SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) – Alabama wants to prove it can live up to its glorious bowl history.

Oklahoma State wants to keep building one.

Thursday’s Independence Bowl provides the next step for one of them.

The Crimson Tide will be making its third straight bowl appearance, and 54th overall. It’s won six national championships and more bowl victories than any other school in NCAA history with a 30-20-3 record.

Beating a team with that history would be a thrill, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said.

“Our players are aware of Alabama,” Gundy said. “Anybody that follows college football, they’re aware of who Alabama is.”

But things are not what they should be with Bama.

Alabama (6-6) barely made it to postseason play, and arrived with an interim coach. Mike Shula was fired Nov. 26, and the search for a permanent replacement is underway for the fourth time since 2000.

Running back Kenneth Darby, who is wrapping up his college career at the Independence Bowl, doesn’t see what’s happened this year as a distraction.

“We haven’t let any of this stuff get to us whatsoever,” Darby said. “We’re still focusing on the main goal, and that’s to win this ball game. I’m pretty sure these guys are going to come out fired up to play this game but also be ready to win this game.”

Oklahoma State (6-6) was the Big 12 Conference’s last bowl-eligible team to earn a berth.

The Cowboys shook off a 4-7 record last season, and are playing in their fourth bowl game in five seasons. They haven’t had a run that good since playing five bowls in a six-season span from 1983-1988.

“We made a lot of strides in all areas with our football program,” Gundy said. “We’re not satisfied with being 6-6.”

If Oklahoma State is aware of Alabama, the Tide players also know about the Cowboys.

“We’re kind of identical,” said Alabama linebacker Juwan Simpson. “And I feel like this will be a BCS-caliber game. Both of us lost some close games. With it going the other way, we could have easily been up there in the Top 10 or whatnot. It’s going to be a great game. I feel like that’s their mind-set too.”

And then there’s that Alabama bowl history. It has to motivate Oklahoma State to boost its 10-6 all-time bowl record.

“It would be a big deal,” OSU flanker D’Juan Woods said. “The tradition Alabama has speaks for itself. They’re a team like Nebraska. I don’t care what their record is, how they do that year. If you beat ’em, it’s a big deal.”


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