Red River Rivalry: Dominance Is a Matter of Perspective
The annual Red River Rivalry game between the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas has a long and storied history. It is a hotly contested football game played by the flagship universities of bordering states where there is not much love lost between their respective fans.
This Southwest rivalry is also a deciding factor early in the season on who may have an inside track towards a possible championship run. Since the formation of the Big 12, either the Sooners (6) or Longhorns (3) have won 9 of the 14 conference titles. They have each won a national championship in the last decade and played in the NC title game four other times between them. They are two of the most elite programs in the country and look to be national contenders on a regular basis.
From my experiences, the fans of both schools are very similar. They are passionate about their teams and show that support loudly and proudly...preferably to their main rivals' fans whenever possible.
Sooner fans point to their seven national championship banners and Longhorn fans brag about their nearly 60% winning percentage in the series. OU fans will then say that they have six Big 12 titles to only three for their rival, while UT fans shout back they have won four of the last five R.R.R. games AND still own a nearly 60% winning percentage in the series.
The Oklahoma fans scream "We have the most victories and highest winning percentage of the modern era!" Longhorn fans look back at them condescendingly and quietly ask, "If you're so great, why have we beat you 59 times?"
This whole series record thing can really steam the Sooners because they have no comeback. Facts are facts and UT has an almost insurmountable 59-40-5 edge in this series that started in 1900. As an OU fan, what can you say?
Well, while it is true that Oklahoma would have to go on an epic winning streak of biblical proportions to catch up, there may be hope in the facts themselves.
What do I mean? I'm talking about looking at the series from personal perspective. Of looking at it in eras and different contexts.
The series and the very game of football itself has changed drastically since the rivalry began. In 1900, the game was labeled a scrimmage between the Texas varsity and an Oklahoma team with a history of 10 total games played since 1895. Even though I wasn't there, I am pretty sure it barely resembled the epic struggle we will witness in the Cotton Bowl during the Texas State Fair this October.
Simply said, it was a completely different era and the game itself was nothing like what we are used to seeing today. The forward pass wasn't even legal yet. A big player would be considered anyone close to 200 pounds. Helmets, when worn, were made of a soft leather that barely gave more protection than a modern beanie cap.
So, I thought it might be interesting to look at the Red River Rivalry from a few different angles.
First, some all time facts. As we already know, the series started in 1900 with Texas owning an advantage of 59-40-5. If you average the scoring over the years, it has resulted in a UT win of about 17-16.
Oklahoma owns the largest margin of victory at 52 points set in a 65-13 victory in 2003. They also have the second highest mark of 50 points in 1908 (50-0).
But wait, they also have the third largest victory at 49 points in 2000 (63-15), the fourth at 45 points in 1956 (45-0), the fifth at 39 points in 1973 (52-13) and the sixth (and seventh) at 35 points, doing it in back to back years in 1986-87 (47-12 & 44-9, respectively).
The Longhorns are down the list at eighth, with two 33 point margins of victory. The men from Austin have accomplished this feat twice, most recently in 2005 with Vince Young leading them to a 45-12 hammering of the hapless Sooners. They also did it in 1940, winning 40-7.
This shows that without the occasional blowout by Oklahoma, the margin of victory would tilt more heavily in UT's direction.
The game has been played in Dallas annually since 1929, the year of the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression. Only six games have been played in Oklahoma, four in Norman (last in 1923) and two in Oklahoma City (1905, '06). One game was played in Houston (1913). Ten games have been played in Austin with the last taking place in 1922.
They have played twice in the same year, in 1901 and again in 1903. They did not play at all from 1924-1928 and again in 1918 or 1920-'21.
The record from 1929 in Dallas to present is 45-32-4 for Texas. Average score of 17-17.
From the year the game became an annual grudge match in Dallas till the the beginning of the modern era (1929-1944), the Longhorns owned a 12-3-1. The average score was 13-6, Texas.
Why did I choose 1945? This is widely considered the beginning of the modern era of football, as WWII had just ended and millions of battle hardened G.I.'s returned from overseas. Many went on to college on the G.I. Bill and formed the backbones of the explosion in college football.
Also, from the series perspective, neither team was ranked in a game until the 1945 season when UT entered with a ranking of #10 in the country. OU did not enter as a ranked team until 1947, at #15. Since this point, the Sooners have been ranked entering the game 36 times and the Longhorns have been ranked 34.
If you look at the records from the modern era, this is where things start to look better from a Sooners' perspective. While OU went only 11-26-2 over the first 39 games and were outscored by an average of 14-8, since 1945 things start to even out.
From 1945 to the present, the winning record still goes to UT, owning a 33-29-3 advantage. However, the average score is now at 20-18 in OU's favor.
A four game advantage in the 65 games played in this era isn't exactly dominance. I'm not even going to mention that none of these games have been played in the Sooners' home state. Oh wait, I guess I just did.
Well, I certainly won't mention that quite a few Sooner fans have, uh, "questioned" many strange calls by the mostly Texas-born referees over the years. These "questionable" calls seem to go against Oklahoma more frequently than normal. Sorry, did it again. My bad.
I know, I know, it's a played at a "neutral" site, halfway between Norman and Austin. What's not completely "neutral" about playing in the biggest city in Texas in the middle of the State Fair of Texas? I mean, come on, how much more "neutral" could it be?
Now I will look at it from a more personal perspective, starting the first year I remember paying attention to the game at all. It happens to approximately coincide with the beginning of the Switzer era. Yes, I am that old.
That would be 1971 and I was five. OU, coming in ranked #4, beat the third-ranked Longhorns, 48-27. The series record since I can remember paying attention is 19-17-3 in Oklahoma's favor. The average score is 19-17 for OU. Still very close but definitely swinging towards the Sooners.
So when Texas fans say anything about their dominating Red River Rivalry record, I say "What are you talking about?"
From my perspective, I don't see any dominance by either team. Well, maybe I remember the occasional curb-stomping the Sooners have put on their Burnt Orange neighbors. I have tried to block out Vince Young, but still have the occasional nightmare.
However, more often than not, it is a classic, hard fought game that can usually go either way.
And when I think about the history of this series, I prefer to look at it from my perspective.
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