For the second year in a row, Bedlam will serve as a de facto Big 12 Championship Game.
Like the Super Bowl—because of two conveniently timed bye weeks—Oklahoma State and Oklahoma will have two weeks to prepare for the big matchup in Norman. That’s pretty much where the Super Bowl comparisons end, but the off week allows football junkies like us to do our favorite thing: speculate.
Here are some things to chew on, while we anxiously wait for a Bedlam that should be one for the books.
As is the case in most Big 12 games, Bedlam 2016 will feature a great quarterback matchup. OSU’s Mason Rudolph and OU’s Baker Mayfield have treated Big 12 defenses like Le Chiffre treated James Bond’s testicles in Casino Royal. They are both amongst the nations top 10 passers in yards (Rudolph 5th and Mayfield 7th), efficiency (Rudolph 10th and Mayfield 1st) and Touchdowns (tied for 4th). It’s hard to say one is better than the other, but Bedlam’s victor could find themselves receiving All-Big 12 First Team honors.
The Ground Game
A few weeks ago this looked like a glaring advantage for the Sooners, and it could still be. Despite injuries and suspensions, Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon are still one of the nations top running back committees. Baring a strong performance from the Cowboys’ front seven (don’t count on it. They’ve allowed 190 rushing yards a game, during conference play).
But now, OSU has its own two-headed monster to boast about. Justice Hill has been consistent all year, and the emergence of Chris Carson, a 215 pound bulldozer, who loves running over defenders as much as Hill loves juking them out of their shoes, has added a much needed second element to the Cowboys’ offense
The Sooners will be favorites in this game. Home filed advantage is a big reason why, but so is the running game. If the Cowboys can pull even in that category, then we may have quite a ball game on our hands.
The ghosts of Bedlams past
Bedlam was also a synonym for conference championship in 2015. The Sooners, of course, rolled into Stillwater and rolled over the Cowboys 58-23. Sooner fans love to bring up their 85-18 advantage in the series, and some years the Cowboys play like a little brother. But some years, most notably 2011, the Cowboys harness the scars of abuse and turn OU’s arrogance against them. History says bet the Sooners. However, if this rivalry could be predicted by history or tendencies, it wouldn’t be called Bedlam.
Mismatches in the secondary
OU’s weakness against the deep ball has been well documented. Mike Stoops appears to be on Mason Rudolph bomb away from exploding into a million little, angry moths and flying off into nothingness.
Oklahoma State’s James Washington and Jalen McCleskey are the highlights of one of the nation’s best receiving corps. The two have to be more excited than a couple of hammerhead sharks at a blood drive. Meanwhile, Jordan Thomas, Stephen Parker and the rest of the Oklahoma secondary probably need to be taking some extra melatonin before bed to avoid nightmares of what might happen on December 3.
Frontrunner Lamar Jackson, Louisville’s sensational, dual-threat quarterback, is still the favorite to win the award. But after a couple lackluster November performances, the competition is getting tighter. Dede Westbrook’s 88 yards and 2 touchdowns against West Virginia were enough to keep him in the race, and 150 more yards and a TD or two might be just the Heisman moment he needs to impress voters and jump Jackson.
With a whole weekend of football to be played before Bedlam, there will be plenty of other games on between now and kickoff. Believe it or not, the Cowboys and Sooners could be playing for a whole lot more than a conference championship. They both could be playing for a playoff spot. This won’t come easy. What both teams need to root for is chaos. Particularly, a Washington loss to rival Washington State the Friday after Thanksgiving, and a Michigan State upset over Penn State. If that happens… well… only the playoff committee knows.
Next Year’s Conference Championship
The overarching, regional storyline of this season has been the Big 12’s decision not to expand. Not only will the league stay at 10 teams next year, it will also add a conference championship game, which will be played at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Wait, there’s more. Conference officials have also decided against dividing the teams into two 5-team divisions. If those rules applied this year, like last year, the Bedlam winner would have to face the Bedlam loser in a Bedlam rematch… Woof.
This would cause the proven, best team—according to the league’s round robin format—to have to play a team that they’ve already beaten in a rematch that would hurt the Big 12’s chances at a playoff spot more than it would bolster the top team’s résumé.
Of course, that wouldn’t be the case every year. In 2014, TCU probably could have used a rematch with Baylor to snag a spot in the playoff. Whether the decision will help or hurt the conference is something that’s fun to think about, especially when your team is on a bye.