After all the talk, Bedlam is finally here.
The number of matchups left between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State appear to be numbered, but Saturday’s game could go down as one of the most important in the history of the series.
Both squads are rated in the top 10, and either team winning out could easily land them in the College Football Playoff.
Mike Gundy’s Cowboys already have a spot in next week’s Big 12 Championship secured, but a victory on Saturday night could knock the Sooners out of the race, ensuring a new Big 12 Champion for the first time in six years.
Oklahoma’s task is easier said than done, but a win on Saturday night against Oklahoma State and they too will be headed to Arlington next weekend, where a second win over the Cowboys would hand them their seventh straight conference crown.
Everything is on the line Saturday night, but the Sooners will have to overcome one of the best units in the country if they’re going to escape with a win.
The Oklahoma Sooners are going to have to find a way to move the ball on Oklahoma State’s defense to give themselves any chance, if nothing else than to give their own defense a chance to breathe on the sidelines.
But to move the ball with any consistency, OU will have to do better than their 1-of-10 performance on third downs from a week ago agains the Iowa State Cyclones.
Unfortunately for the Sooners, they are facing quite literally the best third down defense in the country.
Oklahoma State has allowed third down conversions on a staggering rate, giving up first downs on just 24.5 percent of third downs faced.
Caleb Williams will have to be much better than he has been the last two weeks, or Kennedy Brooks may have to carry the Sooners to pay dirt on Saturday night in Stillwater, but either way it will be tough sledding against OSU’s defense.
Oklahoma State’s pass rush is by far the best OU has faced all year long.
Entering this week, the Cowboys led the nation with 43.0 quarterback sacks, getting to opposing quarterbacks an average of 3.9 times per game.
Perviously, the best pass rush the Sooners had faced this year season was Baylor’s, and it’s safe to say things went poorly for Oklahoma two weeks ago in Waco.
The quarterback combination of Williams and Spencer Rattler both were confounded by the Baylor secondary, holding the ball far too long resulting in the duo getting dragged down for a combined five sacks for the afternoon.
Oklahoma’s offensive line has had trouble getting on the same page all year long, and they’ll be walking into the most charged up atmosphere they’ve played in this weekend. The Cowboy faithful are still reeling from this summer’s announcement that the Sooners would leave their in-state counterparts high and dry by heading to the SEC, and they’re licking their chops ahead of what could potentially be the final Bedlam contest every played in Boone Pickens Stadium.
OSU’s pass rush will feed off the energy all night long, and it’s shaping up to be a long evening for the OU offense as a result.
However, there is one factor headed into the game which could give the Sooners offense some hope that they can find a bit of success against Oklahoma State’s defense.
The Cowboy defense enters Saturday’s contest as the best unit on the field. There’s no question about it.
And while Jim Knowles has taken his defense to another level this year, he’s also struggled to do one thing in his previous three seasons at Oklahoma State: come close to trying to slow down Lincoln Riley.
OU’s offensive guru has owned Knowles, putting up an average of 41 points per game in their previous three meetings.
Over that span the Sooners have averaged 547 total yards per contest and 275 rushing yards as they’ve sliced and diced Knowles at will.
Even with their offensive line struggles last year, the Sooners were able to rush for 191 yards against a much-improved Cowboy defense.
To this point in 2021, things have been clearly different on both sides of the ball. Oklahoma’s offense has struggled to find any semblance of consistency while the Cowboys have looked elite.
But coaching styles clash, and Riley will be happy to see Knowles on the opposing sideline after back-to-back weeks facing Dave Aranda and Matt Campbell, who have beaten Riley four times combined — two more victories than Mike Gundy has over Oklahoma in his entire career.
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