma remains ranked No. 1 in the country in this week's USA Today coaches' poll, although the Sooners are third behind Alabama and LSU in the current AP poll. Texas moved up seven spots to 10/11 in the two polls on the strength of the Longhorns' resounding 37-14 win last week at Iowa State. Both teams come into this year's Red River Rivalry with identical 4-0 records. This is only the second time in the previous seven years that both teams have entered this game with undefeated records.
The last time Oklahoma was No. 1 coming into the game was in 2008 with Sam Bradford at quarterback. That Sooner team had three of the top four 2009 NFL draft picks, including the overall top pick Bradford, but they lost to No. 5 Texas and Colt McCoy in a 45-35 shootout.
Bradford and McCoy have been gone a couple of years now, but the Sooners have another quality signal-caller directing the OU offensive attack in junior Landry Jones.
Jones is fourth in the country in total offense, averaging 362 passing yards a game and also fourth in accuracy, completing 71 percent of his passing attempts. That will set up an interesting matchup between Jones and his talented arsenal of speedy receivers and the Texas defense, which leads the Big 12 and ranks 15th nationally.
Offensively, the Longhorns appear to be much improved over last year's 5-7 team, Texas' worst year under Brown. This is particularly true in the running game, where the Horns have averaged over 200 yards a game in their first four games. Highly touted freshman Malcolm Brown is leading the Texas rushing attack, averaging 81 yards per game.
The McCoy influence is still present in Austin, but this time it's Colt's little brother, Case who is at quarterback, sharing time with Saturday's likely starter, freshman David Ash. McCoy is a sophomore. Both quarterbacks can be expected to see action against the Sooners. One of the keys to the game will be how the young Texas QBs handle the intense pressure, physical play and high crowd involvement that is always associated with this heated rivalry game.
"Undefeated. OU-Texas. You can't get any more bigger than that," said Oklahoma All-America linebacker Travis Lewis in discussing the game with the media this week. "They're trying to take off our heads; we're trying to take off theirs. It should be an exciting game to watch."
Texas has already avenged two of the losses it suffered a year ago, beating UCLA and Iowa State. The Longhorns would like nothing better than to make Oklahoma a third notch on their make-good belt. The Sooners won last year's game 28-21. It will take an almost perfect, error-free game for that to happen, though, and the Sooners will have a great deal to say about that.
OKLAHOMA 38, Texas 27