Momentum for this game was building since last December. Coming into 2017, both teams knew they would be contenders. Now, it’s officially Bedlam week. With College Gameday as the backdrop, this game means more than ever. The loser of this game is certainly out of the College Football Playoff discussion. Also, the winner of this contest has a decided leg up in the conference championship race. Let’s dive right into our Bedlam preview.
What This Game Means
Every year bragging rights are at stake. However, the last couple of years the conference championship has gone through Norman. Victories over Oklahoma State has secured consecutive titles for the Sooners. Both teams have stumbled at home in games each was favored to win. Perhaps, that makes this game even more intriguing.
It’s hard to argue against a winner take all, final game of the regular season. But, the conference championship game has added some complexity to the Big 12 season. This game was moved to early November to protect against the possibility of back to back games to end the season. After Saturday, one of these two teams will be faced with disappointment. Conversely, the other will be right in the middle of the national conversation.
Both of these teams are eerily similar. The Sooners and the Cowboys respectively are in ranked in the top five in most offensive categories. Defensively, both teams have struggled with consistency so this game promises to be a shootout. For this match-up, we will closely look at the position battles on the offensive side of the ball.
Quarterback: Advantage Oklahoma
Baker Mayfield gets the very slight edge over Mason Rudolph. The statistics are pretty much a wash. Rudolph has the passing yardage (2,866-2,628) and total touchdown (29-27) edge. But, Mayfield has the advantage when you look at completion percentage (72.5-65.6) and QB rating (195.6-175.5.) The difference in this analysis is how each performed a year ago in this game. Mayfield threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns, while Rudolph threw for just 186 yards and completed only 11 of 25 passes.
Running Back: Advantage Oklahoma
When you look at this group, it’s not much different than the breakdown at Quarterback. However, when you look at depth the advantage still goes to the Sooners. Three heads are better than two. Oklahoma has a three-pronged attach with Rodney Anderson, Abdul Adams, and Trey Sermon. Head coach Lincoln Riley has featured all three and has typically gone with the hot hand each week. They all have run for 400 yards a piece and as a tandem have 1,364 yards on the year.
Comparatively, Justice Hill and J.D. King have carried the torch for the Cowboys. Hill has led the charge with 836 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. In his freshman campaign, King has 445 yards and four touchdowns. He was, in fact, the lead back last week against West Virginia with 32 carries for 142 yards and a touchdown.
Wide Receiver: Advantage Oklahoma State
Where Oklahoma has the advantage at the other two skill positions, the Cowboys close that gap with a decided advantage at receiver. James Washington is certainly the best receiver in the conference, if not the country. Last week, he got to 1,005 yards and has eight touchdown receptions on the year. Marcel Ateman is a match-up problem for most teams at 6 foot 4 inches tall. He comes in with 668 yards and four scores. Finally, Jalen McCleskey is a speedster who is hard to tackle in space. He has 433 yards and three jaunts into the end zone.
Where the Cowboys have been more top-heavy, the Sooners have spread the ball around a bit more. This is proven by the leading receiver yardage wise for Oklahoma would be good for third on the Cowboys roster. Be that as it may, Mark Andrews leads the way in receiving with 599 yards and four touchdowns. CeeDee Lamb and Marquise Brown compliment Andrews with 540 and 478 receiving yards each. Dimitri Flowers and Jeff Badet have been integral in the passing game as well adding 363 yards and 290 yards on the year.
When you look at both of these teams, the defense has been the sore spot. Oklahoma had looked much improved over a year ago after holding Ohio State to just 16 points. However, they have struggled since that time. In conference play, Oklahoma has given up at least 24 points in every game. Many of the same areas of struggle last year have manifested themselves once again. Giving up passing yardage in chunks as well as red zone defense has been a particular weakness. The Sooners rank 99th and 102nd respectfully in each of those categories.
For the Cowboys, they have been much more consistent as of late after a slow start to the conference season. TCU scored 44 points in the Cowboys only defeat. Whereas, Texas Tech put up 34 points but Oklahoma State was able to escape with a victory. However, over the last couple of weeks, that has been much improved. The Cowboys surrendered 16 and 10 points in victories over Baylor and Texas. The stats were a bit misleading last week as the Cowboys only gave up one offensive touchdown until midway through the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys appear to have the advantage on the defensive side of the ball coming in. With that being said, neither team has played an offense as talented as the other to date.
The Bedlam game is one of the more lopsided series for a rivalry game. Oklahoma leads the overall series with 86 victories against only 17 defeats with seven ties. However, Oklahoma State has been able to close the talent gap over the past 10-15 years.
Oklahoma is a state known for its warmth, compassion and overall welcoming nature. But, come Saturday afternoon this state will be clearly divided. It’s America’s Brightest Orange against the Crimson and Cream Sooner Nation. Do you yell Boomer Sooner or Pistol’s Firing? Are you sporting your Oklahoma car flag or your Pistol Pete garden gnome? No matter what side you are on, get ready for a wild, wild ride.