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November 28, 2008
"It seems like it is bigger than Christmas," Oklahoma State fullback Bryant Ward said.
Oklahoma State fans couldn't imagine a better gift than seeing their favorite team knock their biggest rival out of national title contention.
It's happened before.
Seven years ago, Oklahoma's hopes of winning a second consecutive national title disappeared when Rashaun Woods' 14-yard touchdown catch with 1:36 left gave Oklahoma State a 16-13 victory over the fourth-ranked Sooners. Oklahoma State upset Oklahoma again in 2002, but hasn't beaten the Sooners since.
But a victory Saturday might be even sweeter than that 2001 upset.
Oklahoma is third in the BCS standings and has an excellent chance of moving into the No. 2 spot and capturing the Big 12 South title with a victory.
Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Texas entered the week tied for first in the Big 12 South. If they remain that way, the highest-ranked team in the BCS standings wins the division title and plays Missouri in the Big 12 championship game next week. Texas entered the week second in the BCS standings, but the Sooners likely would leapfrog the Longhorns with a victory over Oklahoma State, which is 12th in the BCS this week
"You would hope so," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "I'm not going to sit here and debate all of that. We are concentrated on going to Oklahoma State and being as prepared as we can be and focused to play a strong game. That's what we have to do, and that's what we are looking at."
Stoops probably doesn't have to worry about his team overlooking Oklahoma State. Even if this game carried no national title implications, the nature of the rivalry would make both teams desperate to win.
At least one Oklahoma player believes this annual matchup may carry even more weight than the Sooners' Red River Rivalry with Texas.
"I think this is No. 1," Oklahoma cornerback Dominique Franks said. "Just being an Oklahoma kid, it's non-stop Bedlam. Just going out in public, Oklahoma fans don't want to lose to OSU, and OSU fans don't want to lose to Oklahoma. I think it's a bigger (deal) than Texas only because we come into more contact with OSU fans."
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State enter this game with much in common.
Both boast outstanding quarterbacks, though Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson has more mobility and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford has a better arm. Both teams feature outstanding rushing attacks. Both have All-America candidates at tight end and outstanding collections of receivers. Both have struggled at times on defense, though Oklahoma has played better on that side of the ball.
"We're expecting a big game," Oklahoma State center David Washington said. "I know they are going to be ready, and we just have to be ready."
Stoops learned his lesson seven years ago, when Oklahoma State ended the Sooners' quest for a national title. He wants to make sure his team doesn't let history repeat itself.
"We just have to realize that no matter where we are at [in the BCS standings], we have to come out and win," Franks said. "It's all on us. We can't worry about the voters or anything like that. We just have to come out and perform to the best of our abilities."
Who gets the edge?
Oklahoma run offense vs. Oklahoma State run defense
Oklahoma pass offense vs. Oklahoma State pass defense
Oklahoma State run offense vs. Oklahoma run defense
Oklahoma State pass offense vs. Oklahoma pass defense
Oklahoma special teams vs. Oklahoma State special teams
Oklahoma coaches vs. Oklahoma State coaches
X-factor: Oklahoma State is best known for all its star power at the skill positions on offense, but the Cowboys' hopes for a victory depend on the performance of Okung and right tackle Brady Bond. Okung and Bond have performed well enough to help Oklahoma State rank 15th in the nation in sacks allowed, but the line's struggles against Texas' pass rush may have made the difference in the Cowboys' 28-24 loss. Oklahoma's offense is so powerful that the Cowboys probably must score 35 points to have a shot at pulling off the upset. Oklahoma State won't even approach that number unless Okung and Bond give Robinson time to throw and help create running room for Hunter.
Oklahoma will win if: Oklahoma is the better team and ought to win the game as long as the Sooners play as well as they have the past six weeks. But this game is no walkover. Oklahoma has been vulnerable on kick coverage and can't allow Cox or Bryant to break off a big return. The Sooners also must continue running the ball effectively and hope Bradford delivers one of his typical performances.
Oklahoma State will win if: The Cowboys need Hunter and Robinson to run well enough to keep Bradford on the sideline. They also need capitalize on their special-teams advantage by getting at least one big return that sets up a score.
Olin Buchanan: Oklahoma 38, Oklahoma State 31
Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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