Growing up in the Dallas metroplex, Oklahoma center Ben Habern knew the annual showdown in the Cotton Bowl was THE game but an in-state rivalry with Oklahoma State also was a big game.
Four years after committing to the Sooners, the rivalry barometer has different readings these days.
Beating the Longhorns in Dallas will always will be a priority. But the Big 12 standings reveal there is no debate that the past two years' Bedlam games are bigger than the Red River Rivalry.
“They've always been a huge rival,” Habern said. “Any in-state rival, where both teams are competing for the Big 12 championship, is always pretty big.”
That's where the landscape has changed.
Most seasons, the team that won the Red River Rivalry had a leg up winning the South, thus having a leg up on winning the conference title.
Texas is wallowing in unchartered lows during the Mack Brown era, while the Cowboys have risen to new heights under Mike Gundy.
“They've definitely picked it up to where they're one of the powerhouses in college football,” Habern said. “It's a fun opportunity. It's going to be a fun game to play.”
The Sooners have won the past eight meetings. But Bedlam games in Stillwater during the Bob Stoops era almost always have produced entertaining, fourth-quarter drama.
That's been the case in the past six Bedlam games in Boone Pickens Stadium, dating back to days when it was known as Lewis Field.
“This game is huge for so many different reasons, one the tradition and history of the rivalry, two the stage we're on, the implications of the outcome of the game,” said OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
“Obviously they've done a terrific job, particularly since Coach Gundy has taken over. They have so much going for them right now as a program. Obviously our guys recognize and respect what we have in front of us, the challenge that Oklahoma State presents.”
OU freshman running back Brandon Williams, suddenly a key player in Bedlam, gave the rubber-stamp answer that every game is important whether it's Ball State or Oklahoma State.
But Williams, who is from Brookshire, Texas, hasn't experienced OSU students rapping paddles against padded walls.
Williams hasn't experienced diehard OSU fans behind the OU bench constantly reminding the Sooners what they think of players that don't wear orange.
Senior tight Trent Ratteree has experienced Bedlam his entire life. The Weatherford product concedes more is on the line with the Big 12 championship at stake but: “Bedlam has always been big. Regardless of the players each team has it's always a competitive, physical game.”
Throughout the week, matchups will be analyzed. The hot topic will be whether a shootout is inevitable.
“It's going to be a great, great challenge,” Venables said. “Our players are excited. They look forward to it. Obviously a year ago we were in the same situation like Oklahoma State was. It's going to be a terrific matchup.”
A matchup some say is the biggest Bedlam game ever, even bigger than OU-Texas.