"He's, in my opinion, the best d-tackle there is in the Big 12," Parker Graham, the Cowboys starting right guard for the last seven games, says of Barnett. "So getting to go against him every day just makes me better. Moving from tackle to guard (midway through the season), I hard to get better pretty quick, and he definitely helped me in that aspect."
Anyone and everyone who follows OSU football knows Barnett's story. An Oklahoma first team All-Stater and U.S. Army All-American as a senior in 2009 at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, he verbally committed to Oklahoma State before a last minute change of heart led to him instead signing with Arkansas. He eventually wound up at Navarro (Texas) junior college, playing on Navarro's national championship team as a freshman and earning second-team NJCAA All-America recognition as a sophomore.
Barnett had an immediate impact for the Cowboys, starting every game as a junior while earning Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year and first team All-Big 12 honors in voting by the conference coaches.
But having just two years at OSU means that Barnett feels slighted in a way. Saturday will be his second and final Bedlam game, and he has plenty of incentive after last season's 51-48 overtime loss to the Sooners.
"It's going to mean a lot to me. It's my last game here, my last regular season game. I don't even think words can describe it," said Barnett, who will become OSU's first two-time all-conference defensive lineman since Stacey Satterwhite in 1990 and 1991 if he is named All-Big 12 against following the season.
Barnett says he has a personal streak on the line Saturday that he does not want to see come to an end.
"I've never lost a Senior night (game), I've never lost a last game of the (regular) season. On a personal standpoint, I've never lost a championship game. This is going to put the icing on the cake. I'm going to leave here and everything is going to stay the way it's been," said the confident sounding Barnett.
Oklahoma enters Saturday's showdown having rushed for more than 300 yards in four games this season – the most in Bob Stoops' 15 years as head coach. The Sooners have 706 rushing yards in their last two games (301 vs. Kansas State and 405 against Iowa State), the highest total amassed in back-to-back games under Stoops.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Trevor Knight regained the starting job two weeks ago against Kansas State and teams with running back Brennan Clay, who had a career-high 200 rushing yards against the Wildcats, to give the Sooners the nation's 16th-best rushing attack (242.3 yards).
The Cowboys, however, have only allowed more than 150 rushing yards once this season, and that was Kansas in a 42-6 OSU victory.
Barnett knows that all eyes may not be focused on him Saturday but he knows that controlling the line of scrimmage is imperative if the Cowboys hope to win.
"It they can run on us then it doesn't help at all. Then if they can't pass on us, then they have to run on us because everybody around us is doing their jobs. It's a team effort is what it comes down to," he said.
"When it comes down to it I'm just doing my job. This is kinda what I signed up for. I didn't ask to be this big but I am, so it's that way week in and week out. Me, (James) Castleman, Ty Johnson, Jimmy Bean, and also Shaun Lewis, Ryan Simmons and Caleb Lavey behind us, Justin Gilbert, Kevin (Peterson)… it's all those guys back there. It's a group effort."
Parker Graham says OU's offensive line – specifically left guard Adam Shead, center Gabe Ikard and right guard Bronson Irwin – had better be prepared.
"There's a lot of reasons I could say (why he's the best), but probably the best one is he demands a double team every play," Parker said of his teammate. "If you try to single block him you're probably going to get beat. In my opinion, just going against the guys that I've gone against this year, he's definitely the best in the Big 12."
Barnett was relaxed and soft spoken when visiting with the media on Monday afternoon but he said things will be different when he runs onto the Boone Pickens Stadium turf for the last time Saturday morning.
"I'm a senior at this point, and I've been playing this game for a while. It's controlled aggression is all it is. When it's time to let it out … right now we're in the process of going over film, studying, going over plays, things like that that we've been doing every week. I couldn't wait to play Baylor, I couldn't wait to play Kansas, I couldn't wait to play Texas," said Barnett, one of 28 seniors who will be honored in a pre-game ceremony.
"Every week it's a process, so by the time Saturday at 11 a.m. comes, I'll be ready. I'll be ready to show everything I've been waiting to do, just like me and my other teammates."