Once a rivalry that received little fanfare outside the state of Oklahoma, the annual Bedlam game has grown into one of the Big 12’s annual showcases. With the revival of the conference’s championship game in early December, the Big 12 office saw fit to move the tussle between the Oklahoma Sooners and Oklahoma State Cowboys up on the calendar off its usual spot as the last game of the season.
Aside from good, old-fashioned hate, the winner of this game takes a step closer to that new championship game. Oh, and both teams still harbor hopes of making the College Football Playoff.
So there’s a lot on the line here as Oklahoma State enters this season’s contest as a small favorite.
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 4 at 4 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FS1
Spread: Oklahoma State -3
Three Things to Watch
1. Is Mason Rudolph OK?
OSU’s star quarterback (above, right) hasn’t looked himself in the last two weeks, prompting speculation that he’s dinged up. A hint as to the concern shows up in his passing statistics: Rudolph is averaging a shade under seven yards per attempt in his last two games versus Texas and West Virginia. He appears hesitant — or unable — to throw the ball down the field to the burners in his receiving corps.
OSU has to at least threaten to go deep to keep the Sooners honest on defense.
2. And what about OU’s deep passing game?
Once again, Baker Mayfield is enjoying an All-American year. The Sooners’ gun-slinging QB has thrown 23 touchdown passes compared to just three interceptions this season while adjusting to a new group of receivers.
The numbers look good, but No. 6 and his receivers haven’t hit on many downfield throws through eight games. That may have something to do with how opposing defenses are aligning to stop OU’s aerial attack.
3. Playing Obo
What can the Pokes do to keep OU pass rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo out of Rudolph’s grill? Frankly, no team has found a way to keep Obo at bay coming off the edge this season.
Rudolph’s lack of mobility means he’s probably not eluding OU’s stud edge rusher on his own.
We could talk about all the offensive firepower on both sides in this game, but everyone already knows about that. The Sooners and Cowboys are so good at putting points on the board that their offensive proficiency all but cancels each other out. Instead, the defenses will probably determine the outcome of this game.
OU’s D has alternated between horrible and rock solid, each for prolonged stretches at a time. Injuries in the secondary might explain away some of the inconsistency. Not all of it, though, as the Sooners have seen their front seven get pushed around at times, too.
OSU is defending better than OU, according to the stats, but the Cowboys have melted down on occasion. In wins over Texas Tech and West Virginia, the Pokes surrendered 34 and 39 points, respectively. TCU also tuned them up for 44 in OSU’s only loss this year.
After a rough first quarter last week versus Texas Tech, the Sooners settled in on defense and shut the Red Raiders down. That bodes well for OU’s chances, particularly if Mason Rudolph really is hurt.
Frankly, these teams appear so closely matched that a win by either shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Prediction: Oklahoma 34, 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.