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Red River Showdown: An Atmosphere Few Can Rival

The stage is that big. The hype is that real. The weight is that heavy. This is the Red River Showdown.

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The Oklahoma and Texas offensive and defensive lines face each other in the Red River Showdown - Getty Images - Icon Sportswire
Getty Images - Icon Sportswire

It’s Red River Week. THE Showdown. The Texas State Fair. The history. Texas versus Oklahoma. Before we get to that though, let’s clear the air on something many won’t like. But it may fire you up even more, and who doesn’t need that during a huge rivalry week.

If you think quarterback Jalen Hurts is lacking enthusiasm about the rivalry game on Saturday, you’re wrong.

Hurts was asked earlier in the week about the magnitude of the game and he responded.

“I played in the Iron Bowl,” Hurts said. “I’ve played in big games. Think I’ll be alright.”

Some didn’t take too kindly to Hurts comparing the Red River Showdown to the Iron Bowl. Texas defensive back BJ Foster disagreed with Hurts as he let Anwar Richardson know.

“It’s very different,” B.J. Foster said. “This is Texas. Texas is different. Football is more physical at Texas. The Red River Showdown is way better.”

However, not being worried about the Red River Showdown because he has played in the Iron Bowl and the National Title game, isn’t disrespect to the Big 12 rivalry. He was simply saying that he has experience in big games and he isn’t worried about how he will perform in that moment.

Jalen is a product of Nick Saban. He played and won frequently there. The Iron Bowl has a literal blood-stained history. Hurts has played in that environment, plus the College Football Playoff and the National Championship three times in his four years of college. Hence the “few can rival” title. Jalen’s played in that metaphorical few. And if you think he’s not internally composing himself to ball out of his mind, you’re sadly mistaken. He is a true competitor.

Controversy is what drives the media and the fan bases, but Jalen comes from a program where that is nipped in the bud early on. Handle it individually and as a team among yourselves, not in the media. That is what you’re getting from Jalen Hurts right now. He’s studying, anticipating, and consuming this matchup. He is, after all, a Texan. He knows what this game is, he knows it’s implications, he knows what’s a stake.

So enough of the “he doesn’t care” nonsense. It’s because of his approach, that Todd Orlando and his defense better come to grind it out, keep fresh legs, their heads down and their feet moving. The field general they’re playing will be prepared and has the emotional fortitude to block out the noise of the media and the fan speculation.

Now that I’ve gotten some of you worked up, the tone is definitely set to talk about one of the most passionate, and arguably one of the most intense rivalry matchups in college football. 

The Red River Showdown

A fully detailed preview is in the works, so we’ll try to skim through history, stats, story lines and just stick to the part we all love; the disgust for the other side.

The hate back is enough to make you want to vomit that fried Twinkie, fried Oreo or that good ol’ nostalgic corn dog. There’s dissension in the air so thick you could cut it with a knife. There is always buzz with any game, but it’s now louder. The tailgater’s are brasher. The high-pitched squeal in your ears is at volume 11. Time stands still, and the passion and hate takeover. Anyone and everyone around that’s not there for the main event, are playing a huge game of risk, attempting to not become a bystander casualty just trying to get a cold Dr. Pepper. 

Longhorn and Sooner Nations will arrive by the masses at the Texas State Fairgrounds. Burnt orange and white proudly displaying all that is great about the Lone Star State. Longhorn fans will be buzzing with excitement as they hold the the bragging rights from last year along with the series record, only to be littered and trashed by those crimson and cream colors bragging about their win in the Big 12 Championship.

The Magnitude of the Situation

Back in 1999, Tom Herman was a graduate assistant at the University of Texas. He told his first Red River Showdown story saying,

“I think I’ve told the story, looking out the window and literally seeing this elderly lady that had to have been 80 years old, going double bird (indicating) to the Texas bus,” Herman said. “Then literally next to her was a couldn’t have more been than eight-year-old boy going double bird (indicating) to the Texas bus. It speaks to the intensity of the rivalry, that it crosses a lot of different generations.”

Texas senior Zach Shackelford also added his own input to this weekend bringing up Georgia Tech Senior offensive lineman transfer Parker Braun.

“I’ve told Parker, it’s a really cool venue first of all,” Shackelford said. “It’s 50,000 on one side, 50,000 on the other. (It’s) just a really special place to play. And you come out and fans are booing and you go over to your side and they’re all cheering, so it’s a really cool atmosphere.

“It’s a special place to be, a special place to play. This will be my fourth time playing in this environment. I think it’s really important for the young guys to just kind of … calm their nerves a little bit and know what they’re getting into. It’s gonna be a four-quarter battle.”

A battle indeed! *cue that Allstate voice* 

What Shackelford mentioned is probably one of the coolest parts of the Red River Showdown. The way the Cotton Bowl is split 50/50 by the fans. Also, the opposing team gets that side’s tunnel. So Texas fans surround and sit at the Oklahoma tunnel, and vice-versa. The teams enter the coliseum surrounded by their enemies.

Imagine that. You’re hyped up, ready to roll, immersed yourself in pregame rituals and music playlists, only to come roaring out of your locker room tunnel to boos and people talking about your mother. The stage is set, the lines cued and it’s three hours and some change until curtain call, fade to black. 

This matchup, this rivalry is storied in every aspect you can imagine. A lot of these guys played football with and against each other growing up through high school. What makes it so special is that it’s inherited love and hate. Whether you grew up in Texas or Oklahoma, or came in as a wide-eyed freshman looking to the future, it’s inherited from day zero. Like a tidal wave consumes the shore, the passionate distaste and hate for them pulls you out to sea even further. 

Atlantis was said to be lost in a day. Well Dallas, TX is consumed in an afternoon, every single year. That is what makes the Red River Showdown, arguably one of the most passionate and powerful rivalries in all of college football. The need for this game burns as bright and hot as the need for a National Championship. It’s a hunger that has never been or ever will be satisfied.

The stage is that big. The hype is that real. The weight is that heavy. This is the Red River Showdown.

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