NORMAN — Feels the same, Bob Stoops says. This OU-Texas game feels just like all the others.
That first Stoops/Mack Brown meeting in 1999, back before either school knew what it had in the coach's office. Those top-five showdowns in 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2008. All those early October games that seemed more national quarterfinal than early conference tilt.
“Doesn't have any different feel,” Stoops said Monday. “Not in my eyes.”
That makes one of us.
OU-Texas 2012 is right where it usually is — ABC national television, 11 a.m. kickoff — but the Schooner and Bevo are loping in unfamiliar terrain. Side by side, chasing others in the Big 12.
For the first time since 2004, neither OU nor Texas is the defending Big 12 champ. OSU crashed the party last December, and now two others threaten to do the same. OU lost at home to Kansas State, Texas lost at home to West Virginia, and those two squads are in the Big 12 driver's seat.
Suddenly, Big 12 football is much more than just a Stoops/Mack duel. Time was, OU-Texas was a coronation. A title to be won when the weather still was warm. Now, OU-Texas is a virtual elimination game. The Sooners and the ‘Horns are planning knockout Saturday in the Cotton Bowl.
Strange times for the coaches who have dominated this conference.
Back in '99, Stoops and Mack were the upstarts. Nebraska and Kansas State ruled the conference, and OU and Texas were just trying to climb over Texas A&M in the South Division.
Since then, the Sooners and Longhorns have run roughshod over the conference. Starting with the 2000 season, OU is 80-19 in Big 12 play, Texas is 75-24 and no other league member is within 20 wins of either.
Stoops and Mack have ruled the Big 12 like few duos in college football history.
“I could care less about that,” Stoops said. “I'm just fortunate that I've been at a great place that long. This is about the players and the team, not Mack and I.”