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Cowboys respect, but don't fear, Alabama

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STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) Perhaps it's the best that could be expected from a player on a 6-6 football team:

"We're pretty excited about playing probably the second-best 6-6 team in the nation," Oklahoma State guard Kurt Seifried said Friday, as the Cowboys continued preparations for a December 28th date opposite Alabama in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Second-best?

"I would say we are the best," Seifried said.

When told of Seifried's comments, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy laughed and said "that sounds like a good quote from an outgoing senior."

Gundy didn't say Seifried was wrong in his assessment, but the coach did say earlier that the Cowboys must look past Alabama's average record.

"Don't let 6-6 confuse you on where they're at as a team," Gundy said of the Crimson Tide, citing their rugged Southeastern Conference schedule that includes losses to Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, Louisiana State and Auburn.

"We're very respectful for who they are and where they come from. ... They won 10 games (last season). It's not like these guys just fell off the truck."

That doesn't mean, though, Gundy doesn't expect the Cowboys to win.

"I don't think there's any question that the most important thing for us right now as a football team and as a staff is to win this game," he said. "We have the capability to do it and we have the people to do it."

Oklahoma State players and coaches said they are aware of Alabama's tradition, which includes six Associated Press national titles and 28 10-win seasons. The Cowboys, by contrast, never have won a national title and have three 10-win seasons.

But to a man, the Cowboys said that tradition doesn't scare them. After all, they said, in the Big 12 Conference, they annually have to play national powers Oklahoma and Texas and this season faced league rival Nebraska, another traditional power.

"We're not in awe of anybody," Gundy said.

The Cowboys have backed up such bravado on the field this season, beating then-#20 Nebraska 41-29 and going down to the final play before falling against then-#13 Oklahoma 27-21.

The Oklahoma game was the fourth time this season the Cowboys had their hopes for a win snuffed on the last play, also missing potential touchdown passes against Kansas State and Texas Tech and having an extra point blocked in overtime against then-#23 Texas A&M.

"Everybody knows we could have been 9-3 or 10-2, but sometimes it doesn't work that way," Seifried said. "It's been an up and down year."

Alabama experienced similar disappointments, as the Crimson Tide missed an extra-point attempt in the second overtime of a 24-23 loss to Arkansas, lost by a field goal to then-#7 Tennessee, suffered an embarrassing home loss to Mississippi State and fell 22-15 to then-#15 Auburn, their fifth straight loss against their archrival.

Alabama fired coach Mike Shula after the regular season, leaving defensive coordinator Joe Kines as the Crimson Tide's interim coach. Kines said offensive coordinator Dave Rader, the head coach at Tulsa from 1988 to 1999, will assume play-calling duties for Alabama for the Independence Bowl.

Oklahoma State's players say the uncertainty around Alabama's coaching search won't affect them on the field, but Gundy said it makes the bowl-game preparations more difficult for the Cowboys' coaches, because Shula called Alabama's plays during the regular season.

"We're at a little bit of a disadvantage there," Gundy said. "All we can do is prepare for what we think they're going to do and be ready to adjust on the run during the game if they come out in a completely different structure."

No matter the circumstances or frustrations of the season, finishing with a win is important, Seifried said.

"Being 7-6 is a lot better than being 6-7," he said. "Being 7-6 will do a lot of things for this program."
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