ARLINGTON, Texas â€” The caravan of red rolled down Interstate 35 from Oklahoma into Texas.
Not Sooner red.
Nebraska fans filled the road to the Big 12 championship game, packed in vans and trucks, decked out in their red. They flew Cornhusker car flags. They sported Nebraska license plates.
This game is a big deal.
So, too, is this rivalry with Oklahoma.
â€œIt's a tremendous rivalry that's been going on between OU and Nebraska for a long time,â€ Husker coach Bo Pelini said Friday afternoon at Cowboys Stadium. â€œJust because of the tremendous tradition with the two institutions.â€
Tonight will be the 21st time that these two programs have met when both teams had a chance to win a championship. To the victor went the title.
And many times, the winner went on to win a national championship. Combined, the Sooners and the Huskers have a dozen national titles.
Talk about a big 12.
But when tonight's game is over, the Big 12 as we've always known it will be no more. Next season, Nebraska is leaving for the Big Ten, while Colorado is jumping to the Pac-10.
That means regularly scheduled OU-NU games will be a thing of the past, one of college football's most storied rivalries sacrificed on the altar of conference expansion.
â€œIt's just fitting it's us two here at the end,â€ Sooner coach Bob Stoops said. â€œCouldn't be better.â€
Even though he grew up in Ohio far removed from the two schools, he remembers watching their games when he was a kid.
â€œJust watching the two teams in red and white was special,â€ he said. â€œA lot of special coaches, players and games.â€
The rivalry is so special that the end of the schools' conference affiliation prompted OU President David Boren to write a letter to the Husker faithful.
â€œAll of us in Oklahoma have always appreciated the warm hospitality we have received over the years from Nebraska fans,â€ Boren wrote in the letter that was sent to the Omaha World-Herald, Lincoln Journal-Star and Daily Nebraskan. â€œThe deep mutual respect between fans of these two special universities is an example of what sportsmanship should be all about.â€
Sooner and Husker fans will paint the stadium red tonight, and while much of this game will be steeped in the history of this series, it isn't all about the past.
The winner, after all, wins the Big 12 title and an invite to the Fiesta Bowl.
â€œIt's all about the here and now,â€ Stoops said. â€œBut I want my players aware of some of the past games.â€
He made sure of that by showing film from some those games to his players. They watched part of the '76 game earlier this week. Friday, they watched some of the '06 game that decided the Big 12 champ.
â€œYou want them to appreciate it,â€ Stoops said. â€œBut in the end ... it's just about this game.â€
Sooner red vs. Husker red one last time for a title.