In 1996, Oklahoma was what Texas is.
Way worse, in fact.
In the 67 years the Red River Rivalry had been played in Dallas in October, the Sooners had never entered the game with four losses.
But in '96, Oklahoma headed to the Cotton Bowl under first-year coach John Blake with a record of 0-4. Oddsmakers favored the Longhorns by three touchdowns. And in its preview the day of the game, The Daily Oklahoman newspaper ran the headline, "The Red River Riot Might Be Rout."
Like those '96 Sooners, this year's Longhorns have few reasons to believe this weekend. After two early-season losses and three lackluster wins, Texas is a two-touchdown underdog. The Longhorns haven't shown life in the Cotton Bowl in three years, and haven't won in four. Texas fans are so pessimistic about this game that tickets on the burnt orange side of the bowl are going for half as much online as they are on the Oklahoma side.
But former Sooner James Allen, the hero of the '96 Red River game, and ex-Texas quarterback Peter Gardere, who engineered one of biggest upsets in series history, have messages of hope for the Longhorns.
"The rankings mean nothing in this game," Gardere said. "It's played on so much adrenaline, really strange things can happen."
Underdogs have usually not fared well in the Red River Rivalry. But the two biggest underdogs of the past 25 years? Well, they both won.
"There's so much emotion running on both sides," Allen said. "It's a gut check like no other for the team coming in as the underdog.
"That can be a dangerous team."
Just ask the '96 Longhorns. Or the '89 Sooners.
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