Athletes are prideful by nature. Doubters and a feeling of disrespect can often spur them on to great heights.
So how do members of the Oklahoma defense feel after being inundated for weeks with questions about Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel's greatness?
"We've been hearing about Johnny Football for a while, he won the Heisman, much respect to him, but I think it's time for our defense to make a name for us, too," Sooners second-team All-America safety Tony Jefferson said. "We're a good defense and we can't just let him run all over us and do what he has been doing. This is the moment for us. We have to bear down and play like we can play."
No. 11 Oklahoma (10-2) will get its shot against Johnny Football and No. 9 Texas A&M (10-2) at 7 p.m. Friday in the Cotton Bowl Classic at Cowboys Stadium.
Never miss a local story.
The Aggies shocked many by putting up Big 12 numbers in their Southeastern Conference debut. Texas A&M averaged more than 550 yards and almost 45 points per game, good enough for third nationally in both categories, and easily tops in the SEC.
"It definitely seems like a Big 12 offense rather than an SEC offense," Oklahoma linebacker Tom Wort said. "I think the way they took their offense from the Big 12 and made it work in the SEC, you know they had to change some things, but they made it work. It's not the same team as last year, but there are some similarities."
Despite all of the Aggies' success on offense, several signs point to Oklahoma's defense being up for the challenge.
The Sooners have faced spread offenses led by dynamic quarterbacks in the Big 12 on a weekly basis, year after year, a factor several Oklahoma players said will serve them well on Friday.
The Sooners are also buoyed by the knowledge that their offense, which averages more than 500 yards and 40 points per contest, is a force as well. They don't have to shut down Texas A&M, they just have to slow the Aggies enough.
"It helps a lot because with all these shootouts and all these close games, it's allowed us to train our bodies to finish out ballgames," Oklahoma cornerback Aaron Colvin said. "We know it could happen this week and if it does, we'll be ready."
Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops has had a month to concoct a scheme, while the Aggies have had to adjust to new play-caller Clarence McKinney after the departure of offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury to Texas Tech.
"This game's going to be no different than probably five games we played in our conference this year," Stoops said. "They have a very complete offense and we're going to be stressed for 60 minutes. We're going to need everyone to play at a very high level if we're going to have any kind of success on Friday night."
One of the problems with trying to scheme for Texas A&M is the free-wheeling style of Manziel and how well the offense adjusts as a unit when the play breaks down.
"I don't think Johnny knows what he's going to do sometimes, but what he does is just amazing," Jefferson said. "As a defense you can't praise him too much. We realize we have to put a stop to all of that."
Jarret Johnson, 817-390-7760