Had Oklahoma State won last week against Baylor, we’d be talking about this Saturday’s match-up as the biggest game in the history of the Bedlam rivalry. Nevertheless, the Sooners and Cowboys have plenty to play for, not the least of which being bragging rights in the state.
OSU’s loss to Baylor leaves the Pokes playing the familiar role of spoiler to OU’s postseason aspirations. Historically, the Sooners have taken care of business in such spots against OSU, but you only have to look back a year for a stark reminder of how well Mike Gundy prepares his team to play OU.
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 28 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: OU -5
Three Things to Watch
1. Is Baker Mayfield ready to rock?
OU’s offense stagnated in the second half, as second-string quarterback Trevor Knight misfired repeatedly in Mayfield’s absence. Point blank, Knight simply doesn’t have the tools to succeed as a pure Air Raid quarterback. If Mayfield can’t go, OU needs to change its offensive game plan to better capitalize on Knight’s skill set. Luckily for the Sooners, it sounds as though Mayfield will take the field on Saturday night in Stillwater.
2. Covering James Washington
The Cowboys lack their customary assortment of weapons at the skill positions, although the explosive receiver Washington, who’s averaging more than 20 yards per reception this season, provides a notable exception. The combination of QB Mason Rudolph’s pretty deep throws and Washington’s speed on the perimeter give OSU the ability to strike from any spot on the field. Look for OU to roll coverage to Washington’s side of the field, forcing OSU to rely on guys like David Glidden and Marcell Ateman to keep the chains moving.
3. OSU’s opportunistic defense
Glenn Spencer, the Pokes’ defensive coordinator, has built a unit with a knack for creating turnovers. OSU is No. 2 nationally in turnovers gained with 27. In particular, the secondary hawks the ball when it’s in the air. Mayfield only has five interceptions this season, but he — or Knight — will have to be extra careful throwing against OSU’s pesky defensive backs.
“Throw out the record books” is a tired cliche, but it really does fit this in-state rivalry. Bedlam tends to bring out the best in the underdog, leading to strange results. Look no further than last year’s incredible finish as an example.
OU should win this game. OSU is reeling from last week’s season-crushing defeat by Baylor, while the Sooners have thrived since their bizarre loss in the Red River Shootout.
Gundy and his team would love to sink OU’s playoff and conference title hopes, though. It would seem unlikely that OSU would give anything less than a quality effort. Between that and Mayfield’s iffy health, the Sooners could be in some trouble Saturday night.
Ultimately, OSU’s putrid running game will cost the Cowboys in the form of a missed short-yardage conversion late in the contest or settling for a field goal instead of a touchdown. That will be the difference.
Prediction: Oklahoma 31, Oklahoma State 28
— 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.