Rivalry games are always fun, no matter the time or place. But when it's the Red River Rivalry, and the place is at the State Fair of Texas, there's something even more special. The yearly matchup between the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners is one of the better rivalries to watch, with an environment -- including a 50/50 division of tickets and fans -- that's second to none.
This year's Red River Rivalry has high-stakes once again, with both teams ranked in the top-25 and the Sooners flirting with the No. 1 spot in the polls. Add it all up and you've got the marquee matchup of the week, and the site of ESPN's College Gameday.
To get a better feel for both the rivalry and the game, GhostofBigRoy, of our Longhorn blog, Burnt Orange Nation, and CC Machine, of our Sooners blog, Crimson and Cream Machine, answered a few questions about the matchup.
The environment surrounding the Red River Rivalry is always a sight to behold. Is this one of the best, if not the best, rivalries in college football, taking into account the rivalry itself, as well as the environment surrounding it (and why)?
GhostofBigRoy: No doubt about it. What could be more American that eating some fried butter or fried bubble gum at the State Fair before or after the game? Anything and everything that can be fried, in fact. As far as the atmosphere inside the game, it's unlike anything else that I've ever been a part of as a fun and from my perspective, I haven't seen anything else like it anywhere else with the crowd split right down the middle.
In big moments, both sides are up screaming their lungs out and after a play, there's always one loud fanbase making themselves felt, which leads to some monumental momentum swings that I don't think can be replicated in any other environment anywhere.
CC Machine: Where else in college football can you ride the ferris wheel, eat a corndog, walk the midway, win a stuffed animal and then go watch two of the most prestigious football programs in the nation mix it up on the football field? The OU/Texas simply has the best atmosphere in all of college football.
Championships have been won and lost based on the outcome of this game and with the crowd split 50/50 right down the middle the emotion and pageantry seems unequaled as well.
The game is also a bit of a break from the traditional rivalry scheduling, with most games taking place on or around the final week of the season. Is this type of scheduling, with the matchup relatively early in the Big 12 slate, something you like?
GhostofBigRoy: Well, apart from the fact that the State Fair dictates the scheduling, it was difficult at times in the past to be prepared for such a big game after only one conference match up prior in most seasons. But really, that was a result of Greg Davis never wanting to show anything before the RRR and that was simply his fault, not an issue with scheduling necessarily. A good coaching staff can minimize that major negative and leaving the State Fair just isn't feasible for these eyes, so I don't have a problem with the timing of the game. As long as Greg Davis isn't the OC at Texas.
CC Machine: In the 105 games between Oklahoma and Texas in football only thirteen have not been played in the month of October and you would have to go all the way back to 1923 to find the last time it wasn't played in October. This is where it belongs and fans absolutely love it.
Best personal memory from the rivalry?
GhostofBigRoy: Man, this is an easy one. I got to Texas in 2002 and suffered through three terrible losses before 2005 arrived. The big plays from Jamaal Charles and Rodrique Wright as well as mashing the teeth out of Rhett Bhomar were some memories that I won't ever forget. Absolute and total carthasis. Since I wasn't at either Rose Bowl Texas won, I would have to say that's my best memory from any Longhorn game I've ever attended.
CC Machine: The 63-14 massacre of 2000 was the first time that I had ever attended the game in which the Sooners actually won. It was an amazing experience walking out of the Cotton Bowl with my head held high for the first time. Then there was the time I was walking out of the Cotton Bowl following the 65-13 blowout (OU's fourth consecutive win) in 2003 and there was a grown man literally crying his burnt orange eyes out and saying out loud, "I can't take this anymore."
However, the all-time greatest memory was Roy Williams coming over the top of the Texas offensive line to force Chris Simms to throw an interception that was returned for a game clinching touchdown by Oklahoma linebacker Teddy Lehman in 2001.
Worst memory from the rivalry?
GhostofBigRoy: The 12-0 loss in
2002 2004. A quick aside -- we were staying at a hotel the night before reserved by a friend through her father and we got back late after a long night out on the town ($1 pitchers of Rolling Rock at the Across the Street bar) and my roommate at the time stepped in some human feces left by our friends across the hall (we didn't find that out until years later). So for the whole game on a miserable cloudy and drizzling day at the Cotton Bowl, all I could smell was the crap residue left on his shoe, which in a lot of ways is a perfect metaphor for the gameplan that Texas put together that day, one of the low points of the Mack Brown era. Davis and Brown did everything they could to keep Texas from losing with a conservative game plan and all it did was keep the Longhorns from having a chance to win.
CC Machine: I'm going to date myself here but I remember the disappointment following the 15-15 tie in 1984. Its a game that the Sooners clearly should have won but an interception by Oklahoma's Keith Stanberry in the back of the endzone was ruled out of bounds. The mistake allowed Texas to kick the game tying field goal as time expired. I was only ten at the time but my hatred for Texas was birthed.
