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November 24, 2011

Week 13 preview in the Big 12

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"Goodbye to Texas University. So long to the orange and the white."

"Texas Fight. Texas Fight. And it's goodbye to A&M."

Texas at Texas A&M, 8 p.m.
Iowa State at Oklahoma, noon
Kansas vs. Missouri in Kansas City, Mo., 3:30 p.m.
Baylor vs. Texas Tech in Arlington, Texas, 7 p.m.
For more than a century, the traditional Thanksgiving weekend grudge match between Texas and Texas A&M meant so much that the schools were moved to refer to each other in their fight songs.

This year, sometime on Thanksgiving night, after the game clock ticks down to zero, the Longhorns and Aggies indeed will say goodbye to each other. Like the battle of the Alamo, the Texas-Texas A&M game appears destined to become a cherished memory of bygone events in Texas history.

Depending on allegiances, the game is either a victim of conference expansion or the growth of cable television. Texas A&M resented Texas and its lucrative and controversial Longhorn Network, so it opted to leave the Big 12 for the SEC.

In response, Texas basically said "good riddance" and looked into scheduling Texas Tech, TCU, Baylor or even Notre Dame on Thanksgiving Day.

"I hate that," said Gene Stallings, a former Aggies player and coach and current member of the A&M Board of Regents. "I wish we could continue playing. A&M wanted to. I think the decision not to continue the series was Texas' because A&M said it would do everything it could to continue playing the game."

Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds said the Longhorns already had filled their non-conference games for the foreseeable future.

[Rivals.com experts: Keep an eye on, plus upset picks]

"We're not scared of anybody," Dodds told the Austin American-Statesman. "We're booked up through 2017. We're not ducking anybody."

Of course, the game could continue if all parties involved wanted the series to go on. Schedules often are adjusted, and other state rivals play every year despite being in different conferences. SEC teams Florida, Georgia and South Carolina always play ACC teams Florida State, Georgia Tech and Clemson.

Yet, there seems to be too much bitterness to go on. As a result, the game that inspired "Bon Fire" and the "Hex Rally," that featured John David Crowe and Earl Campbell, that once matched Bear Bryant vs. Darrell Royal, that conjures images of A&M LB Brian Gamble raising his arms skyward after the emotional victory in 1999, of Ricky Williams setting an NCAA rushing record the year before, of the Aggies carrying coach Jackie Sherrill off the field in 1984, of Texas' Noble Doss making the "Impossible Catch" for a victory in 1940 - all of it becomes just another memory.

There remains hope that the rivalry will resume some day. And there is precedent. In 1912, with bitterness mounting between the programs, Texas opted to stop playing Texas A&M. But the rivalry resumed three years later.

Yet at this point there is nothing to indicate that Texas and Texas A&M will play another regular-season game after Thursday night. Those involved can point fingers and argue who's to blame, but it really doesn't matter.

A great traditional rivalry is ending. All that's left is to say goodbye.

[The Forde-Yard Dash: Healthy holiday hatred with rivalry games]

Best matchup: Texas A&M's offense vs. Texas' defense. Behind QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Cyrus Gray and WR Ryan Swope, the Aggies boast the sixth-ranked offense in the country. They've scored 111 points in their past two games and have exceeded 30 points in nine games. In contrast, the Longhorns' defense is ranked 10th in the nation. Texas has held eight opponents to 20 or fewer points, including each of its past four.

Player on the spot: Oklahoma FS Javon Harris. Harris, a junior, has been inconsistent throughout the season, and he had a miserable showing in last week's 45-38 loss to Baylor in which OU allowed 485 passing yards and four touchdowns. Now, he's slowed by an ankle injury and this week the Sooners face Iowa State QB Jared Barnett, who passed for 376 yards in an upset of Oklahoma State.

Keep an eye on: Baylor QB Robert Griffin III. "RGIII" now is among the leading contenders in the Heisman race and has a realistic chance of winning if he continues to play well. He has thrown for more than 300 yards in five consecutive games and more than 400 in four of the past five. He'll be facing a Texas Tech defense ranked 115th in the nation. A week after leading Baylor to its first victory over Oklahoma in school history, Griffin will try to lead the Bears to their first win over Texas Tech in 16 years.

[Heisman Watch: Check out RGIII's resume]

Numbers game: Longtime rivals Kansas and Missouri will meet for the 120th - and perhaps final - time. Kansas officials have expressed no desire to play a non-conference game against the Tigers, who are leaving the Big 12 for the SEC. This is the second-most played rivalry in the FBS ranks, behind only Minnesota-Wisconsin. Kansas and NCAA records have the series tied at 55-55-9, so Saturday's winner can crow about its advantage (at least for the foreseeable future). Missouri claims it leads the series 56-54-9 because Kansas used an ineligible player in its 23-7 victory in 1960.

Quotes of the week

"I know our fans are probably devastated right now and don't even want to back us up. I hope we get a good crowd to come out and support us because we're going to do our best to try to get a win for this university." - Kansas LB Steven Johnson. The Jayhawks were blasted 61-6 by Texas A&M last week

"I've always tried to be a good and positive role model. Last week, I failed miserably." - Missouri coach Gary Pinkel, on his one-game suspension for a DWI arrest

"We'll see which one practiced the best and what sequence of plays we'll start the game with to see who starts." - Texas coach Mack Brown, on whether Case McCoy or David Ash will start at quarterback Thursday night

Poll watch: After last week's rash of upsets, Oklahoma State has dropped to No. 4 from No. 2 in the BCS standings. Oklahoma has fallen to No. 9, while Kansas State has climbed to No. 11. The Big 12 also lists No. 18 Baylor and No. 25 Texas in the BCS standings, though the Longhorns aren't ranked in either the Harris or coaches' polls.

Etc.: Baylor is seeking to win four consecutive conference games for the first time since 1986, when it was in the now-defunct Southwest Conference. … Kansas State has nine victories for the 12th time in school history and 11th time under coach Bill Snyder. … Texas A&M RB Cyrus Gray, who has rushed for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons, has a stress fracture in his left shoulder, but he is expected to play against Texas. If he cannot go, he'll be replaced by redshirt freshman Ben Malena or true freshman Will Randolph. … Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden has set a school record with 8,644 career passing yards. He has thrown for more than 400 yards in three consecutive games. … Texas' defense has registered at least 10 tackles for loss in four consecutive games. … Iowa State is 3-0 with freshman Jared Barnett as the starting quarterback, and two of those wins were over ranked opponents. … Missouri is 15-4 in November since 2007. … Oklahoma QB Landry Jones has passed for more than 400 yards five times this season. … Texas freshman WR Jaxon Shipley (high ankle sprain) is doubtful for the A&M game. …Baylor never has had two players with 800 receiving yards in the same season, but this season, the Bears likely will have three. Kendall Wright has 1,281, while Tevin Reese has 791 and Terrance Williams 757. … Kansas RB James Sims rushed for 88 yards a week ago, his highest total in a conference game. …Missouri sophomore QB James Franklin last week had a career-high 152 rushing yards. …. Oklahoma DE Ronnell Lewis (sprained knee) will miss the rest of the regular season, but WR Jaz Reynolds (shoulder) will play this week. … Texas Tech RB DeAndre Washington, WR Alex Torres and G Lonnie Edwards sustained knee injuries last week, and each is questionable this week.

Olin Buchanan is a senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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