It’s 10:50 a.m.—or whenever you’re reading this—and OU still, you know…
Yes, it’s Red River Rivalry week in Texas, with the sixth-ranked Sooners (5-0) and the No. 11 Longhorns (4-1) meeting for the 114th time, including last year’s twofer—though we’re pretty sure the Big 12 Championship game should not count on the “Red River Showdown” Wikipedia page. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Cotton Bowl doesn’t claim sole possession of our state’s packed college football weekend. At 2:30 p.m. at Kyle Field, No. 24 Texas A&M (3-2) is hosting top-ranked Alabama (5-0), making for the biggest Texas two-step of the season, if not the decade.
This is the most significant UT-OU game in a while, with actual College Football Playoff stakes for both teams. Oklahoma’s aiming for its third straight CFP appearance, and unlike last year, when UT stumbled against Maryland early, the Longhorns still have a shot, despite losing to No. 5 LSU. Meanwhile, A&M hasn’t beaten Alabama since 2012, its first year in the SEC (the year of Johnny Football). But catching up to Nick Saban is what the Aggies are paying Jimbo Fisher $7.5 million a year to do.
Anything can happen in a rivalry game, and in College Station. Still, we must acknowledge that the Sooners (-10.5) and the Tide (-17) are both heavily favored. In recent years, OU (twelve Big 12 championships to UT’s three) and ‘Bama (five of the last ten national championships) have just been the better college football programs.
Yet, even when it comes to football, it’s fair to say that Alabama and Oklahoma would be nothing without Texas. Here are five reasons why.
We’ve got all the quarterbacks
This year’s Oklahoma team will be led into the Cotton Bowl by senior quarterback Jalen Hurts. That’s right: the same Jalen Hurts who played for two national championships at Alabama (he’s a graduate transfer). Hurts is from Channelview, just outside of Houston.
Kyler Murray, who won last year’s Heisman Trophy with the Sooners, now plays for Arizona in the NFL (where’s he’s being hazed by former Longhorn Jordan Hicks). He played his high school ball in Allen and transferred to OU from Texas A&M.
The Sooners’ 2017 Heisman Trophy winner was Austin native, Lake Travis High School graduate, and former Texas Tech quarterback Baker Mayfield (yes, another transfer). Mayfield spent three seasons in Norman. As ESPN’s Ivan Maisel notes, this is the sixth consecutive year OU’s QB has been from Texas (Trevor Knight, from San Antonio, began the streak in 2014).
And remember when Alabama won its first national championship of the ongoing Saban dynasty, at the expense of Mack Brown, Texas, and an injured Colt McCoy? The Tide were all about the defense then, but their quarterback was Greg McElroy, a product of Southlake’s Carroll High School.
We’ve also got the coaches
Oklahoma doesn’t just get its QBs secondhand from Texas. Current Sooners head coach and offensive whiz kid Lincoln Riley (he’s just turned 36) is a Muleshoe native and former Texas Tech QB who started his coaching career under (who else?) his former college coach, Mike Leach.
Plus, before Bear Bryant became a legendary head coach with the Crimson Tide, he spent three pivotal years at Texas A&M, where he won the Southwest Conference, coached Heisman winner/Aggie legend John David Crow, and ushered “The Junction Boys” into college football lore. One of those Junction Boys, Paris native and eventual Texas A&M head coach Gene Stallings, is also the only Alabama coach to win a national championship between the Bryant and Saban eras.
Saban’s Alabama program is also famous for its failed head coaches “rehab” program, which has taken in the likes of Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian, Butch Jones, and Mike Locksley as assistant coaches, or “analysts.” Squint hard at the Alabama press box, and you’ll spot former Texas quarterback and ousted University of Houston coach Major Applewhite, who was also Saban’s offensive coordinator in 2007.
We give Oklahoma a place to play
Sure, the unique joy of the Red River Rivalry is a stadium almost perfectly split between 45,000 Longhorns in burnt orange and 45,000 Sooners in crimson. But those fans in red still have to come to Dallas. Not to mention having to make a trip to Arlington for the Big 12 championship.
Nick Saban Owes Us Money
Remember when Nick Saban was supposedly interested in coming to the University of Texas in 2012? It took a few years before that myth was actually confirmed, but while Saban didn’t take the job (which also wasn’t open), the possibility of losing him was apparently enough to prompt the University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide Foundation to purchase Saban’s $3.1 million house while he continued to live there.
Remember when the Texas job actually was open a year later, and some thought UT would go after the ‘Bama coach for real? That’s when Alabama made Saban the highest paid coach in college football history, at $6.9 million a year (plus possible bonuses).
Remember when Texas A&M hired Fisher? Saban had already received several raises and extensions in the meantime, but in the summer of 2018, his total compensation jumped to $8.3 million, keeping him atop the annual salary heap.
Cultural and culinary superiority
Yet UT and A&M have much to prove on the gridiron. Until that changes—hopefully this weekend!—we can take comfort in the fact that Texas is just plain the better state. I mean, c’mon: Alabama thinks mayonnaise belongs on barbecue, while Oklahoma’s smoked meats are just copycatting us and Kansas City. And music? Would you pick Toby Keith or the band Alabama over Willie? (Hell, Alabama’s best song is about Texas!)
We rest our case.
Hook ‘em. Gig ‘em.