Annual Bedlam game finds Cowboys trying to spoil in-state rival's College Football Playoff hopes
They call the rivalry between the Oklahoma Sooners and Oklahoma State Cowboys "Bedlam." The last two games have lived up to the nickname. The in-state rivals combined to score 114 points in 2017 and 95 a year ago.
This year, both squads are playing better defense. After ranking ninth and 10th in scoring defense in the Big 12 in 2018, OU currently comes in fourth in the conference at 25.5 points per game, and OSU is right behind the Sooners at 26.4.
With OSU missing quarterback Spencer Sanders and wide receiver Tylan Wallace, the Cowboys will need a strong performance by the defense against an OU team that is averaging more than 45 points per game. Meanwhile, they're looking for backup QB Dru Brown to settle in after a ho-hum showing in his first start against West Virginia last week.
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 30 at 8 p.m. ET
Spread: Oklahoma -13.5
When Oklahoma Has the Ball
The Sooners can't help but get themselves into trouble lately when they have the ball. In their last four games, they have turned the ball over a total of 10 times. Those turnovers have yielded 45 points for their opponents in that stretch. Have the Cowboys gleaned any insights into OU's ball security issues from studying the game film?
If Oklahoma State can't generate turnovers, it has to find a way to contain OU receiver CeeDee Lamb, a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award. Lamb missed the Sooners' visit to Baylor two weeks ago, and TCU held him to two catches last Saturday. He seems due for a breakout game.
OU will likely need to do most of its damage through the air, as the Cowboys have played stingy run defense of late. Only one of OSU's last four opponents has gone over 100 yards on the ground.
When Oklahoma State Has the Ball
The losses of Tylan Wallace and Spencer Sanders mean OSU has to embrace its run-first identity more strongly than ever this week. Fortunately for head coach Mike Gundy, he has the best running back in the country in his backfield. Sophomore Chuba Hubbard is leading the country in rushing yards per game at 166.6 and total rushing yards with 1,832.
Despite OU's defensive improvement this season, the Sooners don't stop the run that well. They're allowing 4.2 yards per rush, which ranks 68th nationally. As such, defensive coordinator Alex Grinch needs to have one of his better game plans in place to slow down the Cowboys' rushing attack.
A key factor in this matchup, therefore, is whether backup quarterback Dru Brown and the OSU receiving corps can take advantage if Grinch stacks the box or coaches his safeties to crash hard against the run.
With Spencer Sanders and Tylan Wallace in the OSU lineup, this matchup would have the makings of a Bedlam classic. Without them, the Cowboys' hopes for an upset feel more like a longshot.
Yet, it's also hard to ignore that the Sooners are grinding out wins lately and not blowing away opponents. Whether they're surrendering big leads or digging deep holes, they aren't playing sharp football. So the burden lies with OU to prove it won't let the Cowboys hang around.
Perhaps Bedlam will get OU back to its thrashing ways. Until the Sooners do, though, count on a tight game into the fourth quarter. Look for a late score by the visitors to seal their win.
Prediction: Oklahoma 31, Oklahoma State 21
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.