The Big 12 once enjoyed a wealth of tradition-rich rivalries. Because of conference realignment, that's no longer the case. Even so, the Big 12 still features one of the best rivalries in college football, and another rapidly on the rise.
We break down the rivalry landscape in the Big 12:
Top rivalry: Texas-Oklahoma. In 1947, referee Jack Sisco added a new word to the Oklahoma lexicon. He also helped the Red River Rivalry reach another level of bad blood.
With seconds left in the second quarter, Bud Wilkinson’s Sooners thought they had stuffed Texas running back Randall Clay short of the goal line to end the half. Sisco, however, inexplicably signaled touchdown. When it became obvious Clay hadn’t crossed the goal line, Sisco changed his signal to timeout. And even though the final seconds had already ticked off, Sisco granted Texas another play, which resulted in a touchdown to propel the Longhorns to a 34-14 win.
After the final whistle, several OU fans chased Sisco into the tunnel; hundreds of others lobbed glass bottles onto the field, prompting OU halfback Darrell Royal to place his helmet on his future wife, Edith, and make a similar break for the tunnel. Bottles would not be served at the Cotton Bowl again. “Sisco-ed” would turn into a curse word in Oklahoma. And the Red River game would become as good as it gets among college football rivalries.
Over the last three years, the game has lost a little of its pop. Texas has rolled over in Dallas the last two seasons. Oklahoma hasn’t been a serious national title contender since 2008.
The temperature of the rivalry, however, still boils over. The Oklahoma embarrassments have warmed up Mack Brown’s seat, even though he was in the national title game just four years ago. Bob Stoops’ 9-5 record against Texas has kept the heat off him, even though the Sooners have failed to meet preseason expectations in recent years.
In spite of the recent dip, Texas-Oklahoma -- or Oklahoma-Texas -- has featured a meeting of top-15 teams in nine of the last 13 years. It remains the top rivalry in the Big 12. And along with Ohio State-Michigan, Alabama-Auburn and Army-Navy, it continues to be among the best in college football.
Rivalry on the rise: Oklahoma-Oklahoma State. The Bedlam rivalry might still be one of the most lopsided in-state rivalries in college football history. But with Oklahoma State’s recent ascension, Bedlam has become one of the most entertaining rivalries in the country. At least in the last three years, it’s had more riding on it than any other Big 12 game -- and that includes the Red River Rivalry.
In 2010, a Bedlam shootout decided the South Division. In 2011, the Big 12 title was on the line in Bedlam. And last year, the game again didn’t disappoint, as Oklahoma outgunned the Cowboys in overtime 51-48, causing Sooners defensive coordinator Mike Stoops to sprint around the field for several minutes in celebration.
Bedlam could be the game in the Big 12 yet again. Oklahoma State and Oklahoma were picked first and second in the league’s preseason poll.
Rivalry fading: Other rivalries in the Big 12 haven’t so much faded, as much as they’ve been completely destroyed by conference realignment. Oklahoma no longer plays Nebraska. Texas no longer faces Texas A&M. Even the Border War pitting Missouri against Kansas is defunct.
Thanks to conference realignment, the only Big 12 rivalries left that award trophies are the Red River Rivalry (Golden Hat), Bedlam (Bedlam Bell), Kansas State-Kansas (Governor’s Cup) and Texas-Texas Tech (Chancellor's Spurs).
With the Horned Frogs now in the Big 12, the TCU-Baylor rivalry that was forged in the old Southwest Conference could be rekindled. But that’s an anomaly. Usually conference realignment destroys rivalries. And no conference has witnessed more rivalries destroyed through conference realignment than the Big 12.