Oklahoma football: Four story lines zeroing in on Bedlam

NORMAN, OK - DECEMBER 3: Running back Samaje Perine
NORMAN, OK - DECEMBER 3: Running back Samaje Perine /

Forget the fact that Oklahoma football has prevailed six of the last seven times it has played Oklahoma State on the road, or that OU has won eight of the last nine times both teams have been ranked.

None of that matters, this year or any year, because this is Bedlam, and anything goes. And because this is the 112th renewal in a longtime intrastate rivalry, where emotions run high and feelings between the two teams are bitter.

If you are a fan of history, you are probably a Sooner fan, first of all, and, secondly, you would argue that the historical facts absolutely matter. Oklahoma is 86-18-7 all-time against its in-state rivals and 29-4-1 since 1950 in games played in Stillwater.

But you better reign in those ponies, Sooner fans, because this year is a little bit different than most in this series. Oklahoma is the higher -ranked team this year (5 vs. 11), based on the first College Football Playoff rankings of 2017, but Oklahoma State is favored, largely because of the home field advantage.

Both teams are 7-1 and 4-1 in the conference, and both are playing at an exceptionally high level offensively. Aside from the performance of the two Heisman-candidate quarterbacks, the deciding difference in this game may be on the defensive side, where Oklahoma State has played better in recent games than the Sooners.

When Oklahoma has prevailed in Bedlam in the last two decades, posting a 13-4 record since 2000, it has been as much because of strong defensive and special teams play as it has a strong offensive performance.

We know the Oklahoma offense can advance the ball and put points on the board with the best of them (its No.1 ranking in that category bears that out). But to be perfectly candid, the schizophrenic nature of the OU defense since the beginning of Big 12 play this season has a lot of loyal Sooner fans very concerned about how it will hold up against a high-powered, balanced offensive attack, the likes of which it will go up against Saturday at Oklahoma State.

Oklahoma Sooners Football
Oklahoma Sooners Football /

Oklahoma Sooners Football

I’m going to make the not-so-bold prediction that the team that is able to run the ball, stop the other team’s running game and make the fewest mistakes (limiting penalties and turnovers) will win on Saturday and win at least one Bedlam game this season. There is a good chance for two Bedlam football games, you know.

Here are three other story lines to keep an eye on on Saturday:

ESPN’s ‘College GameDay’

How much of an impact will having ESPN’s “College GameDay” on site in Stillwater have on the outcome of the game? Which headgear will Lee Corso put on when he predicts the winner?

First of all, it doesn’t matter which headgear he puts on because it’s mostly for show anyway. Historically, when he picks against the Sooners, which he has done more times than not, it generally results in an Oklahoma victory. So don’t get your dander up, Sooner fans, when Corso plays to the crowd and dons the Pistol Pete headgear.

Here’s another supporting fact regarding College GameDay and Oklahoma football: Saturday will be the 32nd time the College GameDay crew has been at a game site where the Sooners were playing. Only four other schools have been featured more times (Ohio State 41, Alabama 39, Florida 37 and Florida State 33). The Sooners are 22-9 in games attended by College GameDay.

Offense aplenty

Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are two of the top-three offensive teams in the nation. The Sooners are No, 1 in total offense, averaging 586 yards per game. Oklahoma State is No. 3 (569) and Ohio State is No. 2 (571). Oklahoma State is fourth best in the country in scoring offense (43.9); Oklahoma ranks sixth (42.9).

OSU quarterback Mason Rudolph and OU’s Baker Mayfield both average right at 370 passing yards per game, but Mayfield throws with greater efficiency. Mayfield’s 195.6 pass efficiency rating is No. 1 among QBs from Power Five conferences. The next best is 176.2. Mayfield’s 196.4 efficiency rating last season set a new NCAA record.

OU is better on the road than at home in recent seasons

Oklahoma owns the longest active road winning streak in true road games. The Sooners have won 14 consecutive true road games, Alabama with 13 and Wisconsin with six are the only two schools that have an active streak longer than five games. The Sooners have been almost as good playing on the road in Stillwater, where they have won six of the last seven games played at OSU’s Boone Pickens Stadium and are 16-3-1 over the last 20 Bedlam games played away from Norman.