One of the premier rivalries in all of college football will be renewed at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Saturday as the No. 3 Texas Longhorns will battle the No. 12 Oklahoma Sooners at noon ET on ABC.
When you think about heated, blood rivalries in the sport, Red River stands right up there with the Iron Bowl and Michigan-Ohio State. This annual border war at the State Fair of Texas has stood for numerous generations and spans back to before Oklahoma even achieved statehood. A who’s who of some of the most iconic players and coaches in college football history have played a role in this rivalry, bolstering the annual mystique this game holds.
Below, we’ll dive into the long history of Oklahoma vs. Texas.
History of Texas vs. Oklahoma
Total games played: 118
Record: Texas leads 63-50-5
First game: October 10, 1900, Texas wins 28-2 in Austin
Last game: October 8. 2022, Texas wins 49-0 in Dallas
Oklahoma and Texas first faced each other in 1900 and quickly began playing each other with regularity. The rivalry took a brief hiatus from 1924-1928, but returned in 1929 and has been uninterrupted ever since. The 1929 game was pivotal because it 1. solidified the game as a neutral site rivalry to be played at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas and 2. introduced the Golden Hat trophy.
UT would dominate OU with a 6-0-1 record right out the gate before the Sooners finally got on the board with a 2-0 victory in Oklahoma City in 1905. The rivalry was then more even until 1919, when OU decided to depart the recently formed Southwest Conference to form the Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association (eventually known as the Big 8). Beginning in 1922, the Longhorns would outright win nine of the next 11 matchups before the Sooners broke through and won back-to-back games in 1938 and 1939. That ‘38 team finished the regular season with a perfect 10-0 record and it’s eventual loss to Tennessee in the Orange Bowl marked the program’s first appearance in a bowl game.
Under head coach Dana X. Bible, Texas would resume its dominance over Oklahoma throughout the 1940’s, a stretch that included it making its first bowl appearance in the 1943 Cotton Bowl. However, fortunes would shift for OU in 1947 when assistant coach Bud Wilkinson was elevated to head coach after his predecessor Jim Tatum was fired for paying his players.
Oklahoma established itself as a bonafide national juggernaut in the 1950’s under Wilkinson, winning three national championships in the decade and winning a still-standing record of 47 straight games from 1953 to 1957. That run also included taking complete control of the Red River Rivalry, winning nine of 10 games against Texas from 1948 to 1957. With its program falling on hard times, Texas turned to one of Wilkinson’s former quarterbacks at OU and hired Darrell Royal in 1957 to turn things around.
Royal did just that by re-establishing Texas as a national power and claiming three national championships from 1963 to 1970. That run included him dominating his alma mater Oklahoma, winning the Red River Rivalry 12 out of 13 years from 1958 to 1970. The Sooners had begun to fade in national relevance in the early ‘60’s and after the short-lived runs of Gomer Jones and Jim Mackenzie as head coach, assistant Chuck Fairbanks was elevated to head coach. Fairbanks had a decent amount of success at OU and finally beat Texas in a 48-27 drubbing in 1971. The Sooners would finish the year 11-1 and that earned him a head coaching job with the New England Patriots and in his place came an assistant coach by the name of Barry Switzer.
Switzer would become synonymous with OU football over the next 15 seasons and almost immediately stamped himself by claiming back-to-back national championships in 1974 and 1975. Part of him stamping himself was his success against Texas, as he posted a 4-0-1 record through his first five games in the Red River Rivalry. After Royal retired in 1976, former UT offensive coordinator Fred Akers returned to the program and once again flipped the Tide of Red River.
Akers would have Switzer’s number heading into the early 80’s, going 5-2 against Oklahoma before the two teams tied in the famous 1984 game. Recruiting stars like Jamelle Holieway and Brian Bosworth to his program, however, Switzer re-established OU as a juggernaut in the mid-80’s and rattled off four consecutive victories over Texas before stepping down after the 1988 season.
Texas would dominate Oklahoma throughout the 1990’s as the Sooners faded in national relevance during the Gary Gibbs, Howard Schnellenberger, and John Blake eras. It was during this period where the Big 8 and Southwest Conferences merged to form the Big 12 in 1996, making Red River a conference rivalry for the first time in over 70 years.
The arrivals of Bob Stoops at OU and Mack Brown at Texas would usher in a new golden era of the rivalry as the two programs returned to the ranks of the sport’s elite. Starting with his national title team in 2000, Stoops’ Sooners won the Golden Hat five straight years before Brown’s Vince Young-led title team finally beat OU in 2005. UT would win three of the next four after that. With UT beginning to fade in the 2010’s, Stoops would win five of the next seven games prior to his retirement following the 2016 season.
Since 2017, Oklahoma has beaten Texas in five of seven tries and that includes its 39-27 victory over the Longhorns in the 2018 Big 12 Championship Game. However, Texas struck back in a big way in 2022 with Quinn Ewers and Bijan Robinson destroying the Sooners in a 49-0 rout.
Biggest game in series history: 1984
The 1984 matchup was the only game in Red River history that saw the teams enter ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the nation. Rain was pouring down, and what would have been a game-winning interception in the final moments was called back, allowing Texas to kick a game-tying field goal. The game ended in a 15-15 tie, still over a decade to go until overtime would be implemented.
Most important player in series history: Texas QB Colt McCoy
McCoy went 3-1 against the Sooners during his time in Austin and was one of the central figures of the rivalry’s golden era of the 2000’s. In 2008, McCoy led No. 5 Texas in unseating No. 1 Oklahoma, 45-35. He threw two touchdowns in the final eight minutes of the game and overcame an early 21-10 deficit to upset the country’s top program at the time.
Odds for 2023
Spread: Texas -5.5
Moneyline: Texas -205, Oklahoma +170