John Hoover

John E. Hoover: As rivalries go, Bedlam stands alone at the bottom … and is worth every minute

John E. Hoover: As rivalries go, Bedlam stands alone at the bottom … and is worth every minute

Oklahoma’s Blake Bell (10) is a Bedlam hero, beating Oklahoma State in 2012 with an overtime touchdown run and winning in 2013 in Stillwater with a late touchdown pass. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

NORMAN — Look, nobody is saying Oklahoma doesn’t own Oklahoma State.

History shows us again and again that this is college football’s most lopsided rivalry for a reason.

But history also shows that the annual Bedlam match — played this Saturday afternoon at OU’s Owen Field between the 8-1 Sooners and the 5-4 Cowboys — is still a real rivalry, and a good one.

OSU coach Mike Gundy is just 2-11 as head coach against his little brother Cale’s team (Mike Gundy is also 0-4 against OU as a player and 2-3 as an assistant coach), but since Gundy firmly elevated the Cowboys in 2008, Bedlam’s entertainment factor has been high.

Sooner victories like 61-41, 47-41, 51-48, 33-24 and 62-52 have become the norm. Even when OSU has been average or below, the Bedlam game is still good, clean, hateful fun.

“I can speak to the last three,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said this week. “They’ve been battles, I know that. They’ve been absolute battles.

“The first couple (58-23 and 38-20 OU victories), we had a chance to separate a little bit in those games. But they’ve always been battles. They’ve been very intense. You can tell when you are playing those guys that you’re going against a very good team. I’ve always felt that in all three.”

Last year OU won its third consecutive Big 12 Conference championship and went to the College Football Playoff and came within a play or two of beating Georgia, which came within a play or two of beating Alabama for the whole thing. The Sooners were that good, and came that close to winning a national championship.

And Oklahoma State was driving with a chance to win Bedlam in the closing minutes.

In 2015 and 2016, the Bedlam winner got to take home the Big 12 trophy.

“You can feel the intensity of the rivalry,” Riley said. “It’s been a game that’s been very relevant on the national stage here for the last several years. You felt all that. I continue to feel that. And I think that’s what makes it the game that it is.”

And then along comes this week, when OU quarterback Kyler Murray lets slip “I’m not a fan of Stillwater” during his weekly press conference, and OSU running back Justice Hill tags the OU defense as “little boys” and “kids” on an Instagram post showing him running for a portion of his 228 yards and two touchdowns.

“I’m just ready to play another game, honestly,” Murray said. “Another great opportunity for us as a team against a good team. Obviously, there’s a rivalry. Obviously, it will be intense on Saturday. But for us, we still have to execute and play well.”


Let’s ask OU’s defense what they thought of Hill’s ventures into social media.

“We not worried bout none of that,” cornerback Tre Brown responded in his own Instagram post.

“Justice is really good. Don’t take anything away from him,” Brown said later. “But it was just disrespect. I wanted to let him know, we’re not worried about that. We’re going to play our game, do what we gotta do.”

“He can do what he wants to do on Instagram,” said linebacker Curtis Bolton. “I’m going to line up on Saturday and play ball. At the end of the day, he’s gotta come out and run the rock. He can say what he wants to, but he’s got to come prove it Saturday.”

“He’s a great running back,” said safety Robert Barnes. “That’s all I got to say. We’ll do our talking on the field.”

OU says the series record stands at 87-18-7. OSU says it’s 86-19-7. There is a disputed result, but who cares? agrees with the Sooners, who have won three straight and 13 of the last 15 meetings.

Among college football’s notable rivalries, OSU’s winning percentage of .192 against OU is last — by a lot.

  • Auburn (.445) is 36-45-1 against the Crimson Tide.
  • Arizona State (.456) is 41-49-1 against Arizona.
  • Army (.462) is 51-60-7 against Navy.
  • BYU (.355) is 31-57-4 against Utah.
  • Cal (.432) is 43-58-10 against Stanford.
  • Colorado State (.256) is 22-66-2 against Colorado.
  • Florida (.458) is 43-51-2 against Georgia.
  • Florida State (.435) is 26-34-2 against the Gators.
  • FSU (.476) is 30-33 against Miami.
  • Georgia Tech (.388) is 41-66-5 against the Bulldogs.
  • Iowa State (.333) is 22-44-0 against Iowa.
  • Kansas State (.413) is 45-65-5 against Kansas.
  • Michigan State (.347) is 36-70-5 against Michigan.
  • Mississippi State (.412) is 44-64-6 against Ole Miss.
  • North Carolina State (.355) is 35-66-6 against North Carolina.
  • Ohio State (.460) is 49-58-6 against the Wolverines.
  • Oklahoma (.429) is 46-62-5 against Texas.
  • Oregon (.437) is 46-60-5 against Washington.
  • Oregon State (.430) is 47-64-10 against the Ducks.
  • South Carolina (.383) is 42-69-4 against Clemson.
  • USC (.438) is 36-45-5 against Notre Dame.
  • UCLA (.397) is 31-47-7 against the Trojans.
  • Texas A&M (.335) is 37-76-5 against the Longhorns.
  • Washington State (.318) is 32-72-6 against the Huskies.
  • West Virginia (.399) is 40-61-3 against Pittsburgh.

Nobody but nobody loses to their rival like Oklahoma State. All but one of the other rivalry underdogs wins at least 30 percent of the time. OSU doesn’t even win Bedlam 20 percent of the time.

Maybe the most outstanding statistical indicator of the one-sided nature of the OU-OSU game this comes from @BlinkinRiley on Twitter, who points out that, at their current pace, the Cowboys would match OU’s current series win total in the year 2447. (Look at this thread for more ridiculous numbers.)

And yet, don’t pretend this thing doesn’t qualify as a rivalry.

Not when onside kicks bounce of facemasks, and winning passes are dropped in the end zone, and the Belldozer beats you by running the ball one year and by throwing it the next, and the coach needs a punt-return do-over.

OU is a 21-point favorite this year, but former Franchise writer Kegan Reneau (@KeganReneau on Twitter) reminded us this week of the unlikely history made when OSU does win:

Bedlam may not have the parity of the Apple Cup or the Egg Bowl or even the Rocky Mountain Showdown, but it often has twice the drama and five times the stakes.

“Obviously,” Riley said, “it’s a huge game with the rivalry regardless of the teams’ records and regardless of what you’ve done. It’s an important game for this state. It’s been an important game on the national scene for the last several years. It’s going to be an important game for us here as well.”


Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “The Franchise Drive” every weeknight from 6-8 on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and appears throughout the day on other shows on The Franchise. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his personal page at

John Hoover

Hoover wrote for the Tulsa World for 24 years before joining The Franchise, where he's now co-host of "Further Review" on The Franchise Tulsa (weekdays 12-3, fm107.9/am1270) . In his time at the World, Hoover won numerous writing and reporting awards, including in 2011 National Beat Writer of the Year from the Associated Press Sports Editors for his work covering the Oklahoma Sooners. Hoover also covered Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Oral Roberts and the NFL as a beat writer. From 2012 to 2016, Hoover was the World's lead sports columnist. As a columnist, Hoover won national awards in 2012 and 2014 from the National Athletic Trainers Association for reporting on sports medicine and in 2015 won first place in sports columns from the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists. After receiving a journalism degree from East Central University, Hoover worked at newspapers in Ada, Okmulgee, Tahlequah and Waynesville, Mo. He played football at Ada High School and grew up in North Pole, Alaska. Hoover and his family live in Broken Arrow.

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