Why the Sooners Will Win...
...the 2013 game
The season has been marked by a couple of disappointing losses for the Oklahoma Sooners. After getting a big victory on the road in Notre Dame, OU was upset by the Longhorns in the annual Red River Rivalry game, their first loss in the series since 2009. Then, on a Thursday night, they were embarrassed on the road at Baylor in a game that was supposed to be competitive.
Still, Oklahoma has bounced back and looks like a different team after Trevor Knight regained the starting job. After clearly having some jitters early in the season and losing out to Blake Bell, Knight took over for an injured Bell against Iowa State and the Sooners have put together two of their most impressive offensive performances. Simply put, they possess a run/pass balance at quarterback that Oklahoma State has not seen this season, not to mention one of the best overall running games in the Big 12.
On the other side of the ball, Oklahoma has picked its poison for the most part in 2013, and that's a good thing. If you can make your opponent one-dimensional, relying on a part of its game not preferred, you have an advantage. Against Kansas State, for example, the Wildcats couldn't run and were forced to air it out. It wasn't their game. The Jawhawks would've loved to be able to throw it but finished with just 16 yards through the air. In very few games have opponents been able to sustain a balanced attack.
Yes, Oklahoma State is favored. Yes, the Cowboys are ranked higher. And yes, OSU is playing in the comfort of Boone Pickens Stadium. But despite all the talk of a more competitive series, talk present even on this site, the fact is that Oklahoma has won 9 of the last 10, an even better number than its historical percentage.
Put all that together, and it spells disaster for the Cowboys.
Why the Cowboys Will Win...
...the 2013 game
The 2011 Oklahoma State Cowboys were the best team the school has had, falling just short of a National Championship bid. And that year, OSU destroyed OU in Stillwater. Well, this team might even be better overall. Now, don't get me wrong... I'm not saying the Cowboys have a Justin Blackmon this year or that Clint Chelf is Brandon Weeden. But the 2013 defense is the best I've seen at Oklahoma State, relying on tough, varied and fundamental play rather than simply opportune turnovers. There is experience and explosiveness across the board, and the unit has improved each and every game, it seems.
Speaking of improving every game, how about the offense? Early in the year, it was a carousel of mediocrity at quarterback mixed with a stagnant running game. Now, Clint Chelf looks like the conference's best quarterback. He has done it with his legs, and he has done it with his arms. Mix that with the playmaking abilities of Josh Stewart and the bruising, consistent running of Desmond Roland. Yep, this Oklahoma State offense is downright scary.
On top of all of that, Oklahoma State has remained relatively healthy, not the case down in Norman. Oklahoma's defense was better early in the year, before the loss of key guys such as Jordan Phillips and Corey Nelson. Aaron Colvin has been hobbled, and the Sooners rely on a very young group of guys. They may hold strong early, as they did at Baylor, but eventually the missed assignments and missed tackles are going to show against a rolling Cowboys offense.
Oh, and did I mention the game is in Stillwater? Get the paddles ready because it spells disaster for the Sooners.
Now you have the breakdown of what could happen. How about what will happen...? Here's my prediction:
When I look at this game, I see two teams stabilizing themselves after some difficulties and inconsistencies. I also see two offenses with a fair amount of balance. However, in both areas, Oklahoma State would have an edge. Add in the home field advantage, and I'd be inclined to predict a narrow Cowboys victory.
But there's something else that sticks out to me even more: experience. You see quite a difference when looking at the match-ups. While Oklahoma relies on a quarterback making just his 4th start, senior Clint Chelf solidified his spot and has played in a Bedlam game before. On defense, injuries have decimated the Sooners, and key spots at linebacker, corner and defensive tackle are manned by freshmen. Conversely, the Cowboys start seven or eight seniors defensively. That's not a small thing in a big game.
This pushes me from a narrow OSU win to a comfortable one. Chelf and Roland will start slowly but soon keep Oklahoma's defense off balance. Trevor Knight is likely to break a big run or two, and the end of the first quarter score will be tight. Expect Oklahoma State to stiffen defensively in the second and third while the Cowboys offense slowly pulls away.
Oklahoma State 41, Oklahoma 21
If ever there was a game to properly illustrate Oklahoma State's historic struggles in the Bedlam rivalry, the 2013 affair was it indeed. At home and essentially universally favored to get the victory, the Cowboys saw the game go the way of so many others against Oklahoma. For OU fans, it was a case of "Sooner Magic." For OSU fans, it was yet another disappointment in the series, a heart-breaking loss after one of the team's best seasons in school history.
Perhaps most importantly, though, for all fans it was a heck of a game. Oklahoma State had some uncharacteristic issues in the first half, hiccups such as penalties, dropped passes, and a slightly-off touch from Chelf. But the Cowboys' running game was rolling and the defense held strong against Oklahoma's option attack. Tied at halftime, Oklahoma State had to feel good about things when starting OU quarterback Trevor Knight left the game due to injury and back-up Kendall Thompson threw an interception, a turnover that led to an OSU TD a bit later and a 17-10 lead in the 3rd.
It was the Sooners, though, who kept coming up with big plays. A Jalen Saunders punt return TD helped in the 1st half, and a goal line stand by the defense buoyed the underdogs. When a fake field goal resulted in an Oklahoma TD, tying the game at 17, we were in for an exciting Bedlam finish for the 2nd year in a row.
The Sooners took a 20-17 early in the 4th, Blake Bell entering as the team's 3rd QB of the day, but with under two minutes to play, the crowd went wild as Chelf and company put together a go-ahead scoring drive. That same crowd sat stunned and silent only minutes later when Blake Bell completed a pass to Jalen Saunders in the corner of the endzone to upset the 6th-ranked Cowboys in Stillwater. A last-ditch effort by OSU led to a fumble and an OU score as time expired, sealing Oklahoma's 10th Bedlam victory in the last 11 tries.
Final Score: 33-24