There’s much that makes the Red River Showdown one of the most unique games in college football.
The fans split down the 50-yard-line. The State Fair of Texas bustling just outside the Cotton Bowl gates. The bus rides by the teams through the fairgrounds to the stadium, with thousands of fans lining the streets either cheering or jeering, depending on which bus is in front of them.
Much of that will be different Saturday when No. 22 Texas and Oklahoma square off in Dallas.
“To pull into the fairgrounds without anybody there will be a little eerie,” Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said. “It’ll be different, there’s no doubt. And that’s just 2020 right now, I guess.”
Riley said he didn’t anticipate much difference once the game itself begins, though.
The game will also be unique because of where the two teams stand after three games.
Oklahoma is unranked heading into the game for the first time since 2005, having started Big 12 play with consecutive losses for the first time since 1998.
Texas is also coming off a loss to TCU after needing a flurry of points the week before to force overtime against Texas Tech before pulling out the victory.
This is the first time since 1999 that neither team has been in the top 20 entering the game.
Though both teams have struggled, Longhorns coach Tom Herman said it was too early to draw sweeping conclusions about either team.
“If we’re trying to predict the seasons after three games, there’s a lot more people with a lot more time on their hands than me,” Herman said.
Both teams have been excellent on offense, with Texas averaging 51 points per game so far to lead the FBS. While not the explosive numbers they’ve put up during Riley’s first five seasons in Norman (two as offensive coordinator and three as head coach), the Sooners are still averaging a healthy 37.7 points per game.
Much of that success stems from the quarterbacks.
Sam Ehlinger is a Red River veteran, having faced the Sooners four times already. Though Texas is just 1-3 in those games, Ehlinger has mostly performed well. He has thrown for 1,151 yards and five touchdowns — with another eight scores on the ground — against Oklahoma.
“I’ve always been impressed with his toughness and his competitiveness,” Riley said. “I think he’s improved as a thrower over the years and then one of the most impressive things to me about Sam has been his durability.
“We’ve had a lot of fun battles against him.”
Ehlinger was thrown into the game as a freshman and evolved into the veteran leader.
That’s a process Riley hasn’t had to deal with much during his time at Oklahoma.
Spencer Rattler is the first Sooners quarterback in the Riley era to sign with the Sooners directly out of high school.
While his career is off to a 1-2 start, Rattler has thrown for 977 yards and 10 touchdowns already this season.
“For a guy that is just taking over the starting role, he’s got a great command of the offense, can make plays with his feet, phenomenal thrower of the football,” Herman said. “Kind of a total package.”
–Field Level Media