Oklahoma-Oklahoma St. Preview
By JEFF MEZYDLO
(AP) -- While Oklahoma is out of the national championship picture, Oklahoma State hopes to remain in title contention if it can do something it has not done in nine years.
With the Big 12 title on the line, the third-ranked Cowboys look to avoid a ninth consecutive loss to the No. 13 Sooners when the rivals meet in the annual Bedlam Game on Saturday night in Stillwater.
Losses at home to Texas Tech and at then-No. 25 Baylor knocked Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2) from any BCS championship talk. The Sooners, though, can still capture their eighth Big 12 title with a win over Oklahoma State, which last won a Bedlam matchup 38-28 at home Nov. 30, 2002.
Another Oklahoma victory would give the Sooners the league's BCS bowl spot.
"They know it's a one-game season with the chance for the Big 12 championship," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "That's where you want to be."
Despite the Sooners' dominance in the series, Stoops also knows his squad faces its stiffest test of the season against a team thinking beyond a conference championship.
"We've got a (big) challenge in front of us," Oklahoma defensive back Tony Jefferson said.
Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1) has been outscored 343-178 during its nine-game Bedlam skid but is third in the BCS standings behind LSU and Alabama. With a decisive victory over the Sooners, the Cowboys could possibly move into the No. 2 spot and earn a date - likely against LSU - for the national championship.
"For us right now, we need to prepare to win this game," coach Mike Gundy said. "If we win this game and we play well and somebody thinks that it's enough to put us in position to play for that, nobody will be more fired up than I will about it and excited for our players."
The Cowboys are in this position of putting their fate in the hands of voters and computers because of a 37-31 double-overtime loss at Iowa State in their last contest Nov. 18. Oklahoma State has had plenty of time to recover from that defeat and prepare to turn the tides in the series with its biggest rival.
"Everybody's spirits are high and excited," Gundy told Oklahoma State's official website. "We won't approach it any differently but our players and our coaches have to stay focused on the task at hand."
Looking for its first outright conference title as a member of the Big 12 or Big Eight, Oklahoma State must find a way to improve defensively after it allowed 568 yards against Iowa State. The Cowboys also turned the ball over a season-high five times.
"It's real simple," Gundy said. "If you lose the turnover battle in such a big fashion, it's extremely hard to win a game."
Heisman Trophy candidate Brandon Weeden threw three interceptions along with three touchdowns. The senior has thrown 34 touchdowns and ranks second in the nation averaging 373.7 passing yards, but he threw two TDs and three interceptions in a 47-41 home loss to Oklahoma in 2010.
Receiver Justin Blackmon, who caught eight passes for 105 yards with a TD against the Sooners last season, ranks among the national leaders in receptions (103), receiving yards (1,241) and touchdowns (15).
Second in the country averaging 49.8 points, Oklahoma State faces an Oklahoma defense that held Iowa State to 245 yards in a 26-6 win last Saturday after it gave up a school-record 616 in the 45-38 loss at Baylor. Playing amidst a howling wind in Norman, the Sooners also forced four turnovers last weekend.
"It (was) good to see them smile," defensive coordinator Brent Venables said.
Oklahoma senior Landry Jones struggled in the wind by throwing a pair of interceptions while failing to toss a TD for the second straight game after recording at least one in 24 straight. He was 37 of 62 for 468 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions against the Cowboys last season.
Oklahoma State also might need to focus on stopping the Sooners on the ground after they ran for a season-high 253 yards against the Cyclones. Running backs Roy Finch and Brandon Williams combined for 163 yards on 26 carries.
The Sooners have rushed for at least 120 yards in each of the last nine games versus Oklahoma State.
Updated November 29, 2011