Sooners have seen OSU's rise up close

Nobody can question the dominance of Oklahoma in the Bedlam series. The Sooners have made Oklahoma State just a little bump on their road to championship contention for the majority of the in-state rivalry, taking a 83-17-7 series lead into Saturday’s game in Stillwater, Okla.

That is the past.

The present is a little different.

OSU has been on the rise under Mike Gundy, who was hired in 2005, emerging as a consistent threat to win the Big 12 title and a legitimate player on the national landscape. Since 2009, OSU has won 79.4 percent of its games (50-13), seventh amongst FBS teams and No. 1 in in the Big 12.

Nobody has had a closer view of the rise of the Cowboys than OU.

Earlier this week, Sooners head coach Bob Stoops was asked if he could appreciate what OSU has accomplished in recent years.

“No, I don’t appreciate it, I wish they hadn’t,” Bob Stoops said with a laugh.

His brother, Mike Stoops, has had a unique perspective as OSU has risen to the top of the Big 12. He was on the Sooners staff in the early 2000s then spent 2004 through 2011 at Arizona, watching the Cowboys rise from Pac-12 territory before returning to OU before the 2012 season.

He sees a clear difference at OSU. And it’s not just the change in uniforms.

“They are obviously more skilled across the board at every position,” Mike Stoops said. “Not just the skill players but the big athletes, the offense and defensive lines. They are very skilled at every position so they have changed a great deal.”

OSU has always had talent. Antonio Smith, Kevin Williams and Charlie Johnson are just a few of the former Cowboys currently in the NFL who donned an OSU uniform before the program had cemented itself among the Big 12’s best.

It’s the overall depth within the program, from top to bottom, that has continued to improve, particularly in the past few seasons.

“Growing up in Tulsa, I always watched Oklahoma State,” said cornerback Aaron Colvin, who signed with the Sooners out of Owasso (Okla.) High School, roughly 15 miles north of Tulsa, Okla.

“They always had talent. Now, they’re getting those type of guys everywhere, at every position. They’re definitely on the rise, starting to win a lot of games.”

That depth has been one reason the Cowboys were able to overcome a very limited contribution from two of its most explosive players, receiver Josh Stewart and cornerback Justin Gilbert, in their 48-17 win over Baylor to grab control of the conference. Several Big 12 squads have decimated by injuries this season and the Cowboys are one of them, including having to replace arguably their best offensive lineman, left tackle Devin Davis, before the season even began.

It’s one reason the Cowboys control their own destiny in the Big 12 title race on Saturday, a position every team in the Big 12 envies.

“You can win some games with 10 to 12 good players,” Mike Stoops said. “But now, when you have 22 or 24 of them lining up everywhere, you have a chance to win every time you step on the field. That’s really been the case with them over the last several years. I had a chance to play them a few times three and four years ago when I was at Arizona, you could see those guys evolving in their skill.”

That skill has combined with consistent production to place OSU among the conference's elite, alongside the Sooners.

“I think just the consistency [with which] they play," Mike Stoops said. "I think it’s really a difference. At Oklahoma we were always there, but now Oklahoma State is always showing up too, so they’ve become very significant in this conference. Their players play very consistently every time they step on the field, so what you get is a more consistent opponent and a better opponent.”