By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
DALLAS – Like eating bad steak, the effects of the Red River Rivalry can usually be felt for a long time afterward.
With aspirations of conference and national championships every season, the result of the annual slobber-knocker between Texas and Oklahoma usually factors heavily into whether or not those dreams come true or fall just short.
Winners of three of the last four games in the series after edging out the Sooners 16-13 in a rare defensive standoff Saturday at the Cotton Bowl, the Longhorns have struggled to capitalize on the momentum gained by a victory in their century-long feud.
"This is a fight, it's a struggle and it's one of the greatest games ever," said Texas senior quarterback Colt McCoy, who claimed victory in his last go-round against Oklahoma.
For the Longhorns though, a win hasn't meant as much as it used after a 45-35 victory last season ended with Texas on the outside looking in and the Sooners sitting pretty as Big 12 champion and a ticket to the BCS National Championship.
"The Big 12 is a battle every week and we're about to go into a stretch like we did last year," McCoy said. "This was the most important game for us this year, and this week (against Missouri) is going to be the most important game for us now."
Of course, in the eyes of Texas coach Mack Brown, a win is a win, especially against Oklahoma.
"If you ask me if I'd rather win it or lose it, this year or last year, I'd rather win it," Brown said. "And there's no question it helps you toward the conference championship race and the national championship race."
Regardless of the records entering the game, both Texas and Oklahoma routinely know how they fare in the Red River Rivalry will usually affect how they are perceived by the rest of the country, and more importantly, how they are viewed when it comes to the always unforgiving computers that calculate the Bowl Championship Series, which releases its initial rankings later today.
Ranked No. 3 in the nation according to the AP poll entering the weekend, and seeking to prove it deserved that position or one better, the undefeated Longhorns had to scrape by in several of its games this season, ultimately winning games much like they did against Oklahoma – gutting it out.
It wasn't pretty. It wasn't the most exciting. But the victory Saturday kept Texas undefeated, which ultimately is all that matters to Brown.
"What I'm worried about is us winning all the games, because that's what we want to do," Brown said. "If the BCS thinks that if Texas wins all their games and they don't put us in, I've told the kids we've done all we can do."
Last season they failed in that endeavor, falling to an offensively potent Texas Tech squad late to set up a three-way tie in the Big 12 South standings between the Sooners, Longhorns and Red Raiders that ultimately gave Oklahoma the division's berth in the conference championship game and a shot at the national title.
"This is my 11th year here, and for a number of years the person who's won this game hasn't always won the Big 12 championship," said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. "Obviously, it's made it more difficult for us and the situation we're in, but it's a long season. You never know what could happen, or what could happen to other teams."
Following the lead of McCoy, who played Saturday despite a bad chest and throat cold as well as an injured thumb on his throwing hand, Texas is hoping as long as it continues to find a way through, all their dreams will fall into place.
"For us, next week is going to be the biggest game of the year and if we can continue to take it one at a times, we like our chances," McCoy said.
"... Coach Brown tells us all the time, focus on what you can control."
Contact Alex Byington at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (254) 501-7566.