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November 1, 2008It may not be "Texas Week," but Oklahoma coaches and players say there's definitely some extra buzz in the air this week in Norman as the No. 4-ranked Sooners prepare to take on Nebraska.
Nebraska and Oklahoma renew their rivalry on national television Saturday night in Norman.
"I know this is a big rivalry for a lot of people going way back," Oklahoma sophomore quarterback Sam Bradford said. "It's probably the biggest game of the season for both teams."
Before formation of the Big 12 Conference, Nebraska vs. Oklahoma was one of the premiere rivalries in college football. The clash of Big 8 powerhouses was a Thanksgiving weekend tradition. The game usually determined the Big 8 champion and often carried national championship ramifications.
Now in separate divisions of the Big 12, the Huskers and Sooners are scheduled to play one another twice every four years, although their most recent meeting actually took place in the 2006 Big 12 title game in Kansas City.
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops said there's still something special about the rivalry, even though the Huskers and Sooners don't see each other as often as they used to in the good old days of the Big 8.
"I think that it's different. There's no denying that," Stoops said. "Being in separate divisions and having a couple of years off changes it to some degree. You know, with the Big 8 and playing all those games so often after Thanksgiving to decide who is going to be the Big 8 champion. It has changed to some degree, but there is still no doubt it is still exciting."
Bradford, an Oklahoma native, will be playing in his first NU-OU game. He's well aware of the tradition and importance of the rivalry.
"I think, growing up in the state, you knew about the battle of Big Reds," Bradford said. "Probably, the game I remember the most, was the year we won the national championship (2000). I was playing a hockey game so I wasn't able to come to the game. I remember the first thing after my game was over, I skated over to the glass and I asked my dad if we won, and he said that we did."
Freshman defensive end Frank Alexander will also be playing Nebraska for the first time. He expects both teams to bring their "A" game to Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium Saturday night.
"I didn't really know as much about the OU-Nebraska rivalry, but the coaches showed us a clip over it the other day to let us know how serious it is," Alexander said. "It's the next biggest rivalry to Texas, so I think everybody will go out Saturday with that on their minds and knowing that Nebraska will come in looking for an upset. Our defense will be ready and I think everybody will play well."
Oklahoma leads the all-time series with Nebraska, 43-37-3. Nebraska's last victory against the Sooners came in 2001 when the Huskers prevailed in Lincoln, 20-10. Nebraska's last win in Norman was a 73-21 blowout in 1996.