Helmer: '09's Toughest Tilts

NORMAN, OKLA. -- The Sooners' schedule next season is packed with many intriguing matchups, including eight of the 12 against teams that played in a bowl game last season.

With the addition of a neutral game against BYU, the annual neutral contest in Dallas between OU and Texas, road trips to longtime rivals Nebraska and Miami, as well as Texas Tech, who has beaten the Sooners twice in a row in Lubbock, and a home game against Bedlam rival Oklahoma State, it's hard to pick the top three matchups in 2009, but here they are.

3. OU @ Nebraska Nov. 7

The rivalry has been criticized for its weakening in the past decade since the creation of the Big 12 Conference. It used to be OU and Nebraska competing for the Big Eight Title every year, but the Sooners struggled in the late 90s, and Nebraska has since struggled for a majority of the 2000s. But former OU co-defensive coordinator Bo Pelini guided the Cornhuskers to a 9-4 record and a victory in the Gator Bowl in 2008 over Clemson, and the Huskers seem prime for a resurgence in the Big 12 North with a weakening Missouri and Colorado, Kansas State and Iowa State in rebuilding periods. Look for this to be a tough win for the Sooners next season.

2. OU vs. Oklahoma State in Norman Nov. 28

This might be a top ten matchup when the Sooners host the Cowboys next fall. Quarterback Zac Robinson and wide receiver Dez Bryant square off against a veteran OU defense in 2009. The Sooners also bring back Heisman quarterback Sam Bradford, who scorched the Cowboys for 370 yards, four passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in last year's contest in Stillwater. Bedlam always brings out the best in both teams, just like any in-state rivalry, and there's no reason to think the game next year will be any different.

1. OU vs. Texas in Dallas Oct. 17

Texas junior quarterback Colt McCoy decided to come back for his senior year. He will have senior wide receiver Jordan Shipley back as a weapon. Bradford decided to come back. He will have senior tight end Jermaine Gresham and his entire stock of running backs returning as weapons. It's the Burnt Orange vs. the Crimson and Cream. It's the fight for the Golden Hat. Will it travel north of the Red River or stay with the Longhorns south of the Red River? After the fierce debate over the three way tie between Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech in the 2008 campaign, the hatred only intensifies between these two schools. It will surely be a top ten matchup and possibly one for the ages again.

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