Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

November 7, 2013

Sooners choosing to relish the role of the underdog

WACO, Texas — Gambling is a major no-no for college football players. Therefore “point spread” is not supposed to be in their vernacular. But just about every Oklahoma player knows they enter today’s showdown with No. 5 Baylor as a two-touchdown underdog.

“It’s kinda funny to me, but I also think it’s disrespectful,” OU cornerback Aaron Colvin said. “Whatever they want to say, everyone is entitled to an opinion. We know what we’re capable of and we’re not really worried about what anybody has to say.”

The underdog status puts the 12th-ranked Sooners (7-1, 4-1 Big 12) in a very unique spot. During Bob Stoops’ tenure, the Sooners have only been a double-digit underdog a few times. The last time was the 2005 Red River Rivalry meeting with Texas. The Sooners were a 141⁄2-point underdog going into that game and lost 45-12.

Statistically, that was one of Stoops’ worst teams. It went 8-4 and finished the season No. 22. The Longhorns, however,  went on to win the national championship.

Are the fifth-ranked Bears (7-0, 3-0) at that level? The mystery will begin to unravel when the teams met at 6:30 p.m. today at Floyd Casey Stadium.

There are ample reasons why OU appears to be going uphill tonight. It might have won seven of eight games, but dominating performances have been few.

Baylor, on the other hand, has destroyed every team it’s played this season but Kansas State, a contest it won 35-25 in Manhattan. Sure, its schedule has been tame, but a 48-point average margin of victory is impossible to ignore.

The Sooners fully understand what they’re up against.

“Everyone is excited about the opportunity to go down there and play an excellent football team, a team that’s been great, obviously, in every category,” OU coach Bob Stoops said.

The Sooners have excelled in these situations.

OU is 4-2 in road games against AP top 10 teams under Stoops, including a 3-1 mark since 2010. The Sooners are also undefeated when facing back-to-back AP top 10 opponents, sweeping Kansas State and Nebraska in 2000 and Texas and Iowa State in 2002 under Stoops.  OU knocked then-No. 10 Texas Tech, 38-30, Oct. 26.

For players, what happened 14 or 12 years ago has no meaning on tonight’s game. The players will decide what happens today. They were in elementary school a decade ago.

There’s also the very recent history of OU’s last three games as underdogs: the 2011 Bedlam game, last season against Notre Dame and the 2013 Cotton Bowl against Texas A&M. The Sooners were throttled in all three of those games.

Clearly, the oddsmakers overestimated the Sooners in all three of those games. But the underdog role never really came up in any of those games. The Sooners weren’t favored, but neither was their opponent by very much.

Today, Baylor’s a big favorite and OU is energized by the prospect of being able to shock some folks with a simple victory.

“This team thrives off the underdog role. We almost feel as though … let me find a word that I won’t get in trouble for …disrespected,” defensive end Geneo Grissom said. “We almost feel disrespected in being the underdog. We feel like we can play with anybody in this conference.”

They can prove it tonight.

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