(Photo credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)
Both Texas coach Steve Sarkisian and Oklahoma counterpart Brent Venables said they're approaching Saturday's showdown like any other week.
"With all the stuff going around this game, we need to be really present with what we're doing," Sarkisian said.
But this rivalry clash between the No. 3 Longhorns and No. 12 Sooners, played in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas in the middle of the State Fair of Texas, isn't like any other game.
The atmosphere, the crowd -- split down the 50-yard line between Texas and Oklahoma fans -- and the lead-up all make it different from any other game on the schedule.
"Everybody knows what time it is," Oklahoma wide receiver Jayden Gibson said. "Everybody in our locker room knows what time it is. I know what time it is."
For the 43rd time in the series' long history, Texas and Oklahoma enter the contest with both teams ranked.
The Longhorns (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) have big-game experience this season, having knocked off then-No. 3 Alabama 34-24 back on Sept. 9.
"Obviously the Alabama week (was similar) with the potential distractions that come with a week like this," Sarkisian said. "We have a saying: 'Starve your distraction, feed your focus.'"
Oklahoma (5-0, 2-0) hasn't been tested nearly so much, as this will be its first game against a ranked opponent.
But the Sooners are in much better shape entering this year's matchup than they were last year, when Oklahoma entered on a two-game losing streak and without quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who was knocked out the previous week with an injury.
Without Gabriel, the Sooners threw for just 39 yards and Texas grabbed its biggest win in the series' history, 49-0.
"I want to see where we're at," Venables said. "You want to continue to improve and create change. We're certainly not where we want to be in any way, shape or form."
The quarterbacks figure to go a long way toward deciding the game.
Last season, Longhorns quarterback Quinn Ewers threw for 289 yards and four touchdowns with an interception.
He's been excellent this season, completing nearly two-thirds of his passes for 1,358 yards, 10 touchdowns and an interception. He has also run for five scores.
Gabriel has put up even better numbers, completing better than 75 percent of his passes for 1,593 yards and 15 touchdowns with two interceptions. He has four rushing touchdowns.
But both defenses have plenty of teeth, ranking in the top 12 nationally in points allowed per game, in the top 10 in third-down defense, top 20 in turnover margin and top 30 in total defense.
"They're very physical," Gabriel said of the Longhorns' defense. "They've been dominant in their first five games. Just have been playing really good football, so it'll be a great challenge."
For the Sooners, that's a major turnaround from last season, when they struggled defensively in Venables' first season.
"Coach Venables, he'd been doing it too long at too high of a level to think they weren't going to get that thing fixed," Sarkisian said. "I told you last year that he would."
--Field Level Media