Texas, OU set for most unusual version of Red River rivalry
DALLAS (AP) - # 22 Texas and Oklahoma meet the Red River's two rivals, not in the top 20 for the first time in a largely empty cotton bowl devoid of the masses of burnt orange and purple in the 21st century at the 50th Yard line.
A masked Big Tex will greet visitors on his usual slow Saturday, but with the Texas Star ferris wheel and every other ride silently behind him. The pandemic closed the state fair for the first time since World War II.
Five-time Big 12 defending champions Sooners (1-2, 0-2) lost for the first time since 1999. That year, Texas won in similar circumstances to Bob Stoops' first season at OU, when the No. 23 Longhorns rallied to beat the unranked Sooners.
Lincoln Riley is certainly not used to this, having put Oklahoma in the college football playoffs for the first three years since joining Stoops. For the first time ever, he has an unranked team that suffered losses against Kansas State and Iowa State.
Texas coach Tom Herman believes neither in the above points nor in the 33:31 loss to the TCU last week, which pushed the Longhorns (2: 1, 1: 1) out of the top 10.
"This is the biggest rivalry in college football, I think," said Herman. "I know a lot will be different by 2020, but that's still Oklahoma-Texas."
Sam Ehlinger is expected to be the fifth quarterback in Texas to start this rivalry four times without the Big 12 championship game two years ago. He's 1-2 in the Cotton Bowl and also lost the 2018 title game to the Sooners at nearby AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
Talented Oklahoma newcomer Spencer Rattler tries to follow in the tradition of Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray's Heisman Trophy, which became the # 1 NFL draft picks after leading the Sooners to the playoffs under Riley.
Rattler's first experience of shutting down the Cotton Bowl ramp won't be nearly the same as it was for Ehlinger and so many others before him, as the 90-year-old stadium's 93,000-seat capacity is limited to 25,000.
"It's hard to understand what it feels like to play this game," said Riley. `` Now this year there will definitely be some differences. It will still be a great football game. That won't stop that. ''
From the moment the buses reach the state exhibition center, it will be different for players who have already experienced the game. Usually, crowds enjoying the state fair line up to greet or mock the caravan.
"Just the bus ride is always one of the coolest parts of it outside of the game," said Riley. '' Driving to the exhibition grounds without someone is a little scary. ''
Oklahoma fired Ehlinger nine times last season, hitting him under a flurry of stunts and a line of defense that collapsed the bag around him.
Texas' offensive line wasn't nearly as permeable in the first three games of this season. The Longhorns didn't allow a sack against the TCU last week, and Ehlinger leads the country with 14 touchdown passes.
While the former Arizona high school star leads the Big 12 for passing and efficiency, he and Alan Bowman of Texas Tech are tied for the most interceptions by four. Rattler had the chance to tie late or win on both losses, but those hopes ended in interception both times.
TEXAS PASS RUSH
Texas had high hopes that a new defense system with linebacker Joseph Ossai as the edge pass rusher would make a big difference this season when it comes to reaching opposing quarterbacks. Not yet.
Ossai only has one sack and the Longhorns have only one in total for the last two games. They were close several times last week but the biggest hit was expensive when linebacker Juwan Mitchell was ejected for aiming.
State fair officials require all visitors to wear masks, and game officials said security guards will be in the stands to enforce mask and social distancing guidelines.
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