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December 1, 2011

Week 14 preview in the Big 12


Getting BCS votes would be nice, but getting a victory over Oklahoma is what really matters to Oklahoma State.

After eight consecutive losses to their archrivals, dozens of blowouts over the years, a 35-year championship drought and a few blatant shows of disrespect, it would seem beating Oklahoma in the Bedlam game would provide sufficient satisfaction for the Cowboys' community.

Iowa State at Kansas State, 12:30 p.m.
Texas at Baylor, 3:30 p.m.
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, 8 p.m.
And it would.

True, to have any chance to leapfrog No. 2 Alabama in the BCS standings - and thus get a berth in the national championship game - the No. 3 Cowboys would need to defeat the Sooners with style and dominance, much the way OU has so frequently beaten the Cowboys in the 105-game series. Oklahoma leads the series 88-17-4, and 45 of those victories have come by at least 20 points.

And perhaps that's why beating Oklahoma is more important to the Cowboys than any BCS ramifications.

[Related: Oklahoma-Nebraska tops list of all-time defunct sports rivalries]

A victory would give Oklahoma State its first conference championship since 1976 (and that one was shared). That's more motivation in Stillwater than impressing BCS voters.

"I feel like we've got to beat OU," free safety Daytawion Lowe said. "That's all I can think of."

Backup tailback Jeremy Smith echoed that sentiment: "This is for the Big 12. Whatever happens after this game on Saturday happens. But this is for the Big 12, and that's what we really want. We want the ring that says, 'Oklahoma State. Big 12 Championship,' and not share it."

Over the years, Oklahoma State has taken more than its share of abuse as the "other" team in the state. While Oklahoma typically played for championships, Oklahoma State was played for a fool.

It's bad enough that the Cowboys haven't won a conference championship since sharing the Big Eight title with the Sooners and Colorado in 1976. More recently, Oklahoma State has had to stomach reminders of its place in the state.

In '04, a bricklayer working on Oklahoma State's stadium renovation project discreetly arranged different shades of bricks to spell out "OU" in a wall of the stadium. Last August, coach Mike Gundy allegedly fired a contractor who showed up to do construction work at Gundy's home wearing an OU T-shirt.

And there is Oklahoma's current eight-game winning streak in the series, including victories the past two seasons that prevented the Cowboys from winning conference titles and knocked them out of a BCS bowl.

"They don't like us and we don't like them," receiver Josh Cooper said. "It's going to be a dogfight and I'm ready."

While the Sooners don't like the Cowboys, at least they're now respecting them.

"It's bigger to beat Oklahoma State than to beat Texas," OU tailback Roy Finch said. "I feel like Oklahoma State has overtaken Texas a little bit."

Added Sooners center Ben Habern: "They've definitely picked it up to where they're one of the powerhouses in college football. It's a fun opportunity. It's going to be a fun game to play."

Imagine how much fun it would be for Oklahoma to break Oklahoma State hearts again. And imagine the party in Stillwater if Oklahoma State beats OU and wins a championship in the process.

[The Forde-Yard Dash: Handing out pre-bowl awards]

"Last year, we accomplished some things we had never done here at Oklahoma State," Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden said. "I think we can take it a step farther and accomplish another thing we haven't done here and win a conference championship. I think that's everyone's goal."

But in the event of an Oklahoma State victory, if any BCS voters feel compelled to rank the Cowboys ahead of Alabama that would be OK, too.

Best matchup: Baylor QB Robert Griffin vs. Texas' defense. Griffin is a big-play machine who is among the leading Heisman contenders. He needs an outstanding performance to boost his Heisman chances. Griffin has thrown 18 touchdown passes that have covered between 34 and 87 yards. He's also had a 49-yard touchdown run. But he hasn't faced a defense as good as Texas', which is ranked ninth in the nation. The Longhorns have the best secondary in the Big 12 and have allowed more than two touchdown passes in a game just once.

