Oklahoma football: Head game another weapon for Sooners in Bedlam

STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 28 : Quarterback Baker Mayfield
STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 28 : Quarterback Baker Mayfield /

For fans of Oklahoma football, the annual Bedlam battle with in-state rival Oklahoma State generally closes out the regular season and, in recent years, has decided the Big 12 championship.

A fitting final game with tons of tradition and a slew at stake. This year, things are a bit different, including the amount at stake.

This year’s matchup between these two longtime rivals from the Sooner state features No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 11 Oklahoma State, based on the first College Football Playoff rankings for the 2017 season, which were released on Tuesday. What’s different about this Bedlam Series matchup, aside from being played earlier in the schedule, is that the winner remains very much in the hunt not only for a conference championship but also a coveted spot in the College Football Playoff and a shot at a national title.

This the just the second time since 2000 that the Bedlam game is being played earlier in the schedule than the final weekend in November. The last time it was played this early in the schedule was In 2003 and 2004. The Sooners, incidentally, won both of those games.

This will be the 112th meeting on the gridiron between these two schools in a rivalry series that began in 1904. Oklahoma won that inaugural game, played in Guthrie, Oklahoma, 75-0, as well as the next 10 in succession to go 11-0 to begin the series. Much the way the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State series started out, the Sooners have dominated the all-time series, posting 86 wins in 111 games.

The 86 wins over Oklahoma State are the most by the Sooners against one opponent and the second most in history by an FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) team against one team.

In addition to the 11 consecutive wins to begin the series, OU has put together a couple of winning streaks of 15 or more games in the all-time series with Oklahoma State. The Sooners won 19 in a row from 1946-1964 and another string of 15 consecutive wins from 1977 to 1991. Bud Wilkinson never lost a game against Oklahoma State in 17 season, and Barry Switzer lost just once to the Cowboys. in 16 seasons.

OU’s dominance over Oklahoma State continued under Bob Stoops. Although the Sooners split the first four games against their in-state rival under Stoops, they won 12 of the next 14 in the series, including six of the last seven played in Stillwater on Oklahoma State’s home turf.

You can’t blame the Cowboys and their fans for feeling snakebite when they play Oklahoma. In the last 15 games between the two schools when both teams have been ranked, OU has won 14. The one exception was in 2011, when the third-ranked Cowboys, with Brandon Weeden at quarterback and Justin Blackmon as his prime receiving target, torpedoed Oklahoma 44-10 for its most lopsided victory over the Sooners since 1945.

In those last 15 games in which both teams have come into Bedlam ranked in the nation’s top 25, Oklahoma has been the higher ranked team 12 times. OU was 9-3 the dozen times it was the higher ranked of the two teams. The Cowboys were 1-2 as the higher-ranked team.

Murphy’s Law comes quickly to mind when you think about Bedlam football from an Oklahoma State perspective. The theory behind Murphy’s Law is that anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

The last eight games between these two teams serve as a microcosm of how this series has played out through the years and why there is high trepidation – or at least should be – among Cowboy fans  when Bedlam comes around on the schedule every fall.

An Oklahoma State fan summed it up this way for ESPN staff writer Jake Trotter:

"“You just get this sense something is going to go wrong. There is a feeling of we’re going to lose this in some form or fashion.”"

In 2009, Oklahoma State came to Norman as the 11th-ranked team in the country against an unranked Sooner team. OSU quarterback Zac Robinson had suffered a head injury in the game before Bedlam. That obviously took its toll, as OU upset heavily favored Oklahoma State 27-0.

In 2010 in Stillwater, No. 10 Oklahoma State and No. 14 Oklahoma were tied 24-all entering the fourth quarter. The two teams combined for 40 total points in the final 15 minutes, with the Sooners scoring 23 of the 40 to post a 47-41 victory and clinch the South Division championship. (OU went on to beat Nebraska that season in the last Big 12 Championship game before this year.)

Oklahoma State had the Sooners on their heels. leading by double digits in the second half of the 2012 Bedlam game in Norman. That’s when the Sooners would tell you they had their rivals exactly where they wanted them. Jalen Saunders returned a punt for a touchdown to tie the game, and later quarterback Blake Bell ran it in for a touchdown to send the game into overtime. Running back Brennan Clay scored in overtime for Oklahoma to win the game, 51-48.

The Bedlam game in 2013 was played in Stillwater in temperatures that were in the teens. The frigid temperatures, however, seemed to stymie 6th-ranked Oklahoma State more than the 18th-ranked Sooners. OU kept the game close the entire game and dished out some Sooner Magic late in the game and scoring a pair of touchdowns at the very end to pull off yet another improbable win over the Cowboys.

In 2015 and ’16, the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game served as the de facto Big 12 Championship, with the Sooners taking both games: 58-23 in Stillwater (with QB Mason Rudolph ailing from a broken foot) and 38-20 in the rain last season in Norman.

These two Big 12 powerhouses may be closely matched on paper when you compare the bodies of work of both heading into the 112th renewal of the Bedlam, the Battle of Oklahoma, but the psychological advantage clearly resides on the Oklahoma sideline.

Call it Sooner Magic, or however you choose to verbalize it, but you can bet this will be weighing on the minds of the Oklahoma State coaches, players and their fans over the next couple of days leading up to kickoff, and even during the game, in Stillwater on Saturday.

Perhaps we’ll be in for a little leftover Halloween trick or treating…