By Paul M. Banks
Football is the most territorial game of all. No other sport comes anywhere near as close to resembling a war game as the gridiron does. It’s like an athletic version of the board game “Risk.” #3 Texas takes on #20 Oklahoma in the “Red River Shootout,” also known as the “Red River Rivalry” Saturday. And maybe the fact that it’s a border war, with a nickname including that dividing line that makes this particular feud so special.
“It’s a tremendous feeling, understanding the tradition, the neutral site, with fans split right down the middle, every year it plays a big role in the Big 12 South,” Texas QB and Heisman trophy candidate Colt McCoy said on conference call earlier this week.
McCoy also answered a question about the acrimonious emotion between the teams as they await kickoff within the bowels of the Cotton Bowl.
“Our locker rooms are right beside each other, we share the tunnel coming out and the security does a good job holding us back from one another. It’s fun, it’s exciting,” McCoy said.
The game typically has conference or national significance. Since WWII, one or both of the two teams have been ranked among the top 25 in 60 of the last 65 games. Texas leads the all-time series 58–40–5, with a 45–36–4 edge in Dallas. Five of the last nine contests featured one of the participants in the BCS National Championship Game (2000, 2003–2005, and 2008), including national title winners Oklahoma in 2000 and by Texas in 2005. Four times during 2000–2004, a loss to Oklahoma kept Texas from playing in the Big 12 Championship Game. In 2005, the Dallas Morning News asked the 119 FBS football coaches to pick the top rivalry game in all of college football. The Texas–OU game ranked third, behind Ohio State-Michigan and Army-Navy.
Last year obviously brought a lot of controversy as Texas beat Oklahoma, but it was instead Oklahoma who had the opportunity to play in the BCS National title game (where they lost to Florida). The resulting controversy of the three way tie between Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech (who beat Texas towards the end of the season) in the Big 12 South Standings; where each team suffered one loss at the hands of the other, would be the cause for many fans, particularly Texas fans, to think they got screwed. It also further discredited the few remaining morons who claim we don’t badly need a playoff system. The Big 12 tie-breaker in this scenario was outsourced to the BCS (an organization founded by a SEC man). And the team with the highest BCS ranking would go on to play for the Big 12 Title. Oklahoma finished number one in the BCS, despite a number two ranking in the Associated Press Poll. Texas finished number three in all polls, rendering them ineligible to play in the conference title game.
McCoy tried to keep the past behind him. “We’re a new team, we have a lot of new faces on our team…If we would have handled our business last year, it would have been different, but you can’t play the what-if game.”
For now Texas is undefeated, but they face a big test in a couple days from a team forecasted by most to compete for the national title this season. “We can’t turn the ball over, their front seven is really good and their secondary is playing well,” McCoy said before later admitting he learned the hard way that his team must run the table to get a chance to win it all. “That’s every year, and you can only focus on the things that you can control, and we don’t worry about anything outside of us.”