The Red River Shootout is back. No, I know the name isn't back on the game, they call it all sorts of less-awesome names now. But believe me, Texas (19) and Oklahoma (7) are going to put the turn of the century feel back into this game.
Texas (4-1) and Oklahoma (5-0) both enter this game ranked for the first time since 2012. Not that the little numbers matter all that much, Texas has pulled off a couple of upsets in that time, but the feel of this game is much closer to 18 years ago when Oklahoma was a powerhouse and Texas was coming up fast. It feels closer to 13 years ago when Texas had turned the Big 12 burnt orange and knocked down Oklahoma. The conference, coaches, and players are ready to ignite this game again.
The Big 12 is far closer to being the conference of a decade ago than it the past five years. Oklahoma and Texas are ranked and another team in the conference is making noise. That role has been played by a few teams: Texas Tech and Oklahoma State but also the departed Nebraska and Missouri on occasion.
This year it is West Virginia. They could trip up both the Longhorns and the Sooners but the rest of the conference is a fringe top 35 team at best. The conference waves have started to shift back to the two powerhouses in Austin and Norman. Both have a legit shot at the conference championship and if West Virginia falters we could see this rematch played in the title game.
The coaching is finally on par with the recent history as well. Lincoln Riley has done an amazing job taking over for Bob Stoops when he surprisingly retired. The Sooners have boasted one of the most terrifying offenses in football under Riley and this year also displays amazing firepower.
The coaching at Oklahoma never faltered, that was all on Texas. Mack Brown's tenure was a disaster late and hiring Charlie Strong was the wrong move, but Texas has their guy. Tom Herman has the potential to be one of the names in college football at Texas. He's had some hiccups sure, but there's plenty to like about his tenure so far. He has a ways to go, losses to Maryland and Texas Tech at home are unacceptable for the Texas football program, but he's shown signs. His only losses outside of those were to ranked teams and only TCU was a game where Texas wasn't competitive.
Oklahoma has done its part in putting premier players in this game the past few years. This year is no different. Kyler Murray is a Heisman contender and he has no trouble finding Marquise "Hollywood" Brown. Caden Sterns brings people back to the conversation of Texas being defensive back university and Sam Elhinger is far from the David Ash, Case McCoy, and Tyrone Swoopes era. This is the most important element. It finally feels like a lot of players from both teams will be transitioning to Sundays and succeeding there as well.
This game used to be a marked on the calendar affair. It was one of the preeminent rivalry games in college football. An early season clash with national championship implications. Sometime in the past five or six years, it has really lost its luster. The game has tumbled from the marquee to be buried under games with less meaning and less history. This is the first year of the comeback.
It might not seem like it Saturday, but in years to come, this is the game we will all remember as the start of a Red River Success.
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