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Shoot, a rivalry hot even on paper

Texas and Oklahoma, their big game already past, are ranked No. 2 and 3 in the BCS. Let the sniping resume.

November 24, 2008|CHRIS DUFRESNE | Dufresne is a Times staff writer.

The annual "Red River Shootout" between Texas and Oklahoma was downgraded to "Red River Rivalry" a few years ago because "shootout" was thought too strident a word to describe a fiercely competitive game between schools that, deep down, respected each other.

Keep your powder dry -- it could be headed back to "shootout."

Fans from both base campuses were ordered to active duty with Sunday's release of the Bowl Championship Series standings.

Alabama stayed at No. 1, but that wasn't the news. The Crimson Tide has two remaining days of reckoning: this week against Auburn in the Iron Bowl and the Southeastern Conference title game on Dec. 6 against Florida.

The news wasn't USC moving up one spot, to No. 5. It was forward progress, for sure, but the Trojans still need a lot of help to gain, in two weeks, the three spots necessary to book passage to the BCS championship game Jan. 8.

The news was Oklahoma, a 65-21 winner against Texas Tech on Saturday night, pulling to within a sliver of Texas in the BCS standings.

Texas is holding on to No. 2 the way Davy Crockett held that fort in San Antonio.

The Longhorns lead No. 3 Oklahoma in the BCS by a hair on Bevo's chin: .9209 to .9125.

It stands to reason Oklahoma might jump Texas next weekend if the Sooners score a victory at BCS No. 12 Oklahoma State and Texas handles lousy A&M (4-7) in Austin.

Oklahoma has already jumped to No. 2 in this week's USA Today coaches' poll. Texas is No. 4.

Should Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech win next weekend (the Red Raiders host Baylor), there will be a three-way tie in the Big 12 South at 11-1, requiring the BCS standings to be used to determine which team plays Missouri in the Dec. 6 conference title game.

If Oklahoma finishes ahead of Texas, goes on to beat Missouri, and then finishes No. 2 in the BCS ahead of No. 3 Texas, you won't hear the end of it.

Texas, you may recall, defeated Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. It was in all the papers, but unfortunately, the BCS computers can't read.

It wouldn't be the first time an "outrage" had occurred in BCS history, and the last outrage didn't shut the BCS down.

In 2000, Miami defeated Florida State in the regular season, but Florida State edged out Miami out for the national-title berth.

Hurricanes Coach Butch Davis got over it by going to the Cleveland Browns.

Next week should be fun to watch. Oklahoma and Texas, their coaches and fans, their alums and close friends, will all be lobbying hard for the cause.

Texas Coach Mack Brown has already run one successful rankings campaign. In 2004, he was involved in another ugly BCS chapter when Texas and Cal waged a decimal-point fight for the No. 4 spot that guaranteed the winner a trip to the Rose Bowl.

Brown got on a soapbox to make his team's case while Cal, which still hasn't been to a Rose Bowl since 1959, let Brown set the agenda.

A few votes switched from Cal to Texas, and the Longhorns were Pasadena-bound to play Michigan.

The AP reacted by pulling its poll out of the BCS, and several writers -- including me -- were forever prohibited by their newspapers from participating in polls.

But they still didn't shut the BCS down, and they won't this time.

Brown may have an even better argument for his team this season than in 2004, but this season's standings could work against him.

Here's a surprise: Texas made Brown available to ESPN during Sunday night's Big East game between Connecticut and South Florida.

Brown was his usual, gracious, well-spoken self.

"This was a team that a lot of people didn't think would be very good, thought it would be an average team by Texas standards," Brown said of his Longhorns, who actually began the season ranked No. 11 in the AP poll.

Brown might have stopped by a Harris poll voter's house for Thanksgiving dinner this week if his team weren't playing Texas A&M.

Of course, Brown is only doing his job. He's a post-season advocate who said this year's race has "playoffs written all over it."

Short of that sea change, he'll hand out pamphlets on a street corner if that's what it takes to get Texas elected.

Brown has one more advantage.

He's a voter in the USA Today coaches' poll this season.

Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops is not.

Weekend wrap

Why should Ohio State fans be rooting for Kentucky to beat Tennessee this week? Because a ESPN researcher -- the network has 85 on scholarship -- recently noted that if Tennessee (4-7) suffers another defeat, Ohio State will stand as the only major-college program that has never had an eight-loss season.

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