Stillwater, Okla. The Bedlam rivalry has been defined over the past decade by one Oklahoma team pursuing postseason greatness and another trying to stand in the way.
This year, it’s no different — except the teams will be swapping roles.
After years of trying to dethrone mighty Oklahoma, it’s No. 11 Oklahoma State (9-2, 6-1 Big 12) that will be playing for a potential berth in the lucrative Bowl Championship Series when the rivals meet today in Norman. If the chips fall right, OSU could receive an at-large bid for its first BCS appearance.
It will be only the third time a ranked Cowboys team will play the Sooners when Oklahoma is unranked (1945, 1997). The opposite scenario has occurred 38 times.
“We’re not going to expect to be favored down there just because of what we’ve done this year,” Cowboys linebacker Andre Sexton said Monday. “We know that they’re going to get the respect just because of what they’ve done in the past and how well-known their program is. That’s why we need to put ourselves in a situation to take that next step toward gaining that respect by beating them this year.”
Oklahoma State has lost six straight Bedlam games since pulling off back-to-back upsets of top-5 Oklahoma teams at the end of the regular season in 2001 and 2002. The first one knocked the Sooners out of the national championship picture.
This season, Oklahoma (6-5, 4-3) has matched its biggest loss total since Bob Stoops took over as coach in 1999.
“No matter if one team seems like you’re overmatched, there’s always a chance just because of the fact that’s it’s just a huge rivalry and means a lot to everybody,” Cowboys guard Noah Franklin said. “At some point, it comes down to just who wants it more and talent or depth or whatever just kind of goes out the window.”
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said injured quarterback Zac Robinson resumed throwing over the weekend after having his streak of 34 consecutive starts snapped in Thursday’s 31-28 win against Colorado. Robinson had injured his shoulder and head in a violent collision near the end of OSU’s previous game against Texas Tech.
Gundy said Robinson should be at “full speed” in practice and play against the Sooners.
“Will he have some soreness? I would say he’d still be sore, but there’s not anything structural that can affect him,” Gundy said. “It’s just working through soreness.”
Sooners coach Bob Stoops said it wouldn’t affect Oklahoma’s preparation whether it’s Robinson or backup Brandon Weeden who starts because both run the same offensive system. He also downplayed the impact of his team lacking its usual motivation heading into the rivalry game coming off a 41-13 loss at Texas Tech.
“Of the 11 years that we’ve been here, eight or nine of them we’ve been still in a position working toward a Big 12 championship and still having that opportunity coming into this week, so this is different,” Stoops said. “But we still are in a position where we’re trying to improve our situation.
“That’s what our focus will be on is playing the best we can and trying to make our situation better.”
Oklahoma will be without center Ben Habern, who had surgery Saturday after he broke his left leg against Tech and is expected to be out for three months. He’s the third starting offensive lineman to suffer a season-ending injury for the Sooners, who already lost Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford to a shoulder injury and tight end Jermaine Gresham following knee surgery.
Stoops said middle linebacker Ryan Reynolds was also “doubtful” for today’s game with a strained hamstring.
Since losing to Oklahoma State in 2001, the Sooners have won 49 of their last 50 home games and carry a 29-game home win streak.