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Texas, Oklahoma have no motivation problem

Texas, Oklahoma have no motivation problem

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Associated Press

DALLAS -- First came the flyovers. Then the Big 12 tiebreaker that helped Oklahoma win the league title. A few months later in Austin there was -- briefly -- an asterisk.

The annual Texas-Oklahoma rivalry at the Cotton Bowl is always a grudge match. Saturday's game between the No. 3 Longhorns and No. 20 Sooners also carries national title implications and promises to be extra spicy after what happened last season.

Forgot? Here's a rundown.

Texas beat Oklahoma to vault to No. 1. A few weeks later, the Sooners, Long-horns and Texas Tech were in a three-way tie in the Big 12 South. The border battle then became the banner war.

A plane circled the stadium at Oklahoma's regular-season finale with a banner: "Texas 45 OU 35 -- Settled on a Neutral Field." A few days later, a flying message over Austin teased Texas with "Hey Mack, quit whining. U knew the rules."

The Big 12 tiebreaker went to Oklahoma. The Sooners went to the BCS title game in Florida and Texas got bumped to the Fiesta Bowl.

Still seething months later, the Texas staff claimed the 2008 Big 12 title on the champions wall in the team complex, putting an asterisk next to the year before coach Mack Brown ordered it taken down.

So now Texas tries to tries to get revenge against a team it beat last season.

"I'm sure they're a little bitter," Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford said. "We're a little bitter that they beat us last year. I'm sure both sides are going to be pretty amped up come Saturday."

The Longhorns (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) insist they've put the past in the past and that Saturday is about trying to win league and national titles in 2009, not replaying 2008.

"OU had nothing to do with keeping us out," Brown said. "We lost at Tech. It was on us. We should have been mad at ourselves for letting it get out of the control of our own destiny."

The Longhorns opened this season at No. 2 eyeing three goals: the Big 12 and national titles and a Heisman Trophy for quarterback Colt McCoy. The first two are still in reach if they keep winning. McCoy's trophy campaign needs a boost.

McCoy, runner-up to Bradford for the Heisman last season, has 1,410 yards passing with 10 touchdowns but also has six interceptions. Some early missteps led to slow starts and the Longhorns managed just two offensive touchdowns in the first half of three games this season.

McCoy has played some of his best games against the Sooners the last three years and knows another big game could vault into the favorite's role again.

"These four games I've played in have been some of the most fun. They're the ones that you remember because of the tradition, the rivalry and what it means to your conference and your season," McCoy said.

Oklahoma (3-2, 1-0) and Bradford were in the mix for the same goals when the season started. Then Bradford hurt his throwing shoulder in the first game and missed the next three.

Bradford returned last week in a win over Baylor and looked good. The losses may have ended their national title hopes, but with Bradford back, the Sooners are very much in the hunt for a seventh Big 12 title in 10 years.

"How can he not make a difference? Last year he was the best player in college football," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "In the end, we're not talking about just any old guy. He's been pretty special over and over."

For McCoy and Bradford, it will be the last time the friends face each other on the field in college. McCoy is a senior and Bradford, a junior, will likely leave for the NFL after this season.

Brown said he's glad Bradford made it back in time to play Texas.

"I thought it would be great for college football if it was Sam and Colt again," Brown said.

Saturday will be the 104th meeting between the schools in a rivalry that dates to 1900. Since 1912, they have met in Dallas, about halfway between each campus.

The Cotton Bowl sits amid the rides, food and livestock shows at the State Fair of Texas, giving the game a carnival atmosphere unrivaled in college football.

"It was crazy," said Texas safety Earl Thomas, who was a freshman last season and got his first taste of the rivalry.

"You would think it's like 5 p.m., but it's 11 in the morning," Thomas said. "Everybody's out there being rowdy."

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