Want to get an Oklahoma football player riled up? Suggest the Sooners are playing spoilers this Saturday against Oklahoma State.
No. 18 Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2 Big 12) owns a lopsided 82-18-7 advantage in the Bedlam series and the Sooners have beaten No. 6 Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1) in nine of the 10 last years, even as Oklahoma State's program has risen considerably in national stature during that time.
But this year, Oklahoma lost to Texas and Baylor, while Oklahoma State beat both those teams. An Oklahoma State win in Stillwater would clinch a share of the conference title (along with the Baylor-Texas winner) and send the Cowboys to a Bowl Championship Series game for the second time in three seasons.
Last weekend's Big 12 results - Baylor beating TCU and Texas beating Texas Tech - mean the best Oklahoma can hope for Saturday is to spoil the Cowboys' dreams and finish in a three-way tie for second in the league race.
Don't tell that to Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard, who initially took offense when asked the spoiler question this week.
"The fact that you call us the spoiler against Oklahoma State, I'm not even going to answer that," Ikard said, rolling his eyes. "It's one of those things, it's one of the great rivalries in college football. We all know traditionally the numbers and how it's been lopsided, but they played better football than us this year, there's no doubt, and (they're) a team that should be undefeated. I don't think that's a stretch in reality at all.
"They should be undefeated, maybe in the top two or three, so we're just happy for the opportunity to go to Stillwater and be able to play a great game and a great atmosphere. . But we don't see ourselves as an underdog in this game. Obviously we realize they're ranked higher than us and they're favored when it comes to Vegas and all that stuff, but we're still Oklahoma and we've done a lot of special things around here for a long time."
Oklahoma safety Gabe Lynn also took issue with the "spoiler" terminology.
"We're OU and they're OSU, so I wouldn't call it a spoiler role," Lynn said. "They're a good team and they're having a great season. We always want to win that game. They're just another good team we have to beat."
The Sooners obviously are not accustomed to being in such a spot late in the season, one where they can't win a conference title but can prevent another team from doing so. It's been since 2009 since Oklahoma played the Cowboys without a Big 12 title at stake.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops acknowledged that reality when asked if he'd rather be where Oklahoma State is at this week or rather enjoy the Sooners' traditional dominance of the series.
"Well, over the last many years, I'd rather have the big picture, but this week, I'd rather be where they're at," Stoops said. "There's no denying that. So in the end, sure, we've done our deal, but today is today and that's all I can think about is what we want to do this week."
The chance to potentially end Oklahoma State's Big 12 championship hopes provided little additional incentive for the Sooners, Stoops said.
"That may be the lowest form of motivation that a competitor can have," he said. "So no, that has nothing to do with how we approach the game what so ever. That is a very, very low form of motivation."
The good news for the Sooners is that when placed in the role of spoiler against Oklahoma State, they have succeeded. In 2009, Oklahoma routed the Cowboys 27-0, ending Oklahoma State's legitimate hopes of earning an at-large BCS bid. Of course, the Cowboys also rolled past the Sooners 44-10 in 2011 in a showdown for the Big 12 title.
Last season, Oklahoma won a 51-48 thriller. Oklahoma State never trailed until Oklahoma tailback Brennan Clay scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime.
Clay said a win over the Cowboys on Saturday would be a salve of sorts for his team.
"I believe so," Clay said. "I don't believe we're hurting or anything. We've played some hard, tough games. We had some miscues. But it's football. You're going to have your ups and downs. We're going to go into this game treating it like any other. It's Bedlam. It's a big rivalry game. But it's football."