Undefeated Oklahoma and Texas prepare for GameDay matchup

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Editor’s note: The following piece appears in ESPN College GameDay’s Student Ambassador section in anticipation of No. 11 Texas’ showdown with No. 3 Oklahoma Saturday at the Cotton Bowl.

The buzz is growing for Saturday’s Red River Rivalry.

Oklahoma is undefeated, ranked No. 3 in the nation, with maybe the best pass-and-catch tandem in college football. No. 11 Texas has a perfect record as well and is proving that last season may have been a fluke after all.

Just when you think the game can’t get any bigger, ESPN’s College GameDay comes to town.

“There’s a big spotlight on the game,” said sophomore cornerback Adrian Phillips. “There is a lot of outside noise — College GameDay, national TV. We have to make sure we’re in tune to our game plan.”

For the fifth time, GameDay will televised live from the State Fair in Dallas, Texas, beginning at 8 a.m. across from the Texas Hall of State and then moving inside the Cotton Bowl for the last hour, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Texas and Oklahoma have a split series when the GameDay crew is in attendance. The Sooners won in 2001 and 2002 — by a combined score of 27-49 — and the Longhorns won in 2008 and 2009.

“With it being a rivalry game, we’re extra motivated have a lot of motivation,” Phillips said.

While Oklahoma is favored by 9.5 points, the Texas players feel they match up well with the Sooners. Good enough, in fact, to pull off the upset.

“Being favored doesn’t matter,” Phillips said. “Both teams have to show up and just play your football. We have a little of that us-against-the-world feeling.”

To do that, many young Longhorns will have to handle their nerves in the pressure cooker that is the Cotton Bowl.

A true freshman will start at running back and a sophomore and a freshman will rotate in at quarterback, throwing to a receiving core comprised of mostly 18- and 19-year-olds. That, of course, is just on offense. Two sophomores and one freshman will line up at cornerback — Carrington Byndom, Adrian Phillips and Quandre Diggs — and will have the daunting assignment of slowing down OU’s Ryan Broyles and Kenny Stills.

Mistakes will be made and the momentum pendulum will swing back and forth all afternoon long, but Texas needs its young players to remain composed.

“Those guys have done a great job so far, and I don’t see a reason why they wouldn’t be able to relax and make plays this weekend,” said senior safety Blake Gideon. “They have to have the same focus, attitude and preparedness they’ve had the past weeks.”

Gideon remembers his first Red River Rivalry, a 45-35 Texas win. The stage was similar: overachieving Texas, with a crop of young players — two freshmen safeties and two sophomore cornerbacks — matched up against an elite Oklahoma offense.

“They had Sam Bradford back then, and now they have another Heisman hopeful with [Landry] Jones,” Gideon said. “They just reload every year, there’s never a down year for them.”
 

Printed October 5, 2011 as: ''Longhorns prepare for GameDay rubber match''