By Phil Rodriguez
The end of the college football regular season is upon us, which means it’s time for the annual Bedlam game between the Oklahoma State Cowboys and the Oklahoma Sooners. Despite the historically lopsided record in favor of the Sooners, the Cowboys have closed the gap in recent years. Oklahoma State has climbed the ranks of the Big 12 and, much like Baylor, have asserted themselves firmly as national contenders on a yearly basis. The last 21 matchups have seen a 14-7 split in favor of the Sooners, much closer than the 77-18-7 all-time record favoring Oklahoma. Mike Gundy’s teams have been particularly proficient at getting the Sooner’s goat: they’ve won two of the last five matchups, including the first win for the Cowboys at Owen Field since 2001, when they beat the Sooners 38-35 in 2014. Stoops is 13-4 against the Cowboys all-time, and will be looking to beat Oklahoma State three times in a row for the first time since his 2003-2010 Bedlam win streak.
Although both offenses have managed to score a lot of points this season, they’ve allowed quite a few as well. The Sooners have averaged 443.1 yards and 30.5 points allowed per game (Geez Mike Stoops, c’mon already. Do we have to fire this guy? I don’t care how good Patrick Mahomes is, 59 points allowed against anyone is unacceptable for a school that has a historical reputation for successful, hard-hitting defenses. Every Sooner fan in the nation knows Bob could do a better job at calling the defensive plays, and Oklahoma has fared better when he’s done so. Does he owe Mike a favor? Did he lose a bet? It doesn’t make sense!), while the Cowboys have barely fared better at 27 points and 441.4 yards allowed per game. Both teams have been particularly susceptible to the pass this season. Oklahoma is the seventh-worst team in pass defense in the country, having allowed 28 passing touchdowns and 287.5 yards per game, while Oklahoma State has allowed 249.4 yards per game and only 19 (comparatively, it’s better) touchdowns.
But at the same time, these are two of the most potent offenses in the nation. The Cowboys have put up 40.4 points per game (23rd in the nation) while the Sooners have scored 45.3 (2nd in the nation). Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are led by two of the most talented and scrutinized quarterbacks in the nation and are loaded with NFL-level talent: players like Cowboys’ receivers James Washington and Jalen McCleskey, and Sooners’ running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon.
This one is almost guaranteed to be a shootout of epic proportions, with both quarterbacks coming in looking red hot. Mason Rudolph has been outstanding for the Cowboys this year, throwing for 3591 yards with a 64.2% completion rate and 25 touchdowns to only four interceptions. The 6’ 5” NFL prospect has sometimes looked shaky in big games for Oklahoma State this season though, like when he failed to throw a touchdown in the Cowboys’ loss to Baylor in Week 4. Rudolph could easily have been a finalist for this year’s Davey O’Brien Award though, and should be considered one of the best quarterbacks in college football if he returns next season. Rudolph is 1-1 against the Sooners in his three years of quarterbacking the Cowboys, with his one win coming the last time the game was held in Norman. In that contest, Tyreek Hill took a late punt back for a touchdown to send the game to overtime, where the Cowboys won it with a Ben Grogan field goal.
On the other side of the field, Baker Mayfield will once again be at the Heisman ceremony in New York City this year, after finishing fourth last year. He’ll be joined there by wide receiver Dede Westbrook, who has an astonishing 1354 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in just 11 games. It’s no wonder Mayfield has 3381 yards and 35 touchdowns passing, with targets like Dede and hybrid tight end/wide receiver Mark Andrews, who has caught 6 touchdowns himself this year. Mayfield has been stellar this year and has been particularly consistent during the Sooners eight game win streak. He’ll be called on to keep a cool head, as if he can keep calm under pressure and lead the Sooners down the field with composure, they’re almost sure to win.
This game looks like it will equal out to a ton of total yardage, with both teams firing on all cylinders offensively but allowing great gobs of everything on defense. It will come down to who can force turnovers, which comes down to who can handle the pressure better. Baker Mayfield played poorly against Houston’s 14th-ranked defense and collapsed against Ohio State’s 4th-ranked unit, but has performed well against halfway decent units like TCU and Kansas State. Oklahoma State have one of the best turnover margins in the country with +9, having forced 23 turnovers while only giving up the ball 14 times. The Sooners, meanwhile, have coughed up eight interceptions and eight fumbles while forcing exactly the same out of their opponent, giving them an even turnover margin and ranking them 50th in the country. This is the Cowboys’ advantage: if they can put Mayfield under pressure and force turnovers, they’ll have the ability to control the game and their Big 12 destiny.
That being said, this Cowboy defense simply doesn’t look good enough to stop this healthy, high-flying Oklahoma offense. Perine and Mixon will team up to run all over the field, while Mayfield and his receiving corps should be able to get into a rhythm against a middling Oklahoma State pass defense. Rudolph and company will put up plenty of points as well against a poorly-coached Oklahoma secondary, but the Sooners should get a few key big plays to swing the game in their favor.
Oklahoma 48 Oklahoma State 42