One wish for Bedlam: a grand finale fitting of this rivalry

November 4, 2023

STILLWATER — The curtain is coming down on Bedlam. Saturday afternoon is the final act. OU-OSU one last time.

My one wish: we get a grand finale.

I know Sooners and Cowboys have more, shall we say, personal hopes and dreams. Such as taking a proverbial two-by-four to the head of the other team and whacking them by 40 or 50 points. Something to stick in the craw of the loser for all eternity.

(Or at least until broadcasters throw enough money at the two schools to bring back the rivalry.)

I understand that, but I want a competitive game, a close game, a down-to-the-wire game. I want the game to be in the fourth quarter late Saturday afternoon with no one quite knowing what will happen.

Maybe we’ll even get another Bedlam classic.

We’ve had lots of them in this rivalry over the past two-plus decades, after all. Since 1999 when Bob Stoops took over the Sooners, exactly half of the 24 games have been decided by 10 points or less. Sure, that means half have been wins that trended toward blowouts, but still, having a chance every other year, on average, to have a tight game is tremendous.

Alabama-Auburn, one of the other granddaddies of college football rivalries, has had 11 games during that same stretch that have been decided by 10 or less points. But the Iron Bowl has only had three such games in the past 12 years.

Bedlam has good games scattered throughout its recent history.

2021: 37-33 OSU.

2018: 48-47 OU.

2017: 62-52 OU.

2014: 38-35 in overtime OSU.

2013: 33-24 OU.

2012: 51-48 in overtime OU.

2010: 47-41 OU.

2006: 27-21 OU.

2004: 38-35 OU.

2002: 38-28 OSU.

2001: 16-13 OU.

2000: 12-7 OU.

Looking over that list, I’m going to need someone to tell me again why anyone thinks it’s a good idea to put this rivalry on hiatus. College football doesn’t need more noncompetitive blowouts. It needs more nailbiters. It needs more Bedlam, not less.

There would be no better way for this rivalry to ride off into the sunset than with another classic. I hope we’re all buzzing about the game for weeks. I want to be talking about the big plays and the crucial moments. I would love for the rivalry to last just a little bit longer that way. 

Bedlam deserves such a send off.

Here are some other tasty nuggets to chew on before Bedlam gets under way at 2:30 p.m. in Stillwater:

Cowboy to watch: Ollie Gordon. Duh. The OSU tailback is in the midst of an historic stretch, being the only FBS player in the past decade with 250 scrimmage yards in three consecutive games. He has also surged into the top spot in the nation for rushing yards (1,087) and rushing yards per game (135.9). The OU defense held its first seven opponents to 156 yards rushing or less, but last week, Kansas went for 225 against the Sooners. As good as the Jayhawks are in the run game, they don’t have anyone close to as good as Gordon.

Sooner to watch: OSU’s biggest weakness is its pass defense, and Dillon Gabriel has to take advantage. With the OU run game being wildly inconsistent, there are going to be times when Gabriel will have to throw. Will he make the Cowboys pay? Particularly, will he be able to use the long ball? OU isn’t stretching the field like years past, but against a young OSU secondary, Saturday might be the time to break out the go routes and the post patterns.

Cowboy newcomer to watch: Getting pressure on Gabriel, then containing him when he takes off running will be key. OSU defensive end Anthony Goodlow will have a big hand in helping with both of those. He’s a native Oklahoman, and after transferring from Tulsa, he’s getting his first taste of Bedlam.

Sooner newcomer to watch: It will be fascinating to see how Trace Ford performs. The Cowboy turned Sooner had his best game of Big 12 play last week against Kansas, according to analysis by Pro Football Focus. He graded out overall at 79.7, more than 20 points higher than his next best conference game. (Any grade at 80 or above is considered excellent.) But how will Ford handle returning to Stillwater, a place he played for four seasons?

A familiar face in Stillwater: Too many familiar faces to count, much less list. OSU’s roster has 51 players, including walk-ons, from the state of Oklahoma while OU’s has 28. 

Cool stat going into Bedlam: The two schools disagree about the overall record of this series. Even though both say there have been 117 games played between the programs, OU says the record is 91-19-7 while OSU says it’s 90-20-7. Why the discrepancy? It revolves around the 1972 game, won by OU 38-15. The NCAA later ruled OU should forfeit three conference victories, including the one against OSU, for using an ineligible player (quarterback Kerry Jackson). OSU recognizes the forfeit as a Cowboy win. OU still recognizes it as a Sooner win.

Something to watch in Stillwater: The Big 12’s offensive and defensive players of the year might be decided. Each team has a strong candidate for each award, OU’s Gabriel and Danny Stutsman, OSU’s Gordon and Nick Martin. Obviously, they aren’t going head to head — you’re more likely to see Gabriel vs. Martin or Gordon vs. Stutsman — but seeing how each fares with a top-shelf player on the other side of the line of scrimmage will be telling.

Did you know?: Sooner offenses over the past couple of decades have been known for explosive plays. Long runs. Deep passes. But in October, OU had just nine plays of 28 yards or more, only three of which went for at least 40 yards. Ollie Gordon, by comparison, had 12 plays of his own that went for 28 yards or more in October, six of which were at least 40 yards.

If you go to Stillwater …: Soak it all in. Every bit of the day. Every moment of the game. This is the last Bedlam, so you’re going to want to remember it.

If you don’t go …: Make the viewing or listening memorable. Get together with family and friends. FaceTime with a fan you know who lives far away. Make memories no matter where you are.

If I could be in two places: I wouldn’t be. Nothing is better than Bedlam, and with the rivalry going on hiatus, you couldn’t pay more to be anywhere else.

About the Author: Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson is a columnist with the Sellout Crowd network. Follow her on Twitter at @JenniCarlson_OK. Email [email protected].
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