Column: What a strange week, even by Bedlam's standards
Perhaps my brain is trapped in Dillon, Texas — I just finished rewatching NBC’s “Friday Night Lights” for the upteenth time.
But this Bedlam week has felt overly dramatized.
None of it tracks with everything that I know about Bedlam and the days that lead up to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State’s annual meeting.
And no, I’m not complaining. I find this plot twist to be refreshing.
The rivalry is predicated on chaos, but it’s historically been predictable. So, this week, in terms of the competitors’ roles, is quite the anomaly.
Let’s start with the thoughts exchanged that were bound to be overanalyzed on social media.
“I would expect to whoop their ass, honestly,” said Tay Martin, the Oklahoma State receiver, of the Sooners. “I don’t go into a game thinking otherwise. So, as long as we just do what we have to do, take care of the little things, not try to do too much, do what we did to get here, honestly, we’ll be fine.”
“Well, I already know what’s going to happen. Obviously, I’m going to say we’re going to win. I’ve got confidence in our team. Yeah, just I can already feel it,” Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders said. “If we win, then they’re going to bring up history, stats and all that. But, honestly, I’m just going to smile.
“We won, so like it’s not going to bother me. It’s like leaving a bad taste in somebody’s mouth … it’s like you’re going to have to deal with that. Your last game with me, you lost. So, I don’t want to hear about no history. I don’t want to hear about stats. I want to hear about that game.”
Alright, now we’re talking.
The Oklahoma State defense hasn’t been as vocal about its confidence entering Saturday, but it’s more than allowed to be.
The Cowboys have been a buzzsaw for opposing offenses.
OSU has dominated the back half of its schedule, allowing a combined 16 offensive points in its last four games that followed its first and only loss of the season at Iowa State.
It’s clear the Cowboys at 10-1 and No. 7 in the College Football Playoff rankings can crash the party for the first time in school history by beating No. 10 Oklahoma on Saturday and either No. 8 Baylor or OU again the week after in the Big 12 championship.
The Sooners, with the same record, likely would, too. But the “eye test” has held them back in this season’s playoff rankings, even before suffering their loss at Baylor on Nov. 13. So, who knows how a one-loss Big 12 champion Oklahoma would stack up against, let’s say, a one-loss Big Ten champion Ohio State, undefeated Cincinnati, one-loss Notre Dame and a one-loss Georgia?
Oklahoma State seems less likely to be left out because of its defense, a side of the ball that has undeniably been prioritized by the selection committee over the years.
The committee has never outright said it, but having a great defense is better than having a great offense to a playoff contender. And for all the preseason hype around OU’s “Speed D,” which has looked considerably good when fully healthy and considerably bad when not it’s the Cowboys’ defensive unit, which is deserving of all of its praise, that’s captured the hearts of the committee.
“Oklahoma State, their defense has been terrific,” Playoff chair Gary Barta said on Tuesday. “They have a great win against Baylor. Texas Tech couldn't do anything against Oklahoma State's defense this past weekend. Their offense shows signs at times. They do enough, Spencer Sanders and that group do enough, but they're more defensive-minded.”
Then there’s OU’s move to the Southeastern Conference still lingering in everyone’s minds after a contentious summer between the Sooners, Longhorns and the remaining Big 12 schools.
Of course, Saturday’s Bedlam game might be the last in Stillwater for the foreseeable future. So, maybe stock up on those cheese fries up there on your way in.
Cowboys coach Mike Gundy doesn’t see Bedlam happening anytime soon. Getting OU on the books with the way athletic directors plan nonconference games a million years in advance? Good luck.
The day after Gundy made his comments, OU coach Lincoln Riley maintained the university’s opinion that it hopes the rivalry continues. Fairly easy for OU to say, but what else would you want its stance to be?
If Bedlam does go away, it’d be a loss on the college football calendar. Bedlam has been as entertaining as a game as any rivalry over the last two decades.
Oklahoma State’s stunning wins in 2001 and ‘02. Les Miles’ “Let’r rip” before OSU lost 52-9. Sam Bradford’s helicopter flip in 2008. Landry Jones’ bombs to Cameron Kenney and James Hanna in 2010. The field storm in 2011. Brennan Clay’s walk-off in 2012. Blake Bell’s fade to Jalen Saunders in 2013. Tyreek Hill’s punt return in 2014. Samaje Perine’s knee in 2016. Baker Mayfield vs. Mason Rudolph in 2017. Taylor Cornelius’ near upset in 2018. And OU slamming the door quickly on what was supposed to be a good game one season ago, beating the Pokes 41-13.
Here’s to a strange week that feels like it’s manifesting the dumbest, drunkest and strangest Bedlam of them all with the Sooners in position to play spoiler to a dream season for the Cowboys.
OU doesn’t seem to be given much of a chance. It will walk into Boone Pickens Stadium as just a four-point underdog, but the advanced analytics do not like this matchup.
My mother asked me during a Thursday FaceTime call what I thought was going to happen on Saturday.
I told her she wouldn’t like my answer.
Not because I believe OU will lose by a bunch. But this is poised to be an ugly, ugly game. It doesn’t feel so much like 2011, when it was very clear OSU was the better squad. It feels more like 2013, where OU was as unpredictable as any Bob Stoops team and the Cowboys had been the more consistent group up to that point.
Grant Bothun and Michael Hunnicutt ain’t walking through that door. But OU will likely need something as wild as a fake field goal for a touchdown or a last-minute goal-line fade actually working to prevail in Stillwater.
It’s not impossible.
It’s just Bedlam.