Bedlam not just for bragging rights

Friday, November 24th 2006, 8:51 am
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) Bedlam always brings a chance for statewide bragging rights. This year, it's about so much more for those who bleed crimson or are orange to the bone.

For Oklahoma (9-2, 6-1 Big 12), a win would provide a potential entryway into a lucrative position in the Bowl Championship Series. For Oklahoma State (6-5, 3-4), a win could help prevent a second straight postseason with no bowl game at all.

``It's real big, like every game,'' Oklahoma quarterback Paul Thompson said. ``Not just because it's a rivalry, but as far as where we want to end up in the Big 12, where we want to end up as far as bowl games, where we want to end up just overall nationally in our rankings.

``I think there's definitely a sense of urgency, a sense of focus among the players, the coaches, everyone just knowing the importance of this game.''

A loss by Texas on Friday gave the #13 Sooners hope for a straight path into a fourth BCS game in the past five years. Oklahoma now needs only a Bedlam win to claim the Big 12 South title and a berth in the conference championship game.

A win against Nebraska there would put Oklahoma back in the BCS.

``We're definitely worthy of it if we can continue to do what we need to do,'' Thompson said.

That puts the Cowboys in position to be a spoiler, like they were in 2001 and 2002. Oklahoma State's 16-13 win in Norman in 2001 knocked Oklahoma out of the national title picture and even the BCS. The next season, the Cowboys eliminated any lingering chances a once-beaten Oklahoma team could play for the national title.

What if the Cowboys did it again?

``I think it would be special,'' Oklahoma State guard Kurt Seifried said. ``But we're just focusing on us. ... If we beat them, then our season can continue.''

Those are the stakes in Stillwater. The Cowboys are one of nine bowl-eligible football teams in the Big 12 that are vying for eight guaranteed bowl spots. By rule, no team with six wins could go to a bowl game if all other eligible teams had seven or more wins.

``This is just another step getting to where we need to be at,'' Oklahoma State linebacker Jeremy Nethon said. ``I just think that each step that we take, we need to take it seriously. ... Just because it's OU, there's some extra perks to it, but we're still needing to take care of business to get there.''

And don't forget the Bedlam bragging rights.

``This is for respect,'' Cowboys tackle Corey Hilliard said. ``There's so much that goes into this game emotion-wise. I can't speak for their part. On our part, it does. It's the game of the season for us.''

While Oklahoma has dominated the series over the past century, it's far closer of late. Oklahoma State has won five of the last 11 games, including two of the last four in Stillwater.

``OU, they're going to have a big challenge on their hands because we're not a pushover team,'' Oklahoma State linebacker Rodrick Johnson said.

This will be the 101st Bedlam game, with Oklahoma holding a 76-17-1 advantage so far.

The 100th meeting wasn't of nearly as much consequence. Oklahoma State had already been eliminated from bowl contention before last season's 42-14 thumping in Norman, and all the Sooners got from the win was a slightly better bowl destination.

This season, it's a whole new ball game, and that's hard to deny.

``Even though you want to say it's just a normal game,'' Nethon said, ``something inside of you is just saying, `This is pretty big.'''