Biggest weakness you feel your own team has going into this game?
GhostofBigRoy: Special teams. Oklahoma hasn't set the world on fire in the third phase either this season, but Texas hasn't managed much on kickoff returns, kicker Justin Tucker can't reach the endzone, ever, really, and the coverage hasn't helped much, Tucker's punting has been mediocre, and Texas has already fumbled a punt this season. Considering the high-powered OU offense Texas will face Saturday, giving up that hidden yardage in the kicking game that can flip field position could be crippling.
CC Machine: Defensive Secondary: I hate to just single out individual players but free safety Javon Harris has had a few struggles this season and cornerback Gabe Lynn was abused at times against Missouri. The good news is that Harris has made significant improvement and Lynn isn't a starter but does come in on certain defensive packages.
Biggest strength you feel your team has in this matchup?
GhostofBigRoy: Co-offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin. After years of giving Oklahoma virtually nothing for which to prepare, but rarely breaking out any game-changing wrinkles anyway, scheming for the Texas offense has never been difficult for Bob Stoops since he's been in Norman. That's all changing in a serious way this season, as Stoops and his coordinator Brent Venables have two quarterbacks and a variety of other Wildcat packages for which to prepare and there's no question that Harsin has more up his sleeve. He emptied his playbook against Oklahoma back when he was with Boise State with electric results and Texas fans are expecting more of the same this weekend.
Predictions and why?
GhostofBigRoy: Those aforementioned momentum swings in this game make it an extremely tough call every year and it's hard to pick against the favored Sooners, but I'm a Texas fan and I have to believe. Some trick plays from Harsin and a Texas defense that bends but doesn't break gives the Longhorns a 45-35 win, shades of 2008, the last time the Longhorns came into the game with low expectations against an Oklahoma team expected to dominate.
CC Machine: I think that, while talented, the youth movement eventually becomes a liability against an experienced Oklahoma team. I'll take the Sooners to pull away in the second half in a 31-13 win.
Final thoughts, players and storylines to watch, smack talk?
GhostofBigRoy: One of the best matchups in this game is going to be the Oklahoma receivers against the inexperienced Texas secondary. Ryan Broyles is a well-established star in college football and his teammate Kenny Stills is simply a big play waiting to happen. The young Texas cornerbacks, led by Adrian Phillips, Quandre Diggs, and Carrington Byndom, have been lights-out so far this season and much better than expected, but if they're going to have growing pains, it's going to happen against Oklahoma or Oklahoma State next week.
Also, keep an eye on how the Texas defense handles the up-tempo offense Oklahoma deploys. Last season the Longhorns have trouble getting their defense in position before the snap and gave up a couple of early scores. This game may well hinge on whether or not Manny Diaz can consistently get his defense in the proper position before the play.
On the other side of the ball, I'm interested in how Oklahoma will choose to play the run. Iowa State used eight defenders in the box consistently last week and Oklahoma could well do the same. After all, the last 12 winners in this game outrushed the opponent, an overwhelming stat. Harsin will want to run the football to set up play-action passes and expect Stoops to try to shut that down. The matchup within the matchup there is the whether or not the Texas offensive line can get to the undersized Sooner linebackers and wear them out, or if the speed at that position to get downhill and into the rushing lanes before the Longhorn blockers can get to them.
As for smack talk, there's only one thing I have to say -- it's 6:09 here in beautiful Austin, Texas, and OU still sucks. Hook ‘em, baby.
CC Machine: Its imperative that Oklahoma's defense play sound assignment football. There's the danger of getting out of position against one of Harsin's trick plays and paying a steep price for it. I really don't believe that Texas is ready to line up and go head-to-head with Oklahoma but a trick play here or there could lead to some big momentum shifts. To counter that, OU must be alert, wrap up when they hit and play their assignments.
Trash talking is always funny to me because no matter what you say history will always provide the opportunity for it to blow up in your face. Bag on an Oklahoma quarterback for a shoulder injury, even standing to cheer when he was injured in the Red River Rivalry, and then watch your own quarterback go down with a shoulder injury in the BCS championship game. Ironic, isn't it?
Then there's the nickname "Land Thieves" which is funny and amusing to me. It insinuates that the citizens of Oklahoma stole the land where we live. I guess we'll just keep overlooking that Texas revolution of 1835-1836 in which the settlers of Texas took the land from Mexico by military force. Let's not forget the Alamo when hurling "Land Thieves" insults at Oklahoma.
Past, present or future something is going to jump up and bite you when you're trash talking because you really never know what the future is going to hold. The only thing I can say for sure about Oklahoma football is that the Sooners will never name their stadium after a former Texas football player, something the Longhorns did when they named their stadium after 1949 Oklahoma All-American Darrell Royal.