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Saturday, December 5, 2009
Rivals meet again for Big 12 title

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- When the Big 12 was created, the rivalry between Texas and Nebraska became the most heated in the conference.

Sure, there's Oklahoma-Texas, Missouri-Kansas and all of the other traditional rivalries.

But the matchup between the two superpowers when the Big 12 started immediately became intense.

It was fanned by some events that took place off the field. Nebraska wanted to have the Big 12 with continued arrival of partial qualifiers. Texas didn't.

Texas wanted the league offices in Dallas. Nebraska wanted it to remain in the old Big Eight home of Kansas City.

Texas wanted Steve Hatchell as the league's first conference. Nebraska favored Bob Frederick.

After Texas won out on all those early skirmishes it raised the ante in the rivalry.

And it became even bigger after Texas stunned the Cornhuskers with a 37-27 upset in the first conference championship game in a game where James Brown called his shot with an upset.

Since then, the Longhorns have dominated the rivalry with six victories in the seven games since Mack Brown arrived. Nebraska's only triumph was a 22-6 win in the 1999 Big 12 title game that was their most recent conference championship.

Some of the vituperation that marked the Big 12's formative stages with Texas-Nebraska have settled over the years.

One of the biggest reasons was the arrival of Mack Brown, who has been very open about his respect for the Nebraska program and its history.

Brown learned early about the Nebraska fans when Ricky Williams orchestrated a victory over the Cornhuskers in 1998. That game was pivotal in Williams' Heisman hopes.

"The standing ovation they gave Ricky, when they yelled, ‘Heisman! Heisman!’ was as good of a moment as I had ever seen in my life,” Brown said. “We’re not seeing that anymore. And I hate that. It was 11 years ago. That took me to tears, just for Ricky. And that just doesn’t happen. (Nebraska) is one of the few places that could happen.”

Brown called Nebraska's fans "the classiest in college football."  He still has a picture of the post-game excitement of that first Nebraska win hanging on his wall.

"It was such a special moment,” he said. “I had told Ricky to keep his head down and his helmet on because they were going to throw things at him. I thought he was going to be in trouble. … But, unbelievable. They all stayed, and they all cheered.”

Brown came into the Big 12 for the chance to play traditional rivals like Nebraska.

"When I got here, Nebraska was one of the places I would have liked to coach," Brown said. "Their stadium was neat. I had so much respect for Coach Osborne. The fans were classy. It was a really cool place."