Tonight's game will alter coaching legacies

ARLINGTON, Texas -- I've reached my seat in Cowboys Stadium for tonight's Big 12 Championship, and the Huskers are on the field warming up, while the few fans who filed in after the gates were opened are dotted among the blue seats in Cowboys Stadium.

Some of the best coaches in college football history have patrolled the sidelines of the Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry. Nebraska's Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne helped build the proud middle American tradition in Lincoln. Oklahoma countered with Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer.

The four of them combined for 11 national titles.

Bob Stoops is already well into building his own legend at Oklahoma. Six conference titles and a national championship of his own will do that, recent BCS bowl flops aside.

First-time head coach Bo Pelini is well on his own way to becoming one of Nebraska's best -- showcasing the annual improvement indicative of coaches who eventually become legends.

With a win tonight, both could write the next sweet chapter of their careers. For Pelini, that improvement would continue, reaching the Big 12's summit before hopping over to the Big Ten. Already revered by the Nebraska faithful for restoring defense and power running to a program known for exactly that, Pelini would only intensify both feelings with a win.

Stoops, meanwhile, has terrorized the Big 12 with consistently good teams that have whose six Big 12 titles are three times as many as any other team in the conference.

Beat Nebraska tonight, and some of those defeats might be forgiven from fans in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and other places across the Big 12 where finding a Huskers is a difficult assignment.

There are no national titles on the line tonight. The Big 12 Championship has seen "bigger" games. But considering the events of last summer and the past few weeks, it might have never have seen a more meaningful or contentious game.

Most often, that's in reference to Nebraska's program or the future of the Big 12, but the perception and résumés of the two coaches on the sideline qualify, too.