for this game

Oklahoma-Nebraska Preview

Nov 4, 2009 - 12:17 AM By JEFF LATZKE AP Sports Writer

No. 24 Oklahoma (5-3) at Nebraska (5-3), 8:00 p.m. EDT

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- Bob Stoops is great friends with Nebraska coach Bo Pelini and even let Pelini's brother stay at his house for an extended period while they worked together at Kansas State.

He grew up admiring from afar the rivalry the Cornhuskers had with Oklahoma, where he'd eventually be hired as the head coach.

But would he like to see the Huskers re-establish themselves as the marquee team in the Big 12 North?

"I'd rather they didn't," Stoops said with a chuckle Tuesday.

The Battle of the Big Reds has been a bit unbalanced lately and Stoops likes it that way. While Nebraska has been rebuilding, Stoops has been able to win four straight games in the series and keep the No. 20 Sooners (5-3, 3-1 Big 12) among the nation's top teams headed into Saturday night's game with the Huskers.

Instead of the rivalry determining the conference champion - as it did 31 times in 36 years in the Big Eight - and even a national championship, the game has had less panache in recent years. There was the series' second "Game of the Century" in 2000 and the teams met for the Big 12 title in 2006, but it's been nothing like the days of Barry Switzer vs. Tom Osborne in the 1970s and '80s.

This time, both teams are just trying to make up ground in the divisional standings. It's the fourth straight time Nebraska (5-3, 2-2) enters the rivalry unranked and, before that, Oklahoma was outside the Top 25 for six of eight meetings in the 1990s.

Pelini said he is "worried about 2009 right now."

"They've played for a long time and any time you've played for a long time and the games were meaningful, there's going to be a different air to the game," Pelini said. "A lot of people take it seriously, obviously, and we're looking forward to it."

Some of today's players have a feel for the rivalry, although they're more familiar with the 2000 and 2001 games than with those further back. Sooners cornerback Dominique Franks, whose uncle played for the Sooners, recalled watching recent rivalry games on television.

"It was amazing," Franks said. "With all the athletes they've had and the OU athletes, it's always been a great rivalry and I don't expect anything less for this game."

"It's a big one, the Battle of the Big Reds," he added. "You don't have to say too much after you say Oklahoma vs. Nebraska."

Stoops tries to make sure his players know the context of the game. As he does with other traditional rivals, he showed clips to the team about the history of the series.

"I always have had, playing Nebraska here for a long time, great respect for them. An amazing tradition and history," Stoops said. "I always want our freshmen, sophomores, guys that haven't been around that long to have a true understanding of the whole tradition, history and pride of that program.

"I've always felt that way. Playing them has always been tough."

All the history will be brought up at a reunion Friday night in Lincoln. Switzer, Osborne and some of their best players - including Heisman Trophy winners Steve Owens, Johnny Rodgers, Billy Sims, Mike Rozier, Eric Crouch and Jason White - will eat dinner together and then be introduced at halftime of Saturday night's game.

Oklahoma held a similar reunion last year for players from the 1971 "Game of the Century."

"It's a great rivalry. I'm proud to be a part of it," said Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick, who grew up watching the rivalry in Cozad, Neb. "I can't really think about it too much going into this week but it's in the back of my mind `Hey, this is Oklahoma. If we beat them, we get bragging rights."'

Oklahoma won 62-28 last year in Pelini's debut in the rivalry. Franks intercepted Joe Ganz's first pass and returned it for a touchdown, and Oklahoma opened a 28-0 lead in the first 5 1/2 minutes. The Sooners' final point total was their highest ever in the series.

"I just think it really took everything out of them. Just the first play of the game having a pick-6, that'll discourage any offense," Franks said. "It seemed like we jumped on them real early and just took the life out of them."

Whether he likes it or not, Stoops said he expects Nebraska to rise again. He knows the Pelini family well from their days in Youngstown, Ohio.

"I just know Bo and his attention to detail, his understanding of all parts of the game, that he'll continue to do a very good job there at Nebraska and continue to build the program," Stoops said.


AP Sports Writer Eric Olson in Lincoln, Neb., contributed to this story.