Oklahoma State is going to beat Oklahoma on Saturday to grab a strangehold on the Big 12 title race with just under one month left to play before a conference champion is crowned.
Here are five reasons why.
1. OSU’s elite D
[Insert ESPN 30 for 30 deep-trombone voice]
What if I told you … in the year of our Lord 2020 … that Oklahoma State would have a top-10 defense and a painfully mediocre offense? What if I told you … OSU’s best chance to win Bedlam … is with its defense?
[cut 30 for 30 deep-trombone voice]
All jokes aside — it might be true! OSU’s defense ranks eighth nationally — eighth!! — in ESPN’s latest SP+ metrics. Eighth! Its offense, on the other hand, ranks 45th nationally. That’s the best statistical defense in the Big 12 and a middle-of-the-pack offense.
It will be strength on strength, with OU boasting the top offense and OSU boasting the top defense. The way OSU’s defense has played this season, I like OSU’s chances.
2. Getting healthy at the right time
Sources have told PFB that starting offensive tackle Jake Springfield could return to the field Saturday after exiting the Texas game with an injury and missing all of the Kansas State game. And the expectation is that All-American receiver Tylan Wallace could be ready to go, too, after sustaining a mid-week injury in practice two weeks ago. Superstar safety Kolby Harvell-Peel could also return after not playing all month. That would make three starters — two of whom are All-American caliber — potentially returning for the biggest game of the season.
3. Inexperienced Spencers
Last Bedlam wasn’t a totally fair fight. It was Jalen Hurts vs. Dru Brown. This season it’s a war between the Spencers — Rattler vs. Sanders.
Both quarterbacks have been turnover-prone at times this season, both are inexperienced and both have at times been hindrances to the offensive production of their respective team. But the fact that OU — for the first time in years — doesn’t have a no-brainer advantage at the quarterback position bodes well for Oklahoma State.
4. Top-end tailbacks
With OSU’s offensive line returning to some semblance of health, the hope here this weekend is that OSU’s tailbacks — Chuba Hubbard and LD Brown — will find ways to get up field and create chunk plays in ways they’ve accomplished in spurts this season. Hubbard is an NFL back with great vision and top-end speed. Brown is a scatback who needs just a sliver of space to break off 80-yard runs. If OSU’s offensive line is going to manage to find ways to create space, OSU’s running backs — particularly in a game plan where OSU likely won’t try to ask Spencer Sanders to do too much — could be the difference between a W and an L.
5. Gundy letting it fire
Mike Gundy has defeated OU just twice as a coach. But there have been plenty of instances — 2018, 2017, 2013, 2012, 2010, 2006 — where a loss could just as plausibly have resulted in an OSU win. Call it bad luck, maybe. But at some point Gundy’s going to call a heater and be rewarded.
I was there in Norman in 2018 when the failed 2-point conversion attempt that would’ve won OSU the game missed Tylan Wallace. It would’ve topped off one of Gundy’s best-coached Bedlam games ever, but it was bad luck that the pass was off the mark — and to no fault of Gundy’s.
The results don’t show it, but he’s really let it fire in Bedlams of the past more often than he’s given credit for. It wouldn’t surprise me if on Saturday we see him — with his team a heavy underdog — come out and just let it hang in a wide-open gameplan.