Norman — There's more to this year's Oklahoma-Nebraska outcome than the Big 12 championship. It's also sadly the end of a nearly century-old rivalry that's produced some of college football's most memorable games.
The 8 p.m. (EDT) Saturday clash at Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Tex., is the 86th time the Sooners and Cornhuskers have faced each other since their first game in 1912.
It also marks the last time they're scheduled to play as they will compete in different conferences next year -- Oklahoma staying in the Big 12 and Nebraska moving to the Big 10.
It is the meaning beyond the rich history of the Oklahoma-Nebraska competition that's hard to get across.
It is more than present day Huskers and Sooners playing out the string of one of the greatest rivalries, ignorant of what came before but for the highlight reels.
For years, Oklahoma's goal was go to the Orange Bowl by winning the Big Eight Conference title. That often required beating Nebraska.
It was all about beating Nebraska. Only Nebraska could beat OU and vice versa.
Well, for Oklahoma maybe it also included beating the Texas Longhorns.
But Texas wasn't in the Big Eight and couldn't keep the Sooners out of the Orange Bowl and its automatic bid to the winner of the Big Eight title.
Some of the Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry lost its luster in 1996 when the Big Eight was absorbed into the new Big 12 Conference, and the teams were assigned to different divisions, playing each other in the regular season only twice every four years.
Before that, they had met 71 consecutive years, with the most unforgettable game occurring in 1971 when Nebraska was ranked No. 1 in the nation, and Oklahoma No. 2. Both were undefeated.
Described by some sportswriters as the college football game of the century, the lead see-sawed throughout that Thanksgiving Day at Owens Stadium on the OU campus. But, in the end, Nebraska prevailed, 35-31, and went on to defeat Alabama in the Orange Bowl to win the national championship.
Oklahoma holds the edge, however, in the series between the schools. It has 44 wins against Nebraska, compared with 38 for the Huskers. Three games ended in ties.
There was only one other rivalry like it. Ohio State and Michigan. You could count on the Buckeyes and Wolverines to put on a show, and Woody Hayes taking a swing at a cameraman.
Yet there is nothing left in sports nearly as certain as the intensity of competition between the Sooners and the Huskers -- two of the most illustrious college football programs in the country.
And Saturday they will go at it one last time.
Clay Horning is a sports columnist for the Norman, Okla., Transcript. Contact him at email@example.com.