Bedlam typically brings finality to Big 12 football. This year it could create more chaos.
Four of the previous six years, the Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State game has decided the league championship. By placing it earlier on the calendar, Bedlam remains an important, yet not all-encompassing showdown. This is the first time in 13 years the rivalry isn’t a season-ender.
One of these teams will be tagged with two losses Saturday in Stillwater, but it’s entirely possible a two-loss team will still make the revived Big 12 title game. Of course, the loser will be eliminated from the College Football Playoff race.
“The timing is different, but the stakes are still about as high as can be,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said.
High stakes bring out the best in Baker Mayfield, the quarterback Gundy’s team will face.
“I love it,” Mayfield told reporters. “I love the big stage. I love a good atmosphere. I think it’s a good opportunity to show the country what we’re made of.”
The former Lake Travis standout is 9-1 after the start of November. His only loss was to Clemson in the 2015 national semifinals, and he owns two wins over Oklahoma State and a Sugar Bowl victory over Auburn.
Mayfield has 17 touchdown passes and five interceptions in those 10 late-season games, eight of which were against ranked teams.
“He’s not afraid of the challenge or the moment,” Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said. “He’s been able to improve throughout the season.”
Mayfield and Cowboys gunslinger Mason Rudolph, both seniors, will duel one final time. Mayfield has held the upper hand, and so has Oklahoma, winning Bedlam the last two years, four of the last five and 12 of the past 14.
Rudolph, however, has some significant advantages this year. He is throwing to one of the best and deepest receiving corps in the nation, highlighted by the remarkable James Washington, who already has 1,005 yards receiving and eight touchdowns.
Rudolph is No. 1 in the NCAA with 2,866 yards passing. Mayfield is eighth with 2,628 yards, which is quite remarkable considering he’s saddled with inexperienced wideouts.
Mayfield is second in national passing efficiency; Rudolph is fourth.
Unlike most years, Oklahoma State’s rushing attack is nearly the equal of OU’s. With Justice Hill and J.D. King, the Cowboys are running for a tad under 200 yards per game, third in the Big 12. The Sooners lead the conference at 216.5.
King broke out at West Virginia last Saturday, rolling for 142 yards and catching five passes, so the freshman from Fitzgerald, Ga., gives the Sooners something else to think about.
“It’s pretty simple with him,” Gundy said of King. “Every once in a while, we come across young men that are very mature, not only physically, but mentally — very stable. The big scene doesn’t affect him that much. He’s been that way since day one.”
The Cowboys also have a slightly better defense, something they’ve only been able to claim twice in the last 10 years of Bedlam.
Yet this year, the winner isn’t in the clear. There is a four-way tie for first in the Big 12, and the Bedlam winner could easily be ambushed next week when Oklahoma hosts TCU and Oklahoma State travels to Iowa State.
“You’ve still got to survive this one to make that next one so important,” Riley said.
Because Bedlam matters.
BIG 12 POWER POLL
Rnk (prv) Team;W-L (conf.);Next opponent;Comment
1. (3) Oklahoma;7-1 (4-1);at Oklahoma State (7-1), Sat.;Would you rather have nation’s No. 1 total offense, No. 6 scoring unit and Baker Mayfield atop this list?
2. (1) TCU;7-1 (4-1);vs. Texas (4-4), Sat.;Or Big 12’s No. 1 scoring defense, total defense, pass defense and red-zone D leading the way?
3. (2) Oklahoma State;7-1 (4-1);vs. Oklahoma (7-1), Sat.;Or NCAA’s No. 3 scoring offense, No. 4 total offense and Mason Rudolph as your No. 1?
4. (5) Iowa State;6-2 (4-1);at West Virginia (5-3), Sat.;Or even Cyclones, who lead league in turnover margin and are No. 2 in scoring defense and total D?
5. (6) Texas;4-4 (3-2);at TCU (7-1), Sat.;Stout defense keeps Horns in every game, but they lack firepower to push them over the top.
6. (4) West Virginia;5-3 (3-2);vs. Iowa State (6-2), Sat.;Suddenly this becomes tough matchup for ‘Eers, who desperately need win to stay relevant.
7. (7) Texas Tech;4-4 (1-4);vs. Kansas State (4-4), Sat.;Reeling Red Raiders better grab this one if they want to keep Kliff Kingsbury in 806 area code.
8. (8) Kansas State;4-4 (2-3);at Texas Tech (4-4), Sat.;Wildcats’ flickering bowl hopes on the line because this is easiest game they have left.
9. (9) Baylor;0-8 (0-5);at Kansas (1-7), Sat.;For these two dregs, this is Super Bowl. Best shot for bumbling Bears to avoid 0-12.
10. (10) Kansas;1-7 (0-5);vs. Baylor (8-8), Sat.;How awful are Jayhawks? They are 8½-point home underdog to 0-8 team. Let that sink in.