NORMAN — Oklahoma would rather all focus be on the Big 12 Conference championship game rather than its opponent.
But when you are facing a bitter rival like Texas, it isn’t that simple.
The questions during Monday’s press conference ranged from having an opportunity to avenge an October loss to the Longhorns to whether Lincoln Riley would tell his team to stay away from the “Horns Down” gesture to avoid a penalty.
“It’s just another opportunity for us as a team to go out there and achieve the goals that we want to achieve, which is winning the Big 12 championship this year and obviously trying to win it for the fourth time in a row is really important to us, trying to do something that’s never been done before,” OU linebacker Kenneth Murray said. “That’s the main focus for us is going out there, competing with each other, fighting as a team and trying to get this Big 12 championship.”
The teams will meet at 11 a.m. Saturday inside AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
For OU, it’s a chance to continue a string of Big 12 titles that began in 2015 and maintain its place in the College Football Playoff conversation. For the Longhorns, it’s an opportunity to win its first league championship since 2009.
Plus there’s that 48-45 loss to the Longhorns on Oct. 6. The game jostled the Big 12 standings and also was the last for former defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.
Riley said this game seems fitting since Texas had a “tremendous year” and deserves to be in the game. He also pointed out how Oklahoma won the league outright after regular season play.
“It’s gonna have a different feel, though, because there’s always a lot riding on this game when you play it in October, no question about it, but there’s a lot of season left for both teams,” Riley said. “This one, I think, I’m sure it’s gonna be heated, but I think it would have been heated no matter who the two teams were in there, just because of what you’re playing for: you’re playing for a championship. And to me, that trumps any of this.
“I think you ask either team, any year, would you rather win the OU-Texas game or would you rather win the Big 12 championship? Well, the first answer’s gonna be you’d rather win both of them. But then the second answer is gonna be you’d rather win the Big 12 Championship. Win your conference. So I do think how important of a game it is is gonna overshadow the fact that it is OU and Texas a little bit.”
Riley’s counterpart at Texas completely agreed.
“That one’s played in October. That one’s played in the Cotton Bowl. That one’s played for the Golden Hat. And that one is over,” Texas head coach Tom Herman said on Monday. “Our motivation, I would hope, in playing the conference championship game, would be the same were it any other opponent.”
It’s expected that things will get heated between the teams on Saturday.
Will Riley tell his team to avoid a “Horns Down” gesture to stay away from drawing a penalty?
“We’re working on some clarification but I will make sure it’s fully clear to our guys what they can and can’t do,” Riley said.