The Sweep

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The Red River Shootout provides an unbelievable atmosphere with the Texas State Fair as its backdrop.
Courtesy of Stewart Mandel

DALLAS -- College football's Game of the Year (so far) happens to take place in its most unique setting. I got here early enough Saturday to soak in a little of the atmosphere.

It's almost impossible to properly describe the Oklahoma-Texas game to those who've never attended one, but I'll try my best. It's not just that the game is played at a neutral site (the Cotton Bowl). It's played in the middle of the Texas State Fair. Not some vacant fairground, mind you -- the actual State Fair is taking place as we speak, drawing tens of thousands of patrons who would be here whether there was a football game or not.

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Roller coasters, fried jelly beans and football -- what more does a red-blooded American need?
Courtesy of Stewart Mandel

You can see some of the sights in the accompanying pictures, but my walk from the parking lot to the stadium took me by not only ferris wheels and other rides but booths selling every variety of carnival food imaginable -- 90 percent of it fried. The main attractions: Fried jelly beans, fried banana splits, crispy friend cantaloupe pie, roasted corn (only $9!), funnel cakes and, the trademark, corny dogs.

Inside the Cotton Bowl, the main point of interest is the newly constructed upper bowl that's added nearly 20,000 seats, giving the 76-year old stadium a capacity of 92,000-plus. Even with a 50-50 split of crimson and burnt orange, it's going to be loud. And the most fascinating aspect of the OU-Texas game is that there's only one tunnel onto the field. Therefore, two football teams, two full bands, two cheerleading squads, Bevo and the Boomer Schooner all traverse the same, narrow passageway.  

You've gotta love it.

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After the addition of 20,000 new seats, the Cotton Bowl now hosts over 92,000 screaming fans.
Courtesy of Stewart Mandel

As I write this, it's about an hour before kickoff and the stands are still mostly empty. There's just too much to do outside. If they're smart, they'll begin heading in sooner than later -- they're not going to want to miss a second of No. 1 vs. No. 5.

 

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