Welcome to Dallas. Welcome to the Texas State Fair.
Welcome to the Cotton Bowl.
Welcome to the coolest rivalry set apart by the fact that somebody had the bright idea to not separate the Red River rivals’ fans by a football field, but to separate them at the 50, like tape parents use to mark off space in the backseat trying to keep their kids in line on a road trip.
Welcome to the gateway.
Welcome to the game history that says Oklahoma may very likely lose. It’s a strange way to look at it, but it’s right.
Lincoln Riley has won three of four in the series and four of five should the 2018 Big 12 championship game be counted. Bob Stoops actually won five of seven Cotton Bowl matinees before hanging up his Sooner whistle.
Yet, what OU has hardly done since 2004 is get past Texas without a loss.
It’s happened just three times since the Sooners ran the 2003 and 2004 tables before losing the BCS championship game, first to LSU and then to Southern Cal.
Since, a span of 16 seasons, OU has lost before meeting Texas nine times and the seven times the Sooners threatened to emerge the rivalry unbeaten, the Longhorns kept them from doing it four times, even without ever being favored.
It is the great divider.
Win today, and you’re truly in the hunt. Win today and the next game in which you’re not favored, should there be one, will come after Christmas.
Win this one and no longer must Lincoln Riley apologize for his offense after a victory. Nor will Alex Grinch have to apologize for his defense, though he’s bound to, because it’s just the way he’s wired.
What separates this game from the last seven times OU had to beat Texas to remain perfect? In this one, though the Sooners are again favored, it’s not clear why.
In previous matchups, it took a real upset for unbeaten OU to go down, though it found a way.
• 2008, OU ranked No. 1, fifth-ranked Texas outscored the Sooners 25-14 after the half and 25-7 the last 20:33 to prevail 45-35 behind that great Sooner killer Colt McCoy.
• 2013, unranked Texas simply had its way with No. 12 OU. Blake Bell took a dive, completing 12 of 26 for 133 yards and was picked off twice. A Sooner team that would go on to win 11 games and beat Alabama at the Sugar Bowl never led and, even with a pick-six from Geneo Grissom, fell 36-20.
• 2015, the Sooners No. 10 and Texas unranked, OU did not lead again. Texas threw for less than 60 yards, but 313 on the ground proved crushing and the Longhorns prevailed 24-17.
• 2018, Riley’s second season and Mike Stoops’ last stand as defensive coordinator, more than 500 yards of offense wasn’t enough to keep Texas from turning a 20-0 deficit into a 48-45 victory. At least Texas was ranked for that one, 12 spots behind No. 7 OU.
It’s unclear how OU wins this game.
The Sooners opened a 3 1/2-point favorite and, as of Thursday afternoon, remained one.
The statistic that has so often told the tale — rushing yards — the Longhorns (265.8 per game) and Sooners (155.0) live in different neighborhoods, and that’s without Texas leaving the FBS to play an FCS team like Western Carolina.
Casey Thompson has played significantly better than Spencer Rattler, the first with a 180.1 pass efficiency rating, seventh in the nation, one spot in front of SMU’s (and former Sooner) Tanner Moredecai and 22 spots ahead of Rattler’s 158.
Maybe that Grinch defense will just shut Texas down.
However it might happen, a Sooner victory makes all things possible.
Making it happen, though, will require defying history and most of what’s happened the first five games of this season, too.