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Oklahoma Sooners Football: How Does Bedlam Stack Up Against Other In-State Rivalries?

The lopsided nature of the rivalry (85-18-7 in favor of OU) keeps Bedlam from being considered elite, but the recent significance has to count for something

Oklahoma v Oklahoma State Getty Images

If you ask an Oklahoma fan about rivalries, the rivalry with Texas will be the first thing that comes to that person’s mind. But there’s also something special about in-state rivalries. You work with the enemy. You hang out with the enemy. Hell, you may even be married to the enemy. Bedlam isn’t on the level of the Red River Shootout, but it’s significant in an entirely different way.

Over the past 15 years, Bedlam has become significant not only in the state of Oklahoma, but on the national level, as well. Match-ups have had Big 12 title implications on a fairly regular basis lately, and America is starting to notice. So how does Bedlam stack up against other in-state football rivalries across the country? Here are my top 10:

Note: Currently-defunct rivalries, such as Texas vs. Texas A&M, are excluded from the list

  1. The Iron Bowl: Alabama vs. Auburn - It often seems as if the media overstates the importance of this rivalry in the State of Alabama. You’ll often hear cliches such as “This rivalry lasts 365 days a year” or “This rivalry divides families”, which can apply to any in-state rivalry. But this one is definitely more fierce than the rest. Bama has a history and tradition that is among the nation’s elite, but Auburn has a proud history, as well (Bo Jackson, Cam Newton and a couple of national titles). And despite the fact that Auburn is overshadowed, Bama only owns a 45-35-1 advantage in the series. So as annoying as it may be to hear Paul Finebaum talk up this rivalry (or talk in general), there’s no in-state rivalry that can match it. (Video: Auburn radio call of the “Kick Six”)
  2. Florida vs. Florida State - Before WWII, Florida was an all-male institution, while FSU was an all-female institution. Then came the GI Bill, which ultimately led to both schools becoming co-ed institutions. However, UF people always saw themselves as a cut above the Seminoles, so much so that Florida refused to play a game in Tallahassee (citing FSU’s much smaller stadium) until 1964. That very year, future NFL Hall of Fame receiver Fred Biletnikoff led the Seminoles to their first ever win over the Gators, and the rivalry has been neck-and-neck ever since. Today, the two schools fight over the best athletes in the Sunshine State, so there’s plenty of speed on the field every time they meet. In the stands and throughout the state, these fans aren’t really known for keeping it classy, so the arguments and confrontations are always entertaining. (Video: “The Choke at Doak”)
  3. Florida State vs. Miami - During Miami’s heyday, when both schools were churning out first-round picks left and right (and when the games were often decided by kickers), this one was up there with (and probably above) any other rivalry in the country. However, when Miami is down, Hurricane fans are nowhere to be found, which tends to make things a lot less fun. Basically, this rivalry is elite, but only under certain conditions. One thing you can always count on, however, is a brawl caused by Miami fans. Seriously, get on Youtube and search ‘Miami Hurricanes fans fight’. You will be entertained for a good chunk of your day.
  4. USC vs. UCLA - The climate makes this one of the most broadcast-friendly rivalries in America. The sunny skies and warm weather in November just make it look like a dream, especially when it’s played at the Rose Bowl. People often assume that this rivalry isn’t very intense due to the fact that sports fans in Southern California don’t have a reputation for being especially rabid, but that simply isn’t the case. It’s also an intense on-field rivalry due to the fact that almost everyone on the field hails from talent-rich SoCal. (Video: 1967 “Game of the Century” highlights)
  5. The Holy War: BYU vs. Utah - In-state rivalries are inherently intense, but what happens when religion is brought into the mix? While many fans of the state-funded University of Utah belong to the LDS church, BYU fans and alumni have been known to have a bit of a ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude towards their rivals. After the Utes bolted for the Pac 12 and BYU became independent, the rivalry went on hiatus. However, the two unexpectedly met up in the 2015 Las Vegas Bowl, a match-up that quickly became known as “The Holy War in Sin City”. They played again in 2016 and are under contract through 2020. (Read: SB Nation’s Matt Brown explains the state of the rivalry after the Las Vegas Bowl)
  6. Bedlam: Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State - Cowboy fans have always despised OU, while Sooner fans have traditionally viewed Oklahoma State as nothing more than an annoyance. However, genuine contempt for OSU has developed amongst OU fans over the past 10-15 years, largely due to OSU’s rise from football mediocrity. The games have meant a lot more, with the last two match-ups being de facto Big 12 title games. Tensions run pretty high at Bedlam games nowadays, as evidenced by the snowballs and trash thrown onto the field following Oklahoma’s 2013 win in Stillwater. The lopsided nature of the rivalry (85-18-7 in favor of OU) keeps it from being considered elite, but the recent significance has to count for something. (Videos: OU, OSU radio calls from Bedlam 2013).
  7. South Carolina vs. Clemson - Per capita, South Carolina produces football talent as well as any other state, and very large chunk of the high-caliber guys in the state (such as Jadeveon Clowney) end up at these two schools. Also, both fan bases are extremely obnoxious, so the hatred is very, very real.
  8. Michigan vs. Michigan State - The Spartans have won seven of nine in this series. But like Auburn and Oklahoma State, they often feel overlooked because of their blue-blooded neighbors. That’s the type of thing that fuels the fire of a rivalry. (Video: “Surrender Cobra”)
  9. The Egg Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State - These are not traditional football powerhouses, but the culture clash sets this rivalry apart from others. When you think of Ole Miss, Southern belles and bow ties come to mind. At Mississippi State, you’re much more likely to see camouflage and Skoal cans. These two factions don’t typically mesh well, which creates a lot of fun animosity. (Video: 1999 Egg Bowl ending)
  10. Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate: Georgia vs. Georgia Tech - Despite sharing a state, these fan bases don’t really interact with one another in the same fashion as other in-state rivals. Georgia Tech fans don’t exist in large numbers outside of Atlanta. Hell, they’re heavily outnumbered by Dawg fans in Atlanta, even near Georgia Tech’s campus in West Midtown. But this has always been an outstanding rivalry on the field, and close games are a regular occurrence. Also, the whole Revenge of the Nerds dynamic between the student populations is pretty hilarious. (Video: 2016 game-winning TD)

Honorable Mention

The Civil War: Oregon vs. Oregon State

The Apple Cup: Washington vs. Washington State

The Game: Cal vs. Stanford

Texas vs. Baylor, TCU and Texas Tech