Very few imagined that Oklahoma would start the season 1-2, log two consecutive losses to open Big 12 play, and fall out of the AP poll for the first time in four years.
But now, it's OU-Texas Week, and nothing has the capacity to lift a team's spirits quite like a hard-fought victory over a fierce rival. It's an opportunity for which Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley is chomping at the bit.
“Even with the differences this year and everything that has been different, we still can feel that sense of excitement and anticipation for this week," Riley said. "It never gets old, man. This game is always as fun as it gets… It’s easily the best rivalry game in college football.”
Perhaps the most prominent storyline this week is the drastic discrepancy in experience at the quarterback position, as Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger will start this season's iteration of the rivalry series for the fourth consecutive year. Meanwhile, Oklahoma will unleash Spencer Rattler, the fourth quarterback in four years to start the Red River Showdown for the Sooners. All three of Rattler's predecessors - Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts - beat Ehlinger. Now Rattler faces his toughest test as a starting quarterback just four games into his redshirt freshman season.
“This’ll be the fourth different quarterback I’ve rolled out there with Sam on the other side," Riley chuckled. "Spencer’s doing well; he’s giving our football team chances to win.”
Rattler, an Arizona product, will be just the seventh quarterback in school history from a state other than Oklahoma or Texas to start the Red River Showdown. He's carrying plenty of pressure on his shoulders after two consecutive losses, and given the magnitude of the rivalry, that pressure isn't going to abate throughout the week. Nevertheless, Riley doesn't believe the moment is too big for his young quarterback, saying, "I think he understands" the significance of the matchup.
“This game always is important; I don’t know that it’s any more or less important than it always is," said Riley. "For a regular-season game, it’s about as good as you get every single year.”
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