Cotton Bowl no ordinary matchup

NORMAN, Okla. — Ask any of the Sooners and most of them will describe this Cotton Bowl with the same word: strange.

Strange because it's a Big 12-SEC battle, but one that still maybe feels like the Big 12 South battle that it had been for the previous 16 years.

"Yeah, it is a little strange," said OU quarterback Landry Jones. "People say this is an out of conference game, and I think for us…I was like, ‘I mean, we played them last year.' Both sides are familiar with each other. It is a little different playing them in a bowl game just because you're used to them being in the Big 12 and always competing against them…In my mind, it still seems like a Big 12 game just because they're only one year removed.

"Now, if this was twenty years down the line I'm sure it would be a whole different game, a whole different feel to it just because I'm sure the future Oklahoma teams won't play Texas A&M every year."

Defensive end David King expanded on that.

"It's strange for two reasons," King said. "One: because we're playing in Dallas and I mean we play in Dallas every year we play Texas down there. And then we did play Texas A&M every year for so many years, so it's strange for two reasons. But I mean at the end of the day it's a bowl game."

But perhaps, just perhaps this game has that much more meaning not simply because it's a clash against a rival conference but because it's against a team that used to be in their league.

There's no doubt coming into the contest that, regardless of the players who graduated from a year ago, these teams know what the other presents.

And that adds even more to it.

"Yeah, I think it's good that we have some familiarity with having played these guys in the past," said OU linebackers coach Tim Kish. "And, you know, our guys are excited about the game as they should be, and we're excited as coaches we're able to play in it as well, so coach in it as well. Yeah, I think it's gonna be a great atmosphere for this game."

Bring up the topic of A&M being in the SEC now to Sooner head coach Bob Stoops and, while he admits it's not a conference game anymore though it may feel like it, he is quick to point out the success the Aggies have had in that conference and how that reflects on those remaining in the Big 12.

"Well again, you can say, ‘Well, how long is it take for them to be an SEC team and not a Big 12 team?' I don't get into those," Stoops said. "It does. It feels like playing another excellent football team, so whether they're in the Big 12 or the SEC—if they were in the Big 12, we would have already played. So, it just doesn't work that way, but it's interesting to me all that debate, all that coffee talk. ‘Is it SEC defenses and Big 12 offenses?'

"They seem to have done pretty well offensively in that league. I think they lead it in every single category and it hasn't hurt their winning. They've won a bunch of games there, too, so they're doing pretty good against all those defenses."

And that's precisely the challenge for OU: slowing down a very Big 12-like offense led by Heisman Trophy winner Johnny "Football" Manziel, while also continuing to put up the prolific offensive numbers they've been able to in recent weeks.

They'll try to do so in an inter-conference matchup that seems much more like a conference matchup when the two take the field Jan. 4 in Arlington, Texas.

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