Oklahoma football: Will the Sooners’ Big 12 farewell tour work against them?

Jul 12, 2023; Arlington, TX, USA; A view of the Big 12 championship trophy during Big 12 football media day at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 12, 2023; Arlington, TX, USA; A view of the Big 12 championship trophy during Big 12 football media day at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

Last season, the other Big 12 teams knew that the Texas and Oklahoma football teams would be leaving the conference for the much more challenging SEC. They just weren’t sure exactly when.

It’s no longer a mystery. This will be the final Big 12 season for both Oklahoma and archrival Texas. You know that the Sooners and Longhorns would like nothing more than to go out in style and with one final conference championship in hand.

Undoubtedly, Big 12 teams are tired and a little angry of hearing about Oklahoma and Texas turning their backs on the Big 12 and heading out to so-called greener pastures (monetary pun intended).

Critics who once believed, however, that without the Sooners and Longhorns, the Big 12 would never be able to survive, at least not as a Power Five conference are now in the process of doing a 180-degree about face.

The Big 12 isn’t good enough for OU and Texas? says the eight remaining Big 12 teams. O.K., let’s just invite in four teams from the Pac-12, three from the American Athletic Conference, including one of the teams that made the College Football Playoff last season, and independent BYU.

Things are different in the Big 12 this season with four new teams as part of the mix. Former AAC members Houston, Cincinnati and UCF are now Big 12 members along with BYU. And beginning next season, four new teams — Arizona, Arizona State, and old familiar face in Colorado and Utah — come in expanding the conference to 14 teams, the biggest it’s ever been.

This will also be a very different kind of season for the Oklahoma and Texas football teams. It will be a farewell tour of sorts, or as Texas radio announcer Craig Way called it recently, “the little bowl of hate tour.”

Undoubtedly, both the Sooners and Longhorns are going to wear large targets on their back and can expect to receive the best shot from every team on the schedule, especially from the preexisting Big 12 teams. Every Big 12 team, even the new ones, are going to relish getting one last shot at the two big dogs in the conference.

In reality, though, that shouldn’t be much different from any of the past 27 Big 12 seasons. Oklahoma is used to having a target on its back. That’s what 14 conference championships, including six in a row from 2015 to 2020, will get you. It may get you some respect, but a ton of hate comes with it from the other teams and fan bases that are tired of seeing the same team will all the time.

The Sooners have been that team for some time. Texas hasn’t enjoyed the same success in the Big 12 as OU has, but Texas is Texas, a school with one of the largest athletic budgets in the nation and an ego to match. The Longhorns are another quintessential team that fans outside of Longhorn Nation love to hate. And that includes Sooner fans.

You can make a strong argument that teams in the Big 12 may have had their best shot at taking it out on Oklahoma last season when the Sooners won just three of nine Big 12 games. With greater “competitive depth,” as head coach Brent Venables likes to call it, in every position group and a much more favorable schedule this year over last, Oklahoma is projected to win as many as 10 games in 2023. That would put them right in the hunt for one last conference title as they head out the door.

I can assure you that is undeniably the last scenario that the Big 12 would like to see happen. An Oklahoma-Texas rematch in the Big 12 Championship would be a figurative slap in the face to the Big 12, but also an excellent send off, looking at it from another perspective, as those two teams head off to the SEC.