With a gullet full of turkey and the anticipation of tomorrow’s Bedlam showdown, this weekend is simply the most wonderful time of the year.
Houses will be divided, trash will be talked, and twelve months of bragging rights will be on the line.
It’s tough to find an Oklahoman who doesn’t care about this game. But tomorrow, Bedlam will be foremost in the mind of a football crazed nation. The game has the prime time slot on ABC and ESPN’s College Gameday is setting up shop in Stillwater. I might make the journey to the land of orange if for no other reason than to give Erin Andrews my phone number. No doubt, I’m exactly what she’s looking for.
OSU is in unfamiliar territory because there has never been this much at stake for the Pokes. The program has never played for a Big 12 championship. Beat the Sooners, and the Cowboys will do just that. Not to mention OSU can secure the first 11-win season in school history and snap that pesky seven game losing streak to its in-state rival.
Pressure can do funny things to a football team, but the Cowboys have proven themselves in crunch time all year long. The Sooners? Well, not so much. OU still hasn’t figured out how to solve the equation of a road game on prime time TV against a highly ranked opponent. The win over Baylor was nice, but routing an overrated Bears team doesn’t mean the Sooners’ road issues have suddenly disappeared.
While the Sooners may have been victimized by expectations, the Cowboys came into this season without any. They’ve been a looser bunch because of it. When asked on a local sports radio show which of his players were playing over their heads, Mike Gundy named nearly every starter on both sides of the ball. Can Bob Stoops make that statement about any OU players outside of DeMarco Murray and Ryan Broyles? I’m not so sure.
If you go strictly on skill and recruiting stars, the Sooners win that match-up hands down. Sorry Poke fans, OU is the more talented team (help your turkey digest and just admit it already). The good news for the home side Saturday is that there’s more to a football game than talent. As Mike Gundy has said all year, his guys are all in. All in with the system, all in during practice, all in with the direction of the program, all in no matter what. I’m not totally convinced that collective motivation always leads to great execution, but maybe Gundy will make a believer out of me. His results seem to support the science.
Meanwhile, I think Sooner fans want to see both. More motivation and better execution when it comes to road games. Can the Sooners deal with adversity? Can they rally from behind? Can they finish in the 4th quarter? Bedlam is Bob Stoops’ last chance to answer those questions. Talent can get you nine wins and a nice bowl game, but it won’t necessarily get you a conference title.
That’s why Sooner fans are nervous. Well, that and the thought of the game coming down to Jimmy Stevens making a 40-yard field goal. That might actually be every OU fan’s worst nightmare.
Cowboy fans are nervous about Bedlam by nature. It’s being kind to say this rivalry hasn’t been kind to OSU. The Cowboys have just 16 wins in 104 meetings, and the last seven losses are by an average of 22 points. Faithful Poke fans are usually hoping to play the role of spoiler, often satisfied to keep OU from a championship or a bigger bowl game. Saturday, the Cowboys can still play that familiar role, but this game could also represent a massive stepping stone in the program’s history. OSU has a chance to change the perception of itself in the conference and around the country. That’s a reason to gnaw at those cuticles right there.
That’s why this is Bedlam at it’s best. Both teams are ranked, both teams are relevant, and there’s a whole heap of implications.
So put on your crimson, or drape yourself in orange. Soak this up, and drink it in, because it’s a great day to be an Oklahoman.
Oh, the prediction! I almost forgot. I gotta go with my gut…OSU 38, OU 34.