OU vs. Oklahoma State: For Both Teams, the Season Comes Down to One Game


The Big 12 advertises “Ten teams, nine games…and every game matters..” in its football promotional materials. What it comes down to in 2015, however, is that one game matters most. That game is the 110th edition of Bedlam football: OU vs. Oklahoma State this Saturday night in Stillwater.

The last time both teams were ranked in the top-10 in a game played at Oklahoma State was in 2011. Oklahoma State, with Brandon Weeden at quarterback and Justin Blackmon at wide receiver, came into the Bedlam battle that year with an 11-1 record and ranked 3rd in the nation, and might have been even higher had the Cowboys not lost unexpectedly at Iowa State two weeks before.

Oklahoma was ranked 10th at the same time, with a 9-2 overall record at the time of the game with the Cowboys. The game wasn’t even close that year with Oklahoma State pummeling the Sooners, who were unable to get anything going offensively and couldn’t stop the Cowboys on the defensive end, either, by a final count of 44-10.

Dec 6, 2014; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Samaje Perine (32) runs for a touchdown against the Oklahoma State Cowboys during the second quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Sooners have won two of the three games since then, but all three games were very closely contested. Two of the games were decided by three points and the third by nine.

A week ago, Oklahoma State stood undefeated and ranked 6th in the College Football Playoff standings with a home game against Baylor, which had held the same No. 6 spot in the Playoff rankings before losing to Oklahoma.

The Cowboys lost to Baylor last weekend as part of the Big 12’s back-loaded round-robin schedule in which all the conference leaders played each other over a three-week period. Meanwhile, the Sooners managed to squeak by No. 18 TCU.

If you’re still with me, as a result of all this, the Sooners are now at seeded 3rd in the College Playoff rankings for this week, and Oklahoma State has fallen back to No. 11. The rankings and the records are irrelevant, though, because this is Bedlam. Anything goes, and you can usually count on the ordinary trading places with the out of the ordinary because nothing can be expected to follow form whenever Oklahoma and Oklahoma State go up against each other.

If you break down the Saturday showdown between the Sooners and the Cowboys into basic essentials, the key matchup in the game will be the Oklahoma State offense, which is averaging 492.5 yards per game, mostly through passing, against the Big 12’s best defense in Oklahoma. The Sooners are allowing 20.5 points and 341 yards on defense every outing. Oklahoma ranks first in the conference in pass defense, allowing opponents 190 passing yards per game through 11 games.

Nov 21, 2015; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph (2) looks to pass against the Baylor Bears during the first half at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma State passing game with sophomore Mason Rudolph at quarterback against the Sooners’ pass defense will be matchup of strength vs. strength. Whichever team gets the best of that battle will have a huge leg up and should be in good position to claim a victory.

The Sooners have done well against other conference teams that have pass offenses that rank in the top four in the league (Texas Tech, TCU and Baylor), although two of the three, admittedly had backup starting quarterbacks at the time OU played them. OSU’s Rudolph has thrown 21 touchdown passes this season, but he also has 8 interceptions, and the Sooners have had five of those in the last two games alone.

Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield has been outstanding all season. In 21 halves as the Sooner quarterback this season, he has had just two bad halves of football: the first half against Tennessee and the first 30 minutes in the Sooners only loss of the season, to Texas. Other than those two halves of football, Mayfield has been a predominant force behind an explosive, balanced Sooner offense in 2015, one that ranks sixth in the nation.

Mayfield has been helped by the running of Samaje Perine, who in the last five games has averaged 148 yards per game and 7.3 yards per rush, and All-Big 12 wide receiver Sterling Shepard, who is averaging 141 receiving yards in the Sooners’ last four games.

Three Keys to the Game

Don’t allow OSU quarterback Mason Rudolph to get comfortable and have time in the pocket to find open receivers: Oklahoma State has a big-play, quick-strike style of offense and can push the ball down the field very quickly when provided the quarterback protection and time to make plays. The Sooners must be able to disrupt the Cowboys’ offensive flow and get pressure on the quarterback.

Don’t turn the ball over: Oklahoma State is the most opportunistic team in the Big 12 at creating turnovers and turning their opponents’ mistakes into points on the scoreboard. If Oklahoma can protect the ball and avoid beating themselves, the Sooner offense is good as any in the country in scoring points in the event of a shootout

Baker Mayfield’s health: The Oklahoma starting quarterback passed all of his concussion tests and is slated to play in the game after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit against TCU last weekend. If OU’s Heisman candidate is at or near full strength, the Sooners should be just fine on offense.

The weather: It is expected to be very cold and possibly very rainy and sloppy conditions for this prime-time game. If the field is very sloppy and there is wind and driving rain, it will favor the running game, where the Sooners hold a decided advantage.

My pick: Oklahoma 42, Oklahoma State 34 – Offensively, I see the two teams as comparable, although their methods of moving the ball are a bit different. I believe defense will make the difference in what should be a closely contested contest with a lot on the line. The team that is able to get three-and-outs and the most stops should come out on top in this game.