The Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game takes on an added perspective this year thanks to last year's 16-13 shocking upset of the Sooners. If the heavily-favored Sooners had taken care of business and won that game as expected we would not be thinking that much of this year's game.
Sure, we would have talked about the improvement in the Oklahoma State football program and we would talk about the good job that Les Miles is doing, but nobody would be predicting an OSU victory or a close game in Stillwater. However, that game along with the fact that the Cowboys have won four of their last seven games gives credence to the fact that the Cowboys have the ‘MOJO' on their side. The Pokes certainly weren't better than the Sooners last year and they certainly should not have played the Sooners so close in 2000.
One thing is clear and that is Bob Simmons, and now Les Miles do not look at the Sooners in awe. Sure, they respect the Sooners a great deal and they realize that the Sooners are good, but they are not afraid to play the Sooners.
"When we started watching the Sooners on film this week you realize right away they are a national team," said OSU Head Coach Les Miles Monday on KREF Sports Radio. "They play like a national team and they have the look of a national team. It's the way they fire off the ball, the way the line up and the skill they have at all positions."
"Coach (Bob) Stoops and his staff do a fantastic job and they are well coached in each and every game. OU is a great football team and that is easy for us to notice in five minutes when we turn on the film. However, we are looking forward to the game because we feel we can match up with them in many ways."
The loss to OSU a year ago was the first time that we realized that Stoops and his staff were human, that they to could have an off day. OU wasn't as fired up as they needed to be and the Sooners were so banged up on offense they couldn't move the football. OU tried to win the OSU game on defense alone and they almost pulled it off. It took a miracle drive by the Cowboys to upset the Sooners.
That game cost the Sooners a shot at back-to-back national titles and it gave the Cowboys something that they could use against Oklahoma and to help rebuild their football program. Despite a poor record for OSU the Cowboys could say they had beaten OU, almost beat them the year before and had won four out of the last seven meetings. That says something solid about your program when you have handled OU that way.
Last year's game also has had a positive effect on the Sooners. OU knows last year's game should have never happened and even the escape the year before shouldn't have been that close. So, the coaching staff has worked to figure out why the OSU game has been a problem.
OU changed their practice habits this week, keeping a normal work schedule and holding Thanksgiving dinner at OU, instead of letting the players go home. Practices have been very intense and that didn't come from the coaches urging. The players were so embarrassed last year that they didn't need any extra prodding during practice this week.
"Hey, we are not going to Stillwater this week to see friends or go to Eskimo Joe's," said senior All-American tight end Trent Smith. "Last year was a total embarrassment and I have had to hear about it all year."
"There was nobody to blame last year but us and we all know that. We didn't play well and they out played us. They made the big plays and we didn't. This year we want to show that last year was a fluke and that we were a better football team than that. This is my senior year and I don't want to lose to them and I will do everything I can to make sure that we play our best game of the year."
The key match up going into the game centers on the OSU defensive front-six and the Sooner offense. In the Bedlam game a year ago, OSU dominated the Oklahoma offense up front and quarterback Nate Hybl was a battered and bruised losing quarterback by the end of the game. The Sooners are a different offensive team this year and they are healthy, which they feel will make a big difference in the game.
"OSU is very good up front as they are real strong and run well up front," said Nate Hybl. "They are probably the best that we are going to see all year. Who knows what they will do this year, because they have changed it up on us the last couple of years. They have been primarily a zone team the last couple of years, but I think they are going to cheat some guys up in the box to try to stop our running game.
"We will be ready for it. The big thing is be ready for anything they are going to do."
The last two years the Cowboys have laid off the line of scrimmage at times only rushing two men to shut down the Sooners' spread offense. This year the Sooners are a balanced offense, which will force the Cowboys to line up more balanced on defense.
"That is the plan. When you think back to last year's game they would drop eight to nine men in the secondary because we couldn't run the ball," said Hybl. "When a team is dropping eight it is hard to find holes out there sometimes. This year we have forced teams to balance up and play more single safety type defenses."
"Teams this year have cheated a guy up in the box against us and they still haven't been able to stop our run. I think we will just stick to our game plan and force them to adjust to us. We like defenses adjusting to us, instead of us adjusting to them."
The Cowboys play three freshman cover men in the secondary and two senior safeties in Chris Massey and Elbert Craig. Both are better in run coverage than pass coverage, which gives the Sooners experienced wide receiver core the edge.
On defense the Sooners will face a Cowboys team that is very solid and they also have some skill talent that can cause you some match up problems.
"Rashaun Woods is fantastic and you have to build a gameplan around him to stop him" said Co-Defensive Coordinator Mike Stoops. "We will know where he is at all times and we will show him different looks the entire game."
"Tatum Bell is a much improved running back, who is more physical this year. They have other receivers in T.D. Bryant and John Lewis who can hurt you as well. Their offensive line has come together it looks like as well."
"Josh Fields is playing with more confidence and is more aware of what is happening around him. They have talent and they are putting some points on the board. We will need to play well and play with intensity to hold that offense in check."
Both teams have offensive weapons and both teams have strengths, but once again the Sooners are the superior football team. The Sooners can match up with the Cowboys at every turn. Woods and his wide receivers will have a tough time with Derrick Strait, Andre Woolfolk and company and one of the best defensive secondaries in the country.
The Cowboys are good up front on defense, but the OU offensive line has improved to the point they are one of the best in the conference, if not the best.
The bottom line is that OU is a better football team and they want revenge. They want to show OSU that they are the better football program and that last year was fluke.
OU wants this game bad and that is why they will win 34-17.
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