The Big 12/SEC storyline has carried all through Cotton Bowl week, with players and coaches largely downplaying the idea that either Oklahoma State or Missouri has an added sense of pride in this game because they used to be conference brothers.
Cowboy coach Mike Gundy became the latest to do that when he was asked during Thursday's final press conference if he felt his team was representing the entire Big 12 in this game.
“I guess from a media and a fan standpoint, I should say yes. But I hate to say that,” Gundy said. ” … And I may not be stimulating enough interest out there. But no matter who we're playing, we ask our coaches and our players to commit to preparation for every game. The SEC and the Big 12 obviously are very strong conferences that have had tremendous success over the last six, eight years.
“And so if we were playing a team from another conference, we would ask them to prepare the same way. So we're playing a very good football team. And they know the challenge at hand, and they have handled themselves very good over the last three weeks. We are excited about playing in the game and looking forward to the competition.”
FORMER GUTHRIE TEAMMATES STALEY, BROTHERS SET TO FACE OFF
The town of Guthrie is particularly buzzing about the Cotton Bowl, with two hometown products, OSU fullback Kye Staley and Missouri starting linebacker Kentrell Brothers, set to face each other.
Staley and Brothers, who were teammates for one season at Guthrie High, took part in some friendly trash talk when the Cotton Bowl matchup was first announced but haven't spoken since both teams arrived in the Dallas area.
But with the nature of their two positions, they're sure to go head-to-head Friday.
“I'll see him all game,” Brothers said. “It's something I'm looking forward to. And I'm sure he's looking forward to it, too.”
Staley and Brothers also share another type of bond — through injury.
Brothers broke his ankle during a preseason scrimmage before his freshman season. When Staley — who, of course, overcame a catastrophic knee injury to return to the Cowboys — heard about Brothers getting hurt, he reached out.
“It ain't the end of the world,” Staley remembers telling Brothers. “When it happened to me, I pretty much didn't have anyone there to tell me the same thing. So I just told him just stay positive, believe in your treatment and keep working hard.”
And Brothers could certainly look to Staley's recovery process for inspiration.
“He's come a long way,” he said. “I haven't seen as gruesome of an injury as he had ever before. To stick with it throughout all those hard times, it just means a lot about him as a person.”
HENSON'S SEC EXPERIENCE VALUABLE
Former OSU player and assistant coach Josh Henson went with Les Miles when he took the head coaching job at LSU.
Henson felt like he needed that change to further his personal career. That experience has also been valuable in his current job as Missouri's offensive coordinator, with the Tigers making the transition to the SEC following the 2011 season.