Red River Showdown: Which Sooner team will show up against Texas?

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 08: A general view of play between the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners at Cotton Bowl on October 8, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 08: A general view of play between the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners at Cotton Bowl on October 8, 2016 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Several weeks ago, the annual Red River Showdown between Oklahoma and Texas looked as if it would be a lopsided affair, something very unusual in the history of this longtime rivalry.

That all changed after last weekend, though, when a second straight dismal performance by the Sooner defensive unit led to a shocking home loss to Iowa State, a team that Oklahoma had not lost to in its last 18 meetings and that owned just five victories over the Sooners in 81 games all-time.

That same Iowa State team lost to Texas the week before, managing to score just seven points in a 17-7 home defeat.

Given those brutal facts: Simple logic would conclude:

  • Texas beat Iowa State.
  • Iowa State beat Oklahoma.
  • Therefore: Texas should beat Oklahoma.

Fortunately for OU fans, football outcomes frequently conform to logic. Otherwise, Iowa State never would have beaten a top-five-ranked Sooner team in Norman.

Sixty-eight times in the 111-year history of the OU-Texas gridiron rivalry at least one of the two teams has been ranked coming into the annual border war.

That is the case again this season. The Sooners are ranked 12th in the country in this week’s Associated Press Poll, falling from No. 3 just a week ago. The Longhorns are not ranked, but they began the 2017 season as the No. 23 team in the AP Preseason Poll.

This is the fifth straight year in which a ranked Oklahoma team has gone up against a Texas team that is not ranked. I don’t mean to curb the enthusiasm of the Sooner faithful, but twice in the last four seasons, the unranked Longhorns have come out on top in this game.

In 2013, Texas won 36-20 over No. 12 Oklahoma, and who will forget the Texas triumph over Baker Mayfield and the 10th-ranked Sooners in the game two years ago. The latter loss was the only OU defeat in the 2015 regular season, and the Sooners would go on to represent the Big 12 as one of the four teams in the second year of the College Football Playoff.

Texas comes into this year’s Red River Showdown with a 3-2 record and have played much better in their last three games.

Texas lost on the road to then-No.5-ranked USC in double overtime, and followed that up with back-to-back Big 12 wins over Iowa State and last weekend at home over Kansas State in another double-overtime affair.

Anyone who knows anything about the Oklahoma-Texas rivalry, one of the most storied in college football, knows that you can throw season records and rankings out the window in this game. It’s always a hard fought game, with tons of grit and emotion on both sides. In these types of games, it’s not always the best team that wins the game, but the team that plays best on that day and with the greater will to win.

Having seen two sides of their team through the first five games of the 2017 season, Sooner fans aren’t sure what to expect this Saturday. Will it be the team that looked invincible in beating No. 2-ranked Ohio State on the Buckeyes’ home field or the Oklahoma team that looked listless and clueless in squandering a 24-10 lead and scoring just one second-half touchdown in losing at home to Iowa State?

Recent history has shown that the Sooners are very good about bouncing back after a loss. Oklahoma has not lost back-to-back regular season games since the 1999 season, Bob Stoops’ first year as head coach. The Sooners were an incredible 36-0 coming off a loss under Stoops. But Bob Stoops is no longer on the Oklahoma sidelines. Lincoln Riley is the man now, and his counterpart on the other sideline on Saturday, Tom Herman of Texas, is also in his first season as the Longhorns’ head coach.

Not that it means anything — but, of course, by mentioning it must mean something — the last time an Oklahoma football team lost two games in a row in the same season was 18 years ago. The Sooners lost at No. 23 Notre Dame, 34-30, and a week later fell to then-No. 23 Texas, 38-38, in Stoops’ first OU-Texas rivalry game.

O.K., here’s the caveat for all you Sooner fans who are superstitious or consider yourself doomsday types: This is not Lincoln Riley’s first Red River rodeo. It is actually his third trip to the Texas State Fair and the annual Oklahoma-Texas wars. As OU offensive coordinator the past two seasons, the Sooners were 1-1 in the Red River Showdown.

So which Oklahoma team will we see on Saturday?

Lincoln Riley offered a clue on Wednesday after practice: “They are a hungry group right now,” the OU head coach said. “They’re a group that’s certainly got an edge about them right now.

“It’s easy to be angry or have an edge right now, but we have to maintain that throughout this week and throughout the rest of the season,” he added.

“The key for us is we have to get playing at the highest level we can. If we can do that I think we’ll be in the position that we want to be in.”

Next: Where does the OU-Texas Red River game rate among the best college rivalries?

That position clearly is to beat Texas on Saturday, and then do the best you can to get ready for the next one.