Both of the local Big 12 schools have byes this Thanksgiving week. For Kansas State, having lost last weekend to Baylor and fallen from the ranks of the unbeaten and the No. 1 spot in the BCS standings, it couldn't be worse timing having the extra week to lick its wounds when the natural human instinct is to get right back out on the field in game action and reverse the wrongs from the surprise loss to Baylor. It's a different story for the struggling bunch from Lawrence. When you lose 19 Big 12 games in succession, you welcome the extra week in season to help heal the bumps and bruises and put in more practice time in trying to get better and gain some separation from the agonizing repetition of losing.
What that does, though, is narrow down the choices on where the spotlight shines this week in the scheduled Big 12 games. It's Bedlam week in the state of Oklahoma, and that means the renewal of the century-old in-state rivalry series between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The Sooners are ranked 13th in the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) standings this week; OSU is No. 21..
The past couple of years, the outcome of this fierce 107-year-old rivalry has had Big 12 title implications. The defending-conference-champion Cowboys pounded the Sooners a year ago in Stillwater, 44-10, but this year's contest is being played in Norman, where OU has won the last four games between the two teams and hasn't lost to its in-state archrival since 2001. Oklahoma had won eight consecutive meetings with OSU before losing last year.
The last time the Cowboys played a game in Norman was in 2009. Oklahoma State came into that game ranked 12th in the country and with a good chance of receiving its first invitation to a BCS bowl. That all went out the window, though, as so often happens in rivalry games like this one. The Sooners prevailed on that day 27-0, rendering the first shutout of an Cowboys team since 2005 and helping redeem what was a disappointing 8-5 season for the Sooners.
Oklahoma is one of four conference teams that have a chance of tying Kansas State for the 2012 conference crown. At present, Kansas State still leads the league standings with a 7-1 overall record. OU is at 6-1 and Oklahoma State and Texas are tied for third with a record of 5-2 in the conference. For a four-way tie to happen, however, Oklahoma would have to lose to Oklahoma State, Kansas State would have to lose next weekend to Texas and Texas and Oklahoma State would have to win their final two regular season games. Not very probable, but still very possible.
The Cowboys have won five of their past six games, including a decisive 21-point win over West Virginia that OU had to come from behind in the last couple of minutes to pull out a 50-49 victory last weekend in a wild shootout at West Virginia. The Sooner defense, ranked third in the Big 12 and 18th nationally defending the pass, yielded a school-record and highly uncharacteristic 778 yards of offense to West Virginia. That certainly doesn't bode well for OU, who will be going up against the country's third best offense in Oklahoma State on Saturday.
The Cowboys have averaged 553 yards and 54 point in 10 games, while the Sooners are allowing their opponents 22 points and 370 yards of total offense. Something obviously is going to have to give in Saturday's Bedlam contest. Even though the Cowboys have gone with a three-quarterback rotation this season, they still have a strong passing attack to go along with the league's best rushing offense behind conference leader Joseph Randle, who averages 109 rushing yards a game.
Another interesting statistic to keep in mind in Saturday's OU-OSU matchup, although history isn't a very good predictor in these kind of games: Oklahoma is 49-0 in Norman under head coach Bob Stoops, and 4-0 vs. in-state rival Oklahoma State, when the Sooners score 40 or more points. OU is 52-7 at home when allowing 17 points or less to their opponents. The Sooners own a dominant 82-17 advantage in the overall series and are 38-8-2 when facing the Cowboys at Gaylord Family-OU Memorial Stadium.
In a classic in-state rivalry series like Bedlam, you would expect some interesting connections, and there are a few when it comes to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State:
- Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy was the quarterback at OSU in the late 1980s. He has been the head coach at his alma mater for the past eight seasons. His younger brother, Cale, was the Sooners' starting quarterback in the early 1990s and is currently the team's running backs coach and recruiting coordinator.
- OSU's director of recruiting, Johnny Barr, is a former OU player and coach.
- OU's director of sports enhancement (strength coach), Jerry Schmidt, was director of strength and conditioning at Oklahoma State in 1988-89.
- Wes Edwards, equipment coordinator at Oklahoma State is an OU alum and former staffer.
This should be a very good game. In past seasons, you could almost chalk up an automatic victory for the Sooners when they played in Norman, but that hasn't been the case since midseason 2011. Oklahoma's two losses this season have both come at home, albeit to the current No. 1 team (Notre Dame) and the sixth-ranked team (Kansas State) in the country. OU has as many or more offensive weapons as OSU and, except for last week, the Sooners are stronger defensively. The Sooners win in a close game: Oklahoma 38, Oklahoma State 31.
Three keys to the game
- It is senior day at OU on Saturday, and that is likely to produce extra juice for Oklahoma senior quarterback Landry Jones and 19 other OU seniors. It is never easy being the visiting team on senior day at any school.
- Oklahoma has trailed at halftime in only two games this season (in its two losses). The Sooners have won 32 straight games in which they have held the lead at halftime and are 7-0 in 2012.
- Oklahoma's pass-heavy attack is dictated by its ability to run the football. OSU is 24th in the country in stopping the run. Oklahoma's run game is led by junior
Damien Williams (78 yards per game) and averages 169 ypg. The Cowboys have given up an average of 126 ypg in their 10 games.
Other Big 12 Games This Weekend (Week 13)
(Projected winner in bold face)
Texas @ TCU (Thursday)
West Virginia @ Iowa State (Friday)
Baylor vs. Texas Tech (Cowboys Stadium in Arlington)
Texas Tech @ Oklahoma State
Last week: 3-1
For the season: 54-14 (.790)
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