Player on the spot: Oklahoma QB Landry Jones. He must match up with Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden in a possible shootout, and he has to prove he can do it without WR Ryan Broyles. In the two games since Broyles' season-ending injury, Jones has thrown no touchdown passes and has been intercepted three times.

Keep an eye on: Oklahoma State WR Justin Blackmon. He's a junior, but he'll be included in the Cowboys' Senior Day festivities because it's understood that he'll enter the NFL draft. Blackmon has caught 42 passes for 579 yards and seven touchdowns in the past four games and figures to have another big performance against a soft OU pass defense that is ranked 87th in the country. Last season, Blackmon had eight catches for 105 yards and a TD vs. the Sooners.

Numbers game: Oklahoma's defense has allowed at least 379 passing yards in three of the past five games. Texas Tech's Seth Doege threw for 441 vs. the Sooners, while Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill passed for 379 and Baylor's Robert Griffin had 479. This week, they face Brandon Weeden, who has exceeded 400 yards passing four times this season, including each of the past three games.

Quotes of the week

"In our situation, if I was doing it fair, I don't know how I could put us in front [of Alabama] right now." - Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, on the BCS standings

"We need football to be good because football also brings an element of enthusiasm and energy on your campus, which I think is important." - Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, to the Kansas City Star

"That's not going to happen. We're not going to let that happen. Basically, what we need to do is stop the run first, force turnovers, get him off his rocker, hit him early and often, and get the ball back to our offense." - Texas LB Keenan Robinson, on preventing Baylor QB Robert Griffin from enhancing his Heisman candidacy

[Heisman Watch: Down to the wire]

Poll watch: Oklahoma State is No. 3 in the BCS standings and hoping to somehow jump Alabama into No. 2 and get a shot at the national championship. If they win the Bedlam game, the Cowboys will be able to make the case that they've beaten five teams that are ranked in the BCS standings. Oklahoma is No. 10, Kansas State is No. 11, Baylor is No. 17, Texas is No. 22 and Missouri is No. 25. But Texas could fall out with a loss to Baylor.

Etc.: Fired Kansas coach Turner Gill still will be paid the $6 million remaining on his contract over the next three years. Texas Tech failed to reach bowl eligibility for the first time in 18 years. Baylor is seeking its first nine-win season since 1986 - 10 years before the formation of the Big 12 Conference. The Bears also are seeking their first five-game winning streak since 1991. Kansas State can get a share of the Big 12 conference championship with a combination of a victory over Iowa State and an Oklahoma win over Oklahoma State. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said one coach will be assigned to recruit Atlanta and two will be assigned to recruit Florida as the Tigers move to the SEC. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops indicated freshman RB Brandon Williams may be used more in the Bedlam game. WR Jaz Reynolds, who was suspended for the Sooners' game against Iowa State for violating team rules, will be back in the lineup. Iowa State set an all-time attendance record this season. The Cyclones averaged 53,467 fans and drew more than 50,000 for all six home games, also a school record. The longest touchdown pass Texas has allowed this season covered just 19 yards. With Texas A&M 6-6 after opening in the top 10, unhappy Aggies are calling for coach Mike Sherman's ouster. But A&M president R. Bowen Loftin has expressed support for Sherman. That could be because Sherman has four years remaining on a contract that pays $2.2 million annually. Baylor has had at least 600 yards of total offense six times this season. Iowa State has had different rushing leaders in five games. Kansas State QB Collin Klein ranks third nationally in rushing among quarterbacks with 1,013 yards. Northern Illinois' Chandler Harnish and Michigan's Denard Robinson are the only quarterbacks with more rushing yards. Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden has been wearing a glove on his throwing hand in practice in preparation for anticipated wet and cold conditions. He says the glove has not affected his throwing. Texas freshman Miles Onyegbule is listed as the starter at slot receiver, replacing Mike Davis in the starting lineup.

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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