Oklahoma-Texas long has been the Big 12's marquee football game. It's an institution unto itself.
But as the Longhorns floundered in the post-Colt McCoy era, OU-Texas lost a little luster. And last year, we took a major step.
In The Oklahoman's annual ranking of every Big 12 football game, OU-Texas was not No. 1 on the most-anticipated list.
Bedlam replaced it. And we were right. OSU-OU was for the Big 12 title and Fiesta Bowl berth, and the Cowboys made history with a 44-10 swamping of the Sooners in Stillwater.
Now it's 2012, and with no Brandon Weeden or Justin Blackmon in the Cowboys' kaleidoscope orange, gray and black, and still no quarterback of substance in Austin, the Big 12 needs a new marquee game.
And to the rescue comes conference realignment.
On Nov. 17, amid Country Roads and Appalachian Mountains, the Sooners play at West Virginia in what very well could be the de facto Big 12 championship game.
We've named it the No. 1 Big 12 game going into the 2012 season. You can see the full list, one through 75, on pages 10-11B.
“That's tall cotton for us Mountaineers,” West Virginia Oliver Luck athletic director said with a trace of irony, considering the crop preferences of his new conference brothers.
But that's why the Mountaineers wanted so badly to find a new home like the Big 12. For games like this.
For games matching Heisman-contending quarterbacks in Geno Smith and Landry Jones, for games matching teams destined for the preseason top-10.
For games that could be a virtual national semifinal in these final few pre-Football Four days.
Most preseason pundits have OU and West Virginia 1-2 or 2-1 in the Big 12.
“I don't know about that,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who spent nine seasons as an assistant coach at Texas Tech (2000-07) or OSU (2010) and thus well knows the Big 12 and the Sooners.
“Obviously, whole lot of things have to happen in order for that to come true.
“Hopefully we can win some games to make that game as good as everybody's anticipating.”
West Virginia is no stranger to big games. The Mountaineers played Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl for the 1988 national title. In the last seven seasons, they've beaten Clemson in the Orange Bowl, OU in the Fiesta Bowl and Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
But it's been awhile since West Virginia played a game in Morgantown of the status OU could provide. The Mountaineers hosted LSU in 2011, Auburn in 2008 and Ohio State in 1998. But all of those games were pre-November.
You have to go back to 1993, when the Mountaineers upset Miami 17-14, to find a late-season showdown game in Morgantown.
If OU and West Virginia cooperate, Milan Puskar Stadium will be rocking just the way Boone Pickens Stadium rocked last December.
Welcome to the Big 12, West Virginia, and thanks for providing such a richly-anticipated game in Year 1.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.