It is Oklahoma versus Texas, one of those weekends described as "what college football is all about."

In this case, the college football will be played in the Cotton Bowl (WJLA-TV-7, 12:50 p.m.). But, as everyone connected with this annual mob scene will tell you, the game is merely the finale to a week-long circus.

"This is kind of game everyone wants to be a part of," said Texas Coach Fred Akers. "We all know that this game will be talked about and looked at in every part of the country."

The game has lost a bit of luster because of Oklahoma comes in with a 1-1-1 record. The Sooners went to Southern California two weeks ago ranked second in the country behind the Trojans and came within two seconds of winning. Last week they were tied by Iowa State, 7-7.They now are ranked 10th.

Texas, which has won three of the last four against OU, is 3-0 and ranked third. But this will be the Longhorns' first game outside of Austin and Akers knows it will be his team's toughest test.

Thursday, at a gathering of the school's faculty and staff, he implored his audience to "say a prayer the next two nights that Oklahoma's ballhandling difficulties continue."

The Sooners lost 10 fumbles the last two weeks and Coach Barry Switzer is facing the prospect of three straight games without a victory for the first time in 10 years at Oklahoma.

"Our offense has executed well most of the time," Switzer said. "Nobody's stopping us, we're stopping ourselves."

That is the way it has been at Oklahoma since 1970 when Texas coach Darell Royal allowed his assistant coach, Emory Bellard, to teach Switzer, then an OU assistant, the wishbone offense.

Switzer used that offense to go 5-0-1 against Royal during the Texas coach's final six seasons. Some say that record has as much to do with Royal's retirement as anything.

Royal's absence has taken some of the venom out of the game. He had publicity accused Switzer of recruiting violations and of spying on his practices. Akers, in his fifth year at Texas, is Switzer's opposite in personality and approach, but the two played together at Arkansas and there is no bitterness in his relationship.

Both need to win here, although the reasons are different. Akers, coming off a 7-5 season, needs a lofty national ranking at year's end to get some of the wolves off his back. His team is filled with pro prospects and it must produce.

Switzer's record (10 losses in seasons) is so extraordinary he does not face Akers' problems. But having lost to Texas three out of four and being 1-1-1, there will be considerable grumbling among the faithful if the Longhorns win another.

"We aren't worried about any of that," halfback Buster Rhymes said. "We just want to beat Texas because they think they're better than we are. They're not. You'll see the real Oklahoma Saturday."

Texas' defense is huge, experienced and mobile, led by all-America defensive tackle Kenneth Sims. Oklahoma's offensive linemen average 264 pounds, but the team still is adjusting to new quarterbacks Kelly Phelps and Darryl Shepard. The running backs, led by Rhymes and Stanley Wilson, will gain many yards, but have had the fumbling problem.

Texas seems to have solved its quarterback problems with Rick McIvor, but he still is learning. Last year's quarterback, Donnie Little, is the deep threat now at wide receiver. Akers likes to play conservative football, but Oklahoma's quick defense probably will force him to open up.

"We know we have to jar them a few times, especially early," Sims said. "You can't let them get rolling because they're so tough to stop then. They ran on Southern Cal until they started fumbling."

The atmosphere and the location of this game are part of what makes it unique; Dallas is midway between the two campuses. Everyone is on the road, big money is spent and being sober on Friday night is generally considered sacrilegious. Dallas police patrol the main strip, Commerce Street, arresting those who get out of line. On Texas-OU eve, that averages about 500.

And, as the coaches point out, the stadium atmosphere also is unique, because the 75,000 fans are divided evenly. "On every play, half the fans are delighted," Akers said. "Their input is constant. The noise level throughout is amazing."

What's more, the animosity is genuine. Texas people think of Oklahomans as hicks, not worthy of their mention. Oklahoma fans sense that attitude and resent it deeply. There are 30 Texans on the Oklahoma roster. That angers the Texas people. And so on.

Switzer, never given to understatement, puts it this way: "This is a game where stars are born. You do something in this game and you'll be remembered the rest of your life. You're a part of history."