NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma football players aren't used to this scenario.
When the Sooners walk down the visitors tunnel Thursday night, they will emerge onto the turf at Floyd Casey Stadium as clear underdogs. Baylor hosts OU in Waco, Texas, in a battle of Top 10 teams that could end up as the game that decided the Big 12 title race when all is said and done.
"It becomes a challenge, makes the game more exciting," safety Quentin Hayes said of being an underdog. "We just have to go out and play Sooner football. It is what it is."
Odds makers have made the Bears two touchdown favorites, as Baylor has looked as good as any team in the nation while reeling off a 7-0 start.
Even though they can count the number of times they've entered a game as underdogs on one hand, several Sooners seem to cherish the underdog role.
"I think this team thrives off the underdog role," defensive end Geneo Grissom said. "We almost feel disrespected being an underdog. We feel like we can play with anyone in this conference. It motivates us and helps us thrive."
Under Bob Stoops the Sooners have excelled in similar situations. OU is 4-2 in road games against AP top 10 teams under Stoops, including a 3-1 mark since 2010. The Sooners also are undefeated when facing back-to-back AP Top 10 opponents, having swept Kansas State and Nebraska in 2000 and Texas and Iowa State in 2002 under Stoops. OU defeated then-No. 10 Texas Tech 38-30 in its last game, Oct. 26.
Simply put, when questions about their chances to win arise, the Sooners tend to rise to the occasion.
"I think we do," cornerback Aaron Colvin said. "I feel like we play well when we're in that underdog role. Personally, I love the underdog role. I feel like I've been in it my whole life."
Several times in recent years, the Sooners have taken their game to another level when many doubted their chances to win. Florida State (2011), Oklahoma State (2009, 2010) and Kansas State (2011) are prime examples. OU won those four games by an average of 21 points.
Against No. 12 Oklahoma State in 2009, the unranked Sooners were winding down a five-loss regular season with a makeshift offensive line, yet they shut out the Cowboys in Norman, their 27-0 win dashing OSU's hopes of a BCS berth. In Bedlam 2010, No. 9 Oklahoma State was expected to win again before the No. 13 Sooners dashed their Big 12 title hopes with a 47-41 win in Stillwater. In 2011, top-ranked OU went to Doak Walker Stadium to earn a 23-13 win over No. 5 FSU in a matchup of Top 5 teams. Later that season, the team traveled to Manhattan, Kan., with a No. 9 ranking after having lost to Texas Tech and hammered No. 8 Kansas State, 58-17.
Don't go putting the much-anticipated matchup with Baylor in the win column, however. The past three times OU has been an underdog, they've proved their doubters right. In Bedlam 2011, No. 3 Oklahoma State got its revenge for the previous two seasons with a dominant, 44-10 win. Last year, No. 5 Notre Dame pulled away from the Sooners in the fourth quarter of a 30-13 win, and No. 9 Texas A&M dominated the second half of its 41-13 Cotton Bowl triumph to hand OU two of its three 2012 losses.
But make no mistake -- several Sooners feel disrespected by being the underdog heading into any game.
"I do feel pretty disrespected," Colvin said. "Not necessarily because of their opinion or them picking us to lose, but just some of the things they might say about us, or the point deficit they think we might lose by. Whatever it is, we can't worry about it, and that's my job as a leader to make sure we aren't worried about it."