Big Game Hunting: Texas over Oklahoma in Red River ‘rubber match’?

College football nuts will recall the early-2000s version of the Red River rivalry. It was so one-sided, so brutally Oklahoma over Texas, that it could be hard to watch. Then-Sooners coach Bob Stoops became a superstar as his teams destroyed Mack Brown’s Longhorns over five games, from 2000 to 2004, by a combined score of 189-54.

But since then? The Big 12’s flagship programs are a much more palatable 6-6 head-to-head. Feel free to look at No. 12 Oklahoma vs. Texas (2:30 p.m., ESPN) as a tiebreaker of sorts.

The Sooners (4-1, 1-1 Big 12), 7½-point favorites, are coming off a bewildering loss at home to Iowa State. The unranked Longhorns (3-2, 2-0) have played their share of Top 25-worthy football, losing in overtime at USC and surviving an overtime test last week against dangerous Kansas State. In between those games, the Longhorns won at Iowa State by 10. So there’s that.

Stoops has departed, replaced by 34-year-old Lincoln Riley, the youngest head coach in the FBS ranks. Brown is, of course, long gone. Former Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman, like Riley in Year 1, holds the reins.

Half crimson, half burnt orange — and 100 percent awesome.

Yet the spectacle endures. Half the stadium in crimson, the other half in burnt orange. And it’s delightful that this game — which seems an obvious fit for massive-yet-charmless AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas — continues to be played at Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas during the second weekend of the Texas State Fair.

Some things in this crazy world are just as they ought to be.

‘‘When you go into one of the most storied rivalries in college football, if not the most, I think it is important that you recognize that this is a big game for a lot of people in both states,’’ said Herman, who was a graduate assistant under Brown in 1999 and 2000.

Oklahoma has the Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Baker Mayfield, but Texas has the ball-control mentality and meat-grinder defense to give the Sooners fits. Any tiebreaker worth its salt is close and extra tense. Hook ’Em in an upset.

Five others:

No. 6 TCU -6 at Kansas State (11 a.m., FS1): This is the only real hurdle for the Horned Frogs (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) until November. The Wildcats (3-2, 1-1) will grind until the end, but the Frogs have more playmakers and lead the conference in sacks and fewest sacks allowed. TCU, 31-24.

No. 9 Ohio State -24 at Nebraska (6:30 p.m., FS1): Quietly — which is really odd, considering the constant attention paid to Urban Meyer’s program — the Buckeyes (5-1, 3-0 Big Ten) are leading all conference teams in total offense by more than 100 yards per game. The Huskers (3-3, 2-1) are middle-of-the-pack on both sides of the ball. It’s not a fair fight. Buckeyes by 20.

Georgia Tech +5½ at No. 11 Miami (2:30 p.m., Ch. 7): The winner of this one will be in superb shape in the ACC Coastal. The Yellow Jackets (3-1, 2-0) are off to an insane start in the rushing department, averaging 396 yards on the ground. The Hurricanes (4-0, 2-0) get their turn in triple-option hell, but coach Mark Richt has a terrific team that can withstand it. Hurricanes by 10.

No. 10 Auburn -7 at LSU (2:30 p.m., Ch. 2): Is it too cute to guarantee a Tigers victory? Hey, it’s a perfectly good annual joke, as far as we’re concerned. If you’re confused: Both Auburn (5-1, 3-0 SEC) and LSU (4-2, 1-1) are the Tigers. (And if you needed that explained to you, what is your malfunction?) Aubie keeps itself in the playoff picture in commanding fashion.

Utah +13 at No. 13 USC (7 p.m., Ch. 7): The Utes (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) love a good fight with the Trojans (5-1, 3-1). The Men of Troy are due for a complete effort. Fight On, 34-17.

My favorite favorite: No. 7 Wisconsin -16½ vs. Purdue (2:30 p.m., BTN). The Boilermakers (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) are a pleasant surprise, but the Badgers (5-0, 2-0) wear them down into sweaty nubs.

My favorite underdog: No. 25 Navy +3½ at Memphis (2:45 p.m., ESPNU). The Middies (5-0, 3-0 American) knock the Tigers (4-1, 1-1) out of the West race.

Last week: 7-2 straight up, 5-4 against the spread.

Season to date: 33-13 straight up, 24-22 against the spread.

Follow me on Twitter @SLGreenberg.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

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