STILLWATER, Oklahoma – The annual Bedlam rivalry always carries intensity with it, but this season it will define the entire season for both teams and can become historic for Oklahoma State.
With the way the Big 12 standings currently stand, Bedlam essentially has become a conference championship game. Whichever team wins will earn the Big 12's automatic BCS bid, a feat OSU has never accomplished.
"For the first time in this program's history - I'll go back 50 years, maybe further - they have a chance to win a conference championship," head coach Mike Gundy said. "So it's a big game for that reason. It's something that's not ever been accomplished here, and the players are aware of that and the coaches are aware of that."
Despite the added significance of this year's matchup, Gundy stressed that it is important that his team's preparation leading up to the game is no different than usual.
"We won't approach it any differently and it won't feel any different than it did last year," Gundy said. "There's a lot of excitement in this state for the game. Obviously, we don't have professional football here and it's a fun week for everybody, but our players and our coaches have to stay focused on the task at hand."
The Cowboys spent most of this season having national championship hopes, rising to No. 2 in the nation at one point. But they suffered a historic upset to Iowa State in their last game, doing major damage to those title chances.
"We have to get over that because our goals are still right in front of us," running back Jeremy Smith said. "Starting the season, our goals were to win the Big 12 Championship and get to a BCS game. Those are still right in front of our eyes."
The Cowboys now are ranked No. 3 in the BCS, but there is a significant gap between them and the two teams in front of them.
"We don't try and focus on the rankings," receiver Josh Cooper said. "We just focus on the team in front of us. It's great to be up there but it doesn't really make a difference for this Saturday."
Those two teams in front of OSU – LSU and Alabama – both are from the SEC West division. A rematch between those two teams in the national championship game is likely, despite the fact that Alabama cannot win its conference.
"It's extremely difficult to win all your games," Gundy said. "I think there can be a really good team lose a game and still in the end may be the best football team in the country. There are some very, very good teams in a couple leagues that people feel like should have the right to play for the championship."
With the intensity of the Bedlam rivalry only being amplified by increased stakes, the players know what is coming.
"They don't like us and we don't like them," Cooper said. "It is going to be a dog fight and I'm ready."