By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
I am indeed a bitch.
Last year the Oklahoma Sooners were whipped by the Texas Longhorns in their annual mid-October showdown in the Cotton Bowl. Both teams lost one game all season, yet somehow—inexplicably—it was Oklahoma, through a discombobulated national computer ranking, that was awarded the Big 12 Conference South championship, a berth in the conference championship game and, ultimately, a spot in college football's BCS National Championship Game opposite Florida.
How exactly did the Sooners pull the Okie Doke through the back door? By running up the score against lesser opponents, that's how. They call it style points. We all know it's bullshit.
OU played starting quarterback Sam Bradford well into the fourth quarter of blowouts. After the 10-point, 45-35 loss to Texas, the Sooners licked their wounds by picking on smaller kids, tripping blind folks and scoring at least 58 points in their final six games. In their regular-season finale against Oklahoma State, they eschewed a sportsmanlike kneel-down with less than 30 seconds remaining for a handoff and a 28-yard touchdown run that pushed their victory margin to 20 points and impressed voters and computer programs enough to leapfrog the Longhorns, whom two days earlier pulled their front-line players in a relatively mundane win over Texas A&M.
Good for OU. Hope the Sooners enjoyed that tainted success. Because this season—in the very first quarter of the very first game—karma came calling.
With untested offensive linemen who rarely saw the field last season, Bradford was blitzed, blind-sided and sacked into a shoulder injury against Brigham Young. And with his replacement similarly untested, the Sooners not only lost to the Cougars, but also dropped a game at Miami.
OU, with a returning Heisman Trophy quarterback and National Championship aspirations, suddenly found itself out of national relevance at 2-2. The only hope for Oklahoma this season is to again derail a better Texas team when the teams renew the Red River Rivalry Saturday at 11 a.m. in the Cotton Bowl.
If karma is still paying attention, Texas wins again.
Let's face it. The Longhorns wouldn't have beaten Florida in last year's title game (OU lost, 24-14). And, despite their gaudy stats this year, it appears they are still only the nation's third-best team behind the Gators and Alabama. If they hope to sniff another chance at a trophy, however, they've got to turn OU's season from disappointing to nightmarish.
"There's nothing," says Texas coach Mack Brown, "like Oklahoma week."
Texas leads the nation by scoring 47 points per game, highlighted by winning margins of 39, 31, 57 and 24 points. Quarterback Colt McCoy is again a leading Heisman candidate, having completed 32 of 39 passes for 265 yards and a touchdown in last week's 38-14 win over Colorado.
There are problems, however. The Longhorns trailed the 32-point underdog Buffaloes 14-3 near halftime, drawing boos from the home crowd in Austin. It took a 92-yard interception return, a blocked punt and a punt-return score by Jordan Shipley—college football's most underrated player—to secure an uneasy victory.
Though the Sooners welcomed Bradford back to the field last week, the Sooners too struggled to put away a vastly inferior opponent in a 33-7 win over Baylor. As the teams were tied 0-0 midway through the second quarter, OU's home crowd also unleashed a chorus of boos.
I've heard Texas-OU associated with booze, but boos?
Bradford threw for 389 yards, and Oklahoma—like Texas—eventually pulled away in its tune-up. But no doubt about it, this year's version of Texas-OU is diluted compared with recent showdowns. Last year's match-up featured undefeated Top 5 teams.
"We've lost a couple close games," says Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. "Beating a quality team like Texas would certainly help put us back on the right track."
There are red flags to consider as you take the DART's new Green Line to Fair Park.
Some things change. Oprah made an appearance at this year's State Fair. Some things get tweaked. This year's fried delicacy was—believe it or not—butter.
But some things remain static. Texas-OU is one of the few sporting events that hasn't—not yet anyway—migrated west to Arlington. With the Cotton Bowl's namesake game to be played in Cowboys Stadium on January 2, Texas-OU—anchored to the Cotton Bowl through 2015—is undoubtedly Dallas' biggest sporting event.
Oh, the old joint still hosts Grambling-Prairie View and was last summer the backdrop for Michael Irvin's 4th and Long reality TV show on Spike, but without Texas-OU the Cotton Bowl would deteriorate into an idle artifact more ogled than used.
"It'd be a damn shame if they left Dallas," said ABC's Keith Jackson, eternal voice of college football. "Texas-OU is a rare jewel. It's so unique and wonderful. Where else can you take a day and go to the State Fair, ride a Ferris wheel, grab a few cold refreshments and walk over to watch one of college football's greatest rivalries?"
And even though No. 2 Texas vs. No. 15 OU may not have the National Championship implications, it's still, after all, Texas vs. OU. For the 103rd time.
Boomer Sooner vs. Texas Fight.
Crimson and Cream vs. Burnt Orange.
Bevo vs. The Boomer Schooner.
Bradford vs. McCoy.
ESPN's College GameDay—with Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit—will set up shop in Fair Park. ABC will import "Big Game" Brent Musburger for its play-by-play. And the refurbished 78-year-old Cotton Bowl will attract spotlights both local and national in the wake of its $57 million facelift.
What will unfold Saturday?
Texas is on a mission. Oklahoma is still dealing with the bitch.