Tom Herman has UT ranked. Tim Warner/Getty Images
The Red River Shootout is back. No, I know the name isn't back on the game, they call it all sorts of less-awesome names now. But believe me, Texas and Oklahoma are going to put the turn of the century feel back into this game.
Texas and Oklahoma both enter this game ranked for the first time since 2012. Not that the little numbers matter all that much, Texas has pulled off a couple of upsets in that time, but the feel of this game is much closer to 18 years ago when Oklahoma was a powerhouse and Texas was coming up fast. It feels closer to 13 years ago when Texas had turned the Big 12 burnt orange and knocked down Oklahoma. The conference, coaches, and players are ready to ignite thing game again.
The Big 12 is far closer to being the conference of a decade ago than it the past five years. Oklahoma and Texas are ranked and another team in the conference is making noise. That role has been played by a few teams, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State but also the departed Nebraska and Missouri on occasion. This year it is West Virginia. They could trip up both the Longhorns and the Sooners but the rest of the conference is a fringe top 35 team at best. The conference waves have started to shift back to the two powerhouses in Austin and Norman. Both have a legit shot at the conference championship and if West Virginia falters we could see this rematch played in the title game.
The coaching is finally on par with the recent history as well. Lincoln Riley has done an amazing job taking over for Bob Stoops when he surprisingly retired. The Sooners have boasted one of the most terrifying offenses in football under Riley and this year also displays amazing firepower. The coaching at Oklahoma never faltered, that was all on Texas. Mack Brown's tenure was a disaster late and hiring Charlie Strong was the wrong move, but Texas has their guy. Tom Herman has the potential to be one of the names in college football at Texas. He's had some hiccups sure, but there's plenty to like about his tenure so far. He has a ways to go, losses to Maryland and Texas Tech at home are unacceptable for the Texas football program, but he's shown signs. His only losses outside of those were to ranked teams and only TCU was a game where Texas wasn't competitive.
Oklahoma has done its part in putting premier players in this game the past few years. This year is no different. Kyler Murray is a Heisman contender and he has no trouble finding Marquise "Hollywood" Brown. Caden Sterns brings people back to the conversation of Texas being defensive back university and Sam Elhinger is far from the David Ash, Case McCoy, and Tyrone Swoopes era. This is the most important element. It finally feels like a lot of players from both teams will be transitioning to Sundays and succeeding there as well.
This game used to be a marked on the calendar affair. It was one of the preeminent rivalry games in college football. An early season clash with national championship implications. Sometime in the past five or six years, it has really lost its luster. The game has tumbled from the marquee to be buried under games with less meaning and less history. This is the first year of the comeback. It might not seem like it Saturday, but in years to come, this is the game we will all remember as the start of Red River Success.
Ronald Acuña Jr. and Corbin Carroll just got a little more dangerous. Same for Bobby Witt Jr., Elly De La Cruz and the rest of baseball's fastest players.
Major League Baseball wants umpires to crack down on obstruction, and the commissioner's office outlined plans during a call with managers this week. MLB staff also will meet managers in person during spring training to go over enforcement.
The increased emphasis is only on the bases and not at home plate. The focus is on infielders who drop a knee or leg down in front of a bag while receiving a throw, acting as a deterrence for aggressive baserunning and creating an increased risk of injuries.
“I think with everything, they’re trying to make the game a little safer to avoid some unnecessary injuries," Phillies shortstop Trea Turner said Friday at the team's facility in Florida. “The intentions are always good. It comes down to how it affects the players and the games. I’m sure there will be plays where one team doesn’t like it or one team does.”
With more position players arriving at spring training every day, the topic likely will come up more and more as teams ramp up for the season.
“We'll touch on that. We'll show them some video of what’s good and what’s not,” Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “You know, it’s going to be a little adjustment.”
Making obstruction a point of emphasis fits in with an ongoing effort by MLB to create more action. Obstruction calls are not reviewable, which could lead to some disgruntled players and managers as enforcement is stepped up, but it also means it won't create long replay deliberations.
A package of rule changes last season — including pitch clocks, bigger bases and limits on defensive shifts and pickoff attempts — had a dramatic effect. There were 3,503 stolen bases in the regular season, up from 2,486 in 2022 and the most since 1987.
MLB changed a different baserunning rule this offseason, widening the runner’s lane approaching first base to include a portion of fair territory. MLB also shortened the pitch clock with runners on base by two seconds to 18 and further reducing mound visits in an effort to speed games.
“Last year, you know, a lot of our preparation was around like, especially just the unknown of the clock and making sure like we’re really buttoned up on that," New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "These guys are so used to it in so many ways that sometimes I even forget.”
Increased enforcement could lead to more action on the basepaths. But a significant element of MLB's motivation is injury prevention.
Top players have hurt hands or wrists on headfirst slides into bases blocked by a fielder. White Sox slugger Luis Robert Jr. sprained his left wrist when he slid into Jonathan Schoop's lower left leg on a steal attempt during an August 2022 game against Detroit.
“It’s been happening for a while. It’s been getting out of control," Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “I know some of the players complained about it the last two years.”
While acknowledging his reputation as a significant offender, Phillies second baseman Bryson Stott didn't sound too worried about his play.
“We like to fight for outs at second base,” he said. "It’s never on purpose, blocking the base. For me, or someone covering second to the shortstop side, it’s a natural move for your knee to go down to reach the ball. It’s never intentional. I guess we’ll figure out how to maneuver around that.”