Red River Rivalry is dead. Long live the Red River Rivalry.

Red River Showdown

Since 2000, the Texas-Oklahoma football game — the Red River Rivalry, Red River Shootout, Red River Showdown, or whatever you’d like to call it — has featured both teams ranked 12 times. In 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2008, both teams were in the top five when they met (it’s always around Columbus Day weekend). College Gameday has been there a bunch of times — they even went when it was a 3 vs. 11 game, as seen here:

Texas and Oklahoma are areas of the country known for football — think Cowboys, Pokes, Sooners, Longhorns, Aggies, Horned Frogs, Red Raiders, and the like. It’s a big deal that the rivalry has been so good. Outside of SEC games like LSU-Alabama (in recent years), Florida-Tennessee (in the 1990s), LSU-Florida-Alabama (in the mid-2000s) and clashes like that, you don’t often see conference rivalries where, consistently, both teams are highly-ranked (maybe Oregon and Stanford over the past half-decade too, and a bit — a little bit — of Michigan vs. Ohio State).

Red River is a big deal. My friends and I in New York used to meet up for it every year, even though it means you start drinking at basically 11am. It’s still a good friend of mine’s big CFB dream to go. Now that I live near Dallas, we’ll make it happen. (Although I’m kind of partial to going to Oxford first.)

But this year, things are different.

Red River isn’t the biggest game in Texas — that would be TCU vs. Baylor, which is a top 10 matchup in Waco. It might not even be the second-biggest game in Texas — that would be Ole Miss vs. Texas A&M in College Station, which seems like a likely letdown spot for the Rebels. (A week after the biggest college football day in Mississippi in about 30 years, we might see a total collapse of both squads.) You could make an argument, then, that Red River is the third-biggest game in Texas this weekend. When was the last time that happened?

Oklahoma is coming off one of their expected early-season losses. They’ll still end up in a big bowl. This crap happens every year, and then Bob Stoops and his crew get their mojo back in November. (Even though the ‘Big Game Bob’ moniker faded, he’s still a pretty good coach.)

Texas is in their first season under Charlie Strong. They’ve mostly looked very bad, yes, but it’s the first season after a 16-year regime (Mack Brown). Give it time, you know?

The rivalry’s not dead by any stretch — they’re both top 25 recruiting classes for 2015, and Strong will only get better as a recruiter. (Oklahoma State and/or TCU, his last two games this year, will probably end up serving as his “Year 1 signature win.”)

Everything ebbs and flows. As we detailed yesterday, J.J. Abrams wrote Regarding Henry before he became king of the fanboys. Stuff takes weird turns. Maybe a game in Waco is superior to the big Texas State Fair Red River game right now, but in a few years, this might be a 2 vs. 4 matchup again. And maybe I’ll finally get to one of ’em live.

Ted Bauer