Headed south

Former Ardmore standout Jermaine Gresham (18) runs after making a catch against TCU earlier this season. The top-ranked Sooners meet No. 5 Texas Saturday at the Cotton Bowl. Kickoff is slated for 11 a.m.

Xifan Liu
AdaEveningNews.com - Ada, Oklahoma

JOHN SHINN

CNHI News Service

NORMAN — Oklahoma defensive end Auston English was pondering how the Oklahoma-Texas game could get any bigger when the realization hit him.

“It’s always that way,” he said following the top-ranked Sooners’ 49-17 victory over Baylor Saturday. “I don’t really see how it could get any bigger.”

Well, it will be when the Sooners and Longhorns meet for the 102nd time at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

The Red River Rivalry was built on more than the two flagship universities of border states playing a game. The flames it creates each October traditionally sets off fire alarms throughout the country. It’s always been a huge hurdle for either program to get into the national championship picture. Over the last 10 years, it’s become the key to unlocking the Big 12 South for either program.

All those implications will be mixed together when No. 1 OU (5-0, 1-0 Big 12) faces No. 5 Texas (5-0, 1-0) at 11 a.m. Saturday.

It will be the first time since 2004 both teams have made it to the second weekend in October unblemished and the first time since that year both have been ranked in top five.

But then, when aren’t those things on the line when the two teams meet?

“We’re usually both undefeated or close to it. There’s always that national perspective that if you don’t win this one it gets real tough on you,” English said. “That’s the best part about the rivalry; it’s two teams that are always good.”

But some years are better than others. With every OU and Texas victory throughout the first six weeks of the season, momentum started to build toward an epic showdown.

OU could barley get toweled off Saturday at Baylor before the questions started flying at them. It was OU’s fifth straight win by 25 points or more, another impressive defensive performance and the Sooners played well in a Big 12 road game for the first time since 2006.

But what about the Longhorns?

Even OU coach Bob Stoops couldn’t resist making the quick pivot.

“We’re excited and everybody in the locker room is fired up about it. That week is here,” he said Saturday. “Texas is playing great. We understand we need to have a great week getting ready for it and we’ll be excited to go down there and compete with them.”

Over 800 miles away, Texas coach Mack Brown was making the same shift following the Longhorns’ 38-14 victory over Colorado.

“It’s what these two teams should have mid-season. It’s two top five football teams that are playing really well,” he said. “We’ll have everybody in America talking about the game next week, and that’s what we all want. It’s fun. It’s what Texas and OU have wanted forever, and we have got it back. “

With that, the wild week that proceeds the Red River Rivalry was offically at hand. No more questions about looking ahead, only questions about what could potentially happen in Dallas.

Stoops mentioned it briefly to his team Saturday afternoon, but it was like reminding little kids on Dec. 24 that Christmas would be the next day.

“We all know the Texas game is coming up,” defensive end Jeremy Beal said. “He really didn’t have to say anything.”

Editor’s Note: John Shinn is a sports writer for the Norman Transcript.