The 119th meeting between the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas is set to take place Saturday at 11:00 am (Central) at the State Fair of Texas in the historic Cotton Bowl.
The Red River Rivalry has always been a highlight of each college football season, pitting two of the most recognizable names in college football against one another in what is usually a very exciting game. But this year the game means a little more, as it signifies the end of an era for college football. After this year, the game will no longer hold Big 12 title, national championship, or College Football Playoff implications.
That’s because as the conference realignment wheel spins, these rivalry game victories are now the pinnacle achievement that a lot of teams can reach in a season. As much as it pains me to say that, it’s true.
If you are a middle-of-the-road team in the current SEC or B1G, with the new additions coming next year, your ceiling is lowered tremendously. Oklahoma and Texas fans, that includes you. You may be a “blue blood” program now, but once you are in the SEC with the likes of LSU, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Florida, you will have a lower chance of winning the conference, much less making the College Football Playoff.
And with the conference title out of reach, that makes beating your biggest rival all the more meaningful.
Let me use my home state team, the Minnesota Golden Gophers, as an example.
The University of Minnesota has never won the B1G West despite being close many times, but there was always next year. Maybe next year they could finally break through, reach the B1G championship game and make it to the Rose Bowl. Maybe instead of eight wins, they could get a lucky break in the schedule and win 10 or more games.
That was always the ceiling/dream season fantasy that we Gophers always had. Unfortunately, that’s what it will always end up being — just a dream.
With the additions of Oregon, Washington, UCLA and USC to the B1G beginning next season, it makes the climb up the mountain of the B1G insurmountable. It’s hard enough for Ohio State and Michigan to play a full slate of B1G teams and come out on the other side with no more than two losses. Considering the Gophers are 4-61 since 1980 against just Ohio State and Michigan, the only time we can smell the roses will be when we buy some roses off the highway while we are in L.A. for a conference game and pretend it’s the real thing.
In other words, the best season that the Gophers can most likely achieve is an eight-win season and mid-tier bowl game. OU and Texas may have a slightly higher ceiling, but realistically, they will be on the same plain. So, where does that leave the fans? Where can a fan of a team in this situation find any joy? How can they frame a season as successful when the deck is stacked against them?
The answer: their rivalry games.