Texas vs. Oklahoma: Why College Football Desperately Needs the Red River Rivalry
Some of the greatest rivalries in sports are owned by college football. Unfortunately, most of this year's rivalry games look like potential blowouts.
Somewhere, there has to be a rivalry game that will make us smile for all the right reasons.
Alabama vs. Auburn used to be one of those "anyone can win" games, but with Nick Saban firmly entrenched and Gene Chizik feeling some intense pressure, this Iron Bowl may take a decisive turn in one direction.
Michigan vs. Ohio State used to be fun, but Ohio State is serving out a postseason ban and Michigan looks out of sync. This rivalry game's relevancy is also somewhat lost; if Ohio State is undefeated prior to this game and beats Michigan, the Buckeyes just have to walk away.
Army vs. Navy is always a must-watch game, but unfortunately, both teams don't look like they will finish the season above .500. This game will get watched because it gets a Saturday all to itself and the camaraderie between these two institutions is beautiful. America loves its military.
Notre Dame vs. USC should be interesting. USC doesn't look like it has enough depth to last the entire season while Notre Dame is—dare we say it—back. One of these teams could be the other's spoiler and that makes for a compelling game.
BYU and Utah have a great rivalry, but the Holy War is taking a sabbatical in 2014 and 2015.
And then there is Oklahoma vs. Texas. The Red River Rivalry.
This rivalry game is special for so many reasons, but just consider the venue in Dallas, Texas. Fair Park. Home of the the Texas Star, this country's largest Ferris wheel. Home of this country's largest state fair.
It's big, big, big. Even their mascots are big.
Both of the schools' mascots—Sooner Schooner and Bevo—involve live animals. Bevo is a steer while the Sooner Schooner is pulled by two white ponies named Boomer and Sooner.
Both teams have great traditions as well. Texas fans use their index and pinky fingers to form a horn and yell, "Hook 'em, Horns."
Oklahoma's marching band seemingly performs "Boomer Sooner" once every 30 seconds so the lyrics will be drilled into your head by halftime (hint: the first 14 words of their fight song are "Boomer Sooner"). It's almost as annoying as that incessant beating of drums and blowing of horns when USC's band plays "Tribute To Troy."
The stadium is also divided 50-50 at the 50-yard line. These fans have to get a long with each other because they sit right next to each other. It's an old-fashioned idea, yet a great one: love thy neighbor.
This whole rivalry game feels old and that's comforting for a college football fan. Like beef stew on a foggy night, the sight and smell of it make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. No other college football rivalry game gives you that same feeling as the Red River Rivalry.
The Red River Rivalry is in its 112th year, but this year, more than ever, college football needs this rivalry game.
While some conferences are expanding, others are shrinking. The Big 12 has lost three longstanding members in two years: Nebraska, Missouri and Texas A&M. At one point, the conference looked months away from folding due to instability and lack of direction.
While the Big 12 listed, Nebraska had a tough go in the Big Ten. When the Big 12 was righted, both Missouri and Texas A&M lost their first SEC conference games. Big 12 fans aren't crying over their former comrades' tough luck. In the end, the Big 12 added TCU and West Virginia to the conference and it looks like smooth sailing ahead.
The Big 12 survived conference realignment and has already bypassed recovery and reboot mode. Now it just needs to get back to what made the conference great in the first place.
Four Big 12 teams are ranked No. 15 or higher in the AP Top 25. Two Big 12 players, Geno Smith of West Virginia and Collin Klein of Kansas State, are Heisman candidates. For two straight weeks, Big 12 games between Texas and West Virginia and Baylor and West Virginia have been the best games of the week. The conference is doing exactly what it needs to do.
But it needs something else.
Texas and Oklahoma have been dormant for the last few years despite the yearly high expectations. With the new kid on the block from Morgantown, West Virginia making a grand debut this fall, both Oklahoma and Texas need to show some muscle. So far, Texas failed to flex enough and lost 48-45 to West Virginia.
Who wins 2012's Red River Rivalry?
Right now, Texas and Oklahoma need to show Cinderella what tradition in the Big 12 feels like. Send the message that you just can't march into this conference and wear the crown. You have to sit down and take a long look around at how things get done out here. This isn't just a conference. It's a proud tradition.
A big tradition.
Big hats, big hair, big barbecue grills, big Ferris wheels, big steaks, big stadiums and big mascots. And big wins.
But while West Virginia and TCU fans take that long, hard look around, Oklahoma and Texas fans should do the same.
Maybe you need a reminder of what a great thing you have. Maybe we, the fans, need a reminder of how expansion, while exciting and fast-moving, is also fueled by greed and cut-throat tactics. Give us a reason to feel good about all the new changes. Give us that beef stew.
Y'all came close to hanging this all up and moving to the Pac-12. Sure, you would have played each other, but it wouldn't have been the same.
Go play in the Red River Rivalry and remind us, the fans, what a great game this really is. Take us away from the Middle East crisis, the barrage of political ads, the horrific gasoline prices and the looming holidays facing parents without any employment prospects.
Bring us full circle. You survived expansion and came out even better. Now go out and celebrate in Dallas.
And don't forget to love thy neighbor.
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