Oklahoma-Oklahoma State rivalry reaches new level
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) It's another high-stakes Bedlam game for Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys have emerged in the past decade under coach Mike Gundy, turning the showdown into much more than just a yearly meeting between schools from the same state.
Oklahoma leads the series 85-18-7, but Saturday's meeting will be the second straight that will decide the Big 12 title. A win for the Cowboys would be their second over the Sooners in three years and second straight in Norman, and it would give them their second conference title under Gundy. Matchups in 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013 also affected the conference title race.
''I think what's encouraging for the state of Oklahoma is that for a considerable number of times over the last six years, these two schools have gotten together to decide a conference championship, and I don't think we can ask for anything else,'' Gundy said.
Seventh-ranked Oklahoma (9-2, 8-0, No. 9 CFP) has won eight straight since a rough start, while No. 11 Oklahoma State (9-2, 7-1, No. 10 CFP) has won seven in a row since losing to Baylor. Both teams still have an outside shot at reaching the College Football Playoff.
''The only thing that we can control is how we play Saturday,'' Gundy said. ''What I told them is that I wanted them to play how they've played the last two months because as a coach it's enjoyable to watch them. They play for each other. There aren't any selfish players on the field, and I would fully expect them to play that way Saturday. Then, we can worry about the playoff system next Monday.''
Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph has much to gain against the Sooners. While Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has been mentioned in the Heisman Trophy race and is the defending Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, Rudolph could shake things up by outplaying his more decorated counterpart and getting a win.
Rudolph barely played during Oklahoma's 58-23 win last season . But he is healthy this season.
''It's what you look forward to all season long, and last year, I kind of let it slip through my grip,'' he said. ''Injuries happen, but I was kind of angry that I wasn't able to play and be at 100 percent. I've got a completely different mindset this year, and I'm ready to get out there and play in the game.''
Here are some things to watch Saturday:
MAYFIELD TO NY? Mayfield, who leads the nation in passing efficiency, could make a serious statement to Heisman voters with a strong performance. He wasn't invited to New York for last year's Heisman ceremony and finished fourth in the balloting. Mayfield wants the invite, but he knows he has to handle business first.
''The Heisman stuff is not going to matter if we don't win, so we want to put ourselves in a good position to see what happens with the rest of the country and see what we can do,'' Mayfield said.
HEISMAN CONTENDER II: Oklahoma receiver Dede Westbrook is rising on Heisman lists, too. He has 11 touchdown receptions of at least 40 yards this season, the most of any FBS player since 1998. He is averaging 150 yards receiving during conference play.
TAYLOR TOUGH: Oklahoma State defensive tackle Vincent Taylor has been a force all season. He leads the team with 11.5 tackles for loss, and leads the nation with four blocked kicks.
JAMES WASHINGTON: Amid the hype around Westbrook around the state of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State's James Washington has put together an impressive season, too. The junior has at least 100 yards receiving in four of his past six games and has 1,159 yards and nine touchdowns this season. His breakaway speed will cause problems, especially if the Cowboys can establish the run.
''He reminds of the big-play, strong guys they've had at Oklahoma State,'' Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. ''Like Dez (Bryant) and those guys that not only had speed but the physical presence to shove you out of the way and get the football because of how physical their presence is.''
IN THE MIX: Oklahoma's Joe Mixon is one of the nation's most dangerous players. The sophomore ranks second nationally behind Christian McCaffrey with 195 all-purpose yards per game. He's a force as a runner, receiver and return man. He's big - listed at 225 pounds, but likely much bigger - and he has breakaway speed.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .