Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard is smart. In fact, he's three-time first-team Academic All-American smart. Ikard was named the Capital One Academic All-America of the Year on Thursday, has already received an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship as a National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete, and is a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, known colloquially as the academic Heisman.
But just because Ikard knows the definition of "spoiler," he doesn't believe the Sooners enter Saturday's Bedlam game against rival Oklahoma State in that role.
"The fact that you call us the spoiler against Oklahoma State, I'm not even going to answer that," Ikard told the Oklahoman.
Oklahoma can deny the Cowboys the Big 12 title and a berth in the Fiesta Bowl with a win, and the 6-foot-3, 298-pound redshirt senior Ikard will have to deliver a strong performance against an underrated OSU defense to do so.
For Ikard, ranked No. 49 on NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt's Hot 100 list of the top seniors in college football, one of the main challenges will be blocking senior defensive tackle Calvin Barnett.
Barnett (6-2, 300) has 25 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and a team-high five quarterback hurries this season. He has been especially effective at occupying blockers to allow linebackers Caleb Lavey and Shaun Lewis (20 tackles for loss, three sacks combined) to get into the backfield.
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Barnett had just two tackles in last season's 51-48 overtime win by OU, but helped hold the Sooners to 3.5 yards per carry. Instead, it was 500 passing yards and three touchdowns from quarterback Landry Jones that lifted OU to their ninth win in the last 10 meetings between the teams.
With the OU passing game taking a step back following Jones' graduation and frigid conditions expected, Ikard will have to demonstrate power and leverage against Barnett, who knows exactly what is coming.
"Every team likes to pass," Barnett told the Oklahoman. "Everybody wants to air it out, have the big plays. But nine times out of 10 you have to establish a run game. We've been dealing with it. This week should be no different."
Oklahoma has averaged 242 rushing yards per game this season, even with opponents being well aware the offense is run-oriented. Ikard's intellectual and physical prowess have been main reasons for that success.
Ikard will need to meld those attributes again to change the definition of "spoiler" for one Saturday.