OSU has quickly become OU's chief rival

Updated: October 27, 2003, 6:36 PM ET

STILLWATER, Okla. -- Forget Texas. Nebraska isn't even on the schedule anymore.

Oklahoma State has emerged as the Sooners' chief rival over the past three years, winning two of those games and nearly derailing their national title bid in the other.

Top-ranked Oklahoma again appears headed for the national championship game as it enters Saturday's annual showdown against the Cowboys. This time, however, Oklahoma State is playing for a lot more than intrastate pride.

Both teams are leaders in the race for the Big 12 South Division crown, and the 14th-ranked Cowboys (7-1, 3-1 Big 12) aren't willing to concede a spot to the Sooners in the Bowl Championship Series just yet.

"I honestly believe we're both playing for the same thing," receiver Rashaun Woods said. "They're playing for the same thing we're playing for."

That kind of defiant attitude by Oklahoma State represents a huge shift in the stakes of this long, but historically one-sided, rivalry.

Oklahoma has an on-field advantage of 74-16-7 in the 97-game series, counting a 38-15 win in 1972 that was later forfeited. Not surprisingly, Oklahoma State tallies that up as a win in its record book.

But lately, it's been the Cowboys who have seized control of the matchup.

Oklahoma State has won five of the last eight games, including victories the past two seasons that have jump-started coach Les Miles' resurgent program.

The Cowboys' 16-13 win in 2001 cost Oklahoma a trip to the Big 12 title game, where a victory would have sent the Sooners to the national title game. The next year, Oklahoma State led throughout in a 38-28 romp that sent the Cowboys to their first bowl game since 1997.

While both wins were considered upsets, Miles got particularly animated Monday at his weekly media luncheon when those victories were referred to as "surprises" by an intrepid reporter.

"I suspect we didn't surprise anybody," said Miles, his voice rising. "I hope it surprises them a number of times."

Miles, who typically resorts to bland coachspeak in the buildup to big games, has been in rare form the past two days.

This season, most opposing coaches have been downright deferential when talking about the abundance of talent that dots Oklahoma's roster. Not Miles.

Miles got the local media corps buzzing with this postgame comment Saturday after the Cowboys defeated Texas A&M 38-10: "We know we are playing Oklahoma next week and they are the best team in college football, we are told."

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops wouldn't bite when asked how he interpreted the "we are told" portion of the remark.

"It probably means he doesn't believe it," Stoops said Monday. "Gauging from the way we played a year ago, I don't blame him for not respecting us very much."

Miles and his players are reacting, in part, to what they feel is a lack of respect for their wins over Oklahoma.

Offensive lineman Sam Mayes said the Sooners had better not overlook the Cowboys again.

"If they want to act like they can ignore us, that ain't working," Mayes said. "We're still here. You might want to look that way, but we're right in your hip pocket."

Still, the Sooners' perceived superiority has drawn Miles' ire recently.

Miles was agitated after Stoops had the game moved from the Saturday after Thanksgiving -- when the game had been played each year since 1999. Stoops has said he wants to have a week off before the Big 12 title game.

The assumption that Oklahoma will roll to the Big 12 title, Miles said, isn't necessarily the correct one.

"The two teams that will play this Saturday -- one may be the best team in college football and the other one is a darned good football team," he said. "This game will be played to determine which one is which."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index