The stakes have never been higher for the red river rivalry

By Ross Love

Every year the Red River Rivalry is one of the most iconic games on the college football schedule. But not since 2008 has the annual meeting of Texas and Oklahoma carried this much weight.

When the Longhorns and Sooners descend on the Cotton Bowl this Saturday, not only will there be historical implications in the fact that this is the final meeting under the Big 12 banner. There are National Championship and playoff implications.

All this is on top of the sheer hatred the schools share for one another.

With Texas ranked 3rd and Oklahoma 12th, it’s the best combined ranking for the Red River Rivalry since 2011 (excluding the 2018 Big 12 Championship game).

Both programs are undefeated and have the college football playoff in their sights. So, just what is at stake for Texas and Oklahoma this Saturday?


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Texas has held the bragging rights for the past year. A 49-0 thrashing put the Sooners in a state of embarrassment and forced them to be the brunt of jokes all year.

This season, Steve Sarkisian has the Texas program in the best place it has been in recent memory. For the first time in years, Texas is back. And I say that in all seriousness, not in sarcastic jest.

But a loss to Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry will bring out the hoards of college football fans just waiting to push send on the same old Texas memes.

The Texas haters would rejoice and say that Sarkisian, Ewers, and the Longhorns choked. You can beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa, but when the pressure mounts, it’s the same old Texas they’ll say.

Beyond the internet noise, a loss would have legitimate, potentially dire consequences.

With a loss, Texas would lose control of their own destiny.

It’s not difficult to see Georgia, Michigan, and Ohio State running the table (until Michigan vs. Ohio State). And despite their up-and-down start, Florida State could win out also. It leaves little wiggle room for a one-loss Texas to sneak in the back door of the playoff. Especially with teams like Washington, Oregon, and USC on the cusp.

Brutal? Unfair? Ruthless? Welcome to college football. Just be glad we’re out of the BCS era.

But winning back-to-back Red River Rivalry games for the first time since 2008/2009 completely flips that narrative.

A 6-0 Texas team with wins over Alabama, Kansas, and Oklahoma should be the #1 team in the country. They’d be in the driver’s seat on the road to the playoff.

On paper, Oklahoma is Texas’ last big hurdle. I know that sounds ridiculous at the start of October. But on paper, no other opponent they’ll face is as talented as Alabama or Oklahoma.

Put it simply, Texas’ season is on the line this Saturday.


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Oklahoma is the quietest-ranked team in the country. No one is talking about them. And that’s the way they like it.

But rewind to last year when Brent Venables was introduced to the Red River Rivalry in the worst way. He had to play the game without Dillon Gabriel and paid the heavy price.

It’s only his second year in charge of the program. But going 0-2 against Texas is a surefire way to get on the wrong side of the fanbase.

Venables’ position as head coach should not be evaluated on a single game. But, a loss this weekend would bring up questions about their supposed rebuild.

Another debilitating loss, with Dillon Gabriel this time, would have people believing that the Sooners are not where they thought they were. An unfair assumption on one game, sure. But an assumption that would be made.

As I mentioned, the Sooners are the highest, quietest ranked team. Sitting at 12 in the latest rankings, a Big 12 championship and a playoff berth are still fully in their sights. A loss derails this hope.

The bottom line is, just like I said for Texas, there’s no room for a one-loss Oklahoma team in the playoff.

Venables went 6-7 in his first year and still has something to prove. Flipping the script and beating Texas would instil confidence in not just Venables, but the program as a whole.

If Oklahoma beat Texas, with everything the Longhorns have achieved this year, it would show that the program is heading in the right direction. And even ready to compete in the SEC.

It would also turn the Sooners from the quietly ranked team to the team with the most noise.

Just like Texas, Oklahoma currently doesn’t have another ranked opponent on their schedule. They don’t play another out-of-conference game. And the Big 12 looks pretty heinous this year.

Getting revenge on Texas this year would clear a path straight to the Big 12 championship game. And even the college football playoff.


The Red River Rivalry is riddled with upsets. It’s consistently one of the most chaotic and absurd games of the year.

With everything at stake this year, expect no different.

Two great programs at the height of college football. Quinn Ewers vs. Dillon Gabriel. Steve Sarkisian vs. Brent Venables. OU. Texas. College football doesn’t get better than this.


NFL/CFB/Draft Analyst

A lifelong football player and fan based in the North of Scotland, Ross is a staunch member of the Longhorn and Cowboy faithful. Covering all things College Football and NFL related for several years, you can follow Ross on Twitter @rosslove22