Bedlam is defined as a scene of uproar and confusion, but make no mistake, there’s nothing confusing about the importance of this one. On Saturday night, under the lights, the No. 18 Oklahoma Sooners (5-2, 4-2) will host the No. 14 Oklahoma State Cowboys (5-1, 4-1) at the Palace on the Prairie. As an added bonus, ESPN’s College GameDay is also on site to set the stage for the 115th all-time meeting between these bitter, cross-state rivals.
Date, Time & TV: Saturday, Nov. 21 at 6:30 p.m. CT on ABC
Location: Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium — Norman, Oklahoma
Line: Oklahoma -7 (as of Friday at 5 p.m. CT)
Links of the week:
- Lincoln Riley Week 11 Presser Notes
- Allen Kenney takes a closer look at the JACK LB position in OSU’s defense
- Also from Allen, a scouting report on the Cowboys’ dangerous offense
- The Oklahoma Breakdown Podcast previews Bedlam with CRFF’s Joel Penfield
Who will win the Battle of the Spencers?
When both starting quarterbacks in an in-state rivalry matchup share a first name, additional comparisons will naturally be drawn from there. For Oklahoma State, you have redshirt sophomore Spencer Sanders, who is certainly a talented player with dual-threat capabilities. If it weren’t for a couple of injuries that sidelined him for stretches of time over the last two seasons, he’d likely be further along in his development.
For Oklahoma, you of course have redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler. As talented as he is, it appears he’s only scratching the surface on his potential, and after a rough patch to start Big 12 play, he finally seems to be hitting his stride over the last month and change.
Speaking of Big 12 play, in his career against conference competition, OSU’s Sanders has accounted for just 16 touchdowns (14 passing, 2 rushing) vs. 19 total turnovers (13 interceptions, 6 fumbles). If that trend continues on Saturday, it’s a wrap in favor of the Crimson & Cream. Raw numbers alone (such as total yards or completion percentage) likely won’t determine which Spencer has the better Bedlam performance, but whichever QB makes fewer mistakes, chances are good that that Spencer’s team will finish on top.
Can OU’s D-line take full advantage of OSU’s vulnerable O-line?
To say the offensive line room at Oklahoma State is in need of some serious reinforcements would be a massive understatement. Just how dire is the situation up front in Stillwater? Going back to this summer, the Cowboys have had one lineman retire, two others transfer, and four big uglies injured at various spots throughout this fall. Not only does OSU’s O-line lack depth, it also lacks experience.
Unfortunately for the Pokes, they’re likely going up against a defensive front that’s playing better than any in the Big 12 at this stage of the season. Through seven games, the Sooners lead the Big 12 in rush defense (98.6 yards per game), sacks (26) and total tackles-for-loss (57.0). Alex Grinch’s group has really come into its own around the line of scrimmage, shutting down virtually everything at the point of attack. If OSU is unable to pave rushing lanes for Chuba Hubbard or give Spencer Sanders enough time to operate in the pocket, it will be a long night for Mike Gundy’s squad.
Will the defenses dominate the offenses?
For the first time in a long time, this year’s Bedlam contest has real potential to be a low-scoring, defensive struggle the likes that has not been seen in some time. And that’s not entirely the fault of either team’s offense, rather it’s completely to the credit of the defense on both sides.
On the season, Oklahoma State is only surrendering 17.8 points-per-game, while OU is giving up a respectable 24.4 ppg (and just 17.0 over its last three). Considering the level of talent both offenses possess, there’s probably no chance that either side will be truly dominated by the other, but containing the big plays and limiting possessions is certainly on the table. Now, I don’t expect this game to be tied at 10 going into the fourth quarter, but don’t be surprised if the winner only needs 28 points to prevail this weekend.
Does Mike Gundy have an Oklahoma problem?
Yes! Since becoming the head coach of Oklahoma State in 2005, Mike Gundy is 2-13 against OU. That’s a winning percentage of just .133, which is surprisingly lower than OSU’s all-time winning percentage of .189. Furthermore, since Gundy took over in Stillwater 15 years ago, every team currently in the Big 12 not named Kansas or West Virginia actually has a higher win percentage against the Sooners than the Cowboys do.
Sure, in the grand scheme of things, everybody struggles to beat the blue-blood that is Oklahoma, but when you find yourself trailing history as well as your peers, the problem might be psychological. That’s only part of the narrative that Gundy is up against going into this year’s matchup, and even though his team is higher ranked this time around, the odds are in OU’s favor for a reason.
Who are the X-factors for the Sooners?
On defense, my pick for an impact player to watch for is junior DT Perrion Winfrey. He’s not unheralded, by any means, but this game sets up as the perfect stage for him to showcase why he was the No. 1 JUCO DL in the nation one recruiting cycle ago. With the amount of issues Oklahoma State has along its offensive line, I don’t see how Winfrey doesn’t have a monster game in the middle. He may not fill the box score with sacks or TFLs or forced fumbles, but the production of his teammates will likely come as a direct result of his play up front.
Fireworks will launch early in this prime time Bedlam contest. Out of the gate, Spencer Rattler will quickly dismiss any concerns about his health with deep connections with Marvin Mims and Austin Stogner. On the ground, Rhamondre Stevenson will keep the Cowboys’ vaunted defense honest with bruising runs to move the chains. When OSU has the ball, Tylan Wallace will win his share of battles against the Sooners’ secondary, but Spencer Sanders will have a tough time overcoming the constant pressure from OU’s defensive front. Unfortunately for the visitors, Alex Grinch’s group will key on Chuba Hubbard all night, rendering the Unanimous All-American a non-factor. Ultimately, turnovers will spell the difference in the game. After a relatively close first half, Oklahoma will pull away down the stretch, making an emphatic statement in front of a national audience and surging toward the front of the Big 12 race.
Oklahoma 38, Oklahoma State 23
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