The Red River Shootout – I'm sorry, Red River Rivalry – always carries do-or-die implications in the Big 12 standings. But it's been a long time since it's come with such a pungent hint of an undercard: Oklahoma and Texas both are already sporting conference losses at the hands of resurgent Kansas State and newcomer West Virginia, respectively (both coming at home, no less), and neither is ranked in the top ten for the Shootout for the first time since 1999. Both programs were in the beginning stages of "rebuilding" mode then under new head coaches, Bob Stoops and Mack Brown, who would go on to combine for ten conference titles and six appearances in the BCS' designated national championship game over the next dozen years.
Theoretically, all of that is still within reach for these two teams, though it would require some help in the polls and more than we've seen from either of them on the field in quite some time. Oklahoma blew its No. 1 ranking last year in an inexplicable loss to Texas Tech, fell apart amid a flurry of key injuries in November and sleepwalked through the first month of 2012. Texas, coming off a pair of disappointing seasons in 2010 and 2011, seemed to validate the growing pains two weeks ago in a dramatic, come-from-behind win at Oklahoma State, only to watch the defense wilt last week under the heat of West Virginia's atomic offense. That loss was Texas' seventh straight against a ranked opponent dating back to the 2010 BCS title game.