Sooners relishing underdog status

DALLAS -- This week, Big 12 media days had a different feel for the Sooners.

The feel of not being the favorites.

For the first time since 2007, Oklahoma was not the preseason pick to win the conference (or South Division, when it was voted that way).

Instead, Oklahoma State received 15 of 43 first-place votes to edge out the Sooners for the top spot. Other preseason polls, including ESPN Insider Phil Steele’s, have the Cowboys ranked higher, too. Some have Texas and TCU ahead, as well.

The Sooners, however, aren’t bristling at being overlooked. Instead, they are relishing this rare opportunity of not being the favorite.

“I love being the underdog,” said cornerback Aaron Colvin. “That’s where I’m most comfortable at.”

While Colvin says he’s comfortable as the underdog, it’s not a place he’s been often since signing with the Sooners. OU has been the underdog just three times in the last three seasons -- to Texas A&M in last season’s bowl game, and the 2010 and 2011 trips to Oklahoma State.

The Sooners figure to be underdogs at least twice this season, and could start with their lowest preseason ranking since 2000. Of course, that team went on to win the national championship. And these Sooners are thinking such a slight could give them an edge they haven’t had in the past.

“You can use that to motivate yourself on and off the field,” said fullback Trey Millard. “You have that to use as fuel during that extra rep in practice, knowing that going into the week you’re not supposed to win.”

During the Bob Stoops era, the Sooners have usually performed well the few times they haven’t been expected to win. In 2010, OU went to Stillwater getting a field goal and knocked off the Cowboys with the Big 12 South on the line.

The year before that, the Sooners were also underdogs against Texas, and despite losing Sam Bradford to injury in the first quarter, forced the Longhorns to sweat out a 16-13 victory.

OU’s most famous dark-horse performance under Stoops, however, came in the 2000 Orange Bowl, where the Sooners were double-digit underdogs to Florida State. OU dominated the game to win 13-2 and secure the school’s seventh national championship.

Could the Sooners channel a similar attitude?

“If we’re an underdog as a team, I feel like this team will have a chip on its shoulders and you will see guys out there competing to the fullest,” Colvin said. “I know when I’m the underdog, I go out there and compete as hard as I can, so I’m excited for it."