Oklahoma and Texas could bid farewell to Big 12 with Red River rivalry rematch in title game

The Associated Press - October 10, 2023 6:35 am

Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel (8) celebrates the game winning touchdown with teammate Caleb Shaffer (53) late in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Texas at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

By STEPHEN HAWKINS AP Sports Writer

DALLAS (AP) — Oklahoma and Texas might not be done just yet playing each other in the Big 12 before going to the Southeastern Conference.

Midway through the farewell season for the Big 12’s only remaining members with national championships, the fifth-ranked Sooners and No. 9 Longhorns again have established themselves as the league’s top two teams.

So instead of next fall under a different conference banner back at the State Fair of Texas, where Oklahoma won 34-30 in a classic battle of unbeaten teams on Saturday, the 120th meeting of the Red River rivals could very well be a rematch in the Big 12 championship game on December 2nd at AT&T Stadium.

“I have no doubt we’re going to see them again in the Big 12 championship,” Sooners safety Peyton Bowen said.

“Well, I expect us to get back on the horse,” Texas coach Steve Sarkisian said. “I think that this locker room is full of champions and our goal is to go win a championship this year. So we have to handle our business.”

Oklahoma (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) moved up seven spots in the new AP Top 25 poll on Sunday. Texas (5-1, 2-1), which won at Alabama earlier this season, dropped six spots. Both have open dates next weekend before a six-week stretch of games to end the regular season and determine if they meet again this year, possibly with a berth in the four-team College Football Playoff on the line.

The only time since 1903 the Sooners and Longhorns played twice in the same season was in 2018, their lone meeting in a Big 12 title game and the only time since 1929 they haven’t played on the edge of the State Fair of Texas midway. They had the same AP rankings as they do now when Oklahoma avenged its only regular-season loss with a 39-27 win and got into the playoff.

While the loss on Saturday squashed a growing sentiment that Texas could be the nation’s No. 1 team, the Longhorns and their fans might find solace in the fact that Oklahoma twice has made the playoff in same season when losing the Red River rivalry game.

A year after not being able to play in Oklahoma’s 49-0 loss to the Longhorns because of a concussion, Dillon Gabriel threw a 3-yard touchdown to Nic Anderson with 15 seconds left Saturday. He was the first Sooners quarterback to have at least 250 yards passing and 100 yards rushing against Texas.

“I could feel the confidence just buzzing off of him, and it filled the rest of the team,” Anderson said.

That Red River game last year, coach Brent Venables’ first as head coach of the Sooners, was the most lopsided shutout loss in school history. It was also part of their first losing season (6-7) since 1998, though each of the four losses after that game came by three points.

These Sooners are 6-0 for the 10th time since 2000, when Venables was defensive coordinator for their last national championship. He was later part of two national titles with Clemson before returning to Norman last season.

“I think it goes without saying, and we’ve talked about this, we’re better in every area. We’re not where want to be. But this is the next step,” Venables said, reflecting back to one year earlier. “This was a great opportunity for us (Saturday), take that next step. This was an important one. Last year was an embarrassment.”

The coach, who has been in a lot of big games, acknowledged that there was a “redemptive piece” in that victory for the Sooners, and that it “doesn’t take a back seat to any one of them.”

Before moving to the SEC next season, the Sooners have a chance to add to their record 14 Big 12 championships, which included six in a row from 2015-20 when they made the College Football Playoff four times.

Texas, Baylor, and Kansas State are tied for the second-most Big 12 titles, at three each. The Longhorns were champions in the Big 12’s inaugural season in 1996, in their 2005 national title season, and last in 2009.

After Texas erased a 10-point deficit on Saturday and went ahead 30-27 on Bert Auburn’s 45-yard field goal with 1:17 left, Gabriel led Oklahoma 75 yards in five plays for the game-winning touchdown.

“We didn’t play our best football,” Sarkisian said. “Our fight and our resilience gave us the opportunity to finish the game, and the promising thing is we can play better, and I promise we will.”

Keep that promise and the Longhorns could see the Sooners again in eight weeks.

 

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