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Baker Mayfield vs. Mason Rudolph: Bedlam renewed in the NFL

Baker Mayfield got the better of Mason Rudolph in their college rivalry. Now Mayfield gets the chance to get the better of Rudolph in a pro rivalry, and if he doesn’t, the Cleveland Browns’ season is sunk.

The Browns play the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday Night Football. Call it the Rust Belt version of Bedlam.

Rudolph and Mayfield were Bedlam contemporaries, record-setting quarterbacks at OSU and OU, respectively, in 2015-17. Mayfield’s Sooners won all three games and went on to win the Big 12 championship each year.

But now it’s Rudolph who quarterbacks the tradition-rich organization and Mayfield who quarterbacks the team trying to crash the party.

OU and OSU were separated by 80 miles and decades of tradition inequality. The Steelers and Browns are separated by 133 miles and decades of organizational inequality. Pittsburgh is a model franchise; Cleveland is a clown show.

Mayfield hopes to change that, but it hasn’t happened this year. Despite the Steelers’ losing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to a September 15 hip injury, Pittsburgh has regrouped behind Rudolph. The Steelers have won four straight and are 5-4.

The Browns, the chic pick to win the AFC North after decades of futility, are 3-6 and seem to sprout a new controversy weekly.

It’s quite the turnaround from Bedlam, when the Sooners had the upper hand. Rudolph delivered a memorable 38-35 upset of OU as a true freshman in 2014, when Mayfield was sitting out a transfer season, but Mayfield quarterbacked the Sooners to 58-23, 38-20 and 62-52 victories over OSU the next three years. Rudolph missed most of the 2015 game with an injury.

“He’s a competitor, and they had a great team every year,” Rudolph told Pittsburgh media this week. “Most years it came down to that game deciding the Big 12. It was fun playing in those games. You want to win every game you can, man. Do your rival games hurt more when you lose? Sure, and you wouldn’t be human if you said otherwise.”

In Cleveland, Mayfield praised Rudolph, saying, “I have been around Mason for a while just in college playing him, in-state rivalry. Mason is a great guy. He is playing well, taking care of the ball, putting them in a good position to win. Obviously, they have rolled off four straight right now so he is doing his job.”

Some have promoted this as the first NFL game in history matching quarterbacks from OU and OSU. That’s true, if you’re counting starters only. Neither school has a rich NFL QB tradition.

When the Sooners had Hugh McCullough, Beryl Clark and Jack Jacobs making some NFL starts in the 1940s, the Cowboys had no NFL quarterbacks. When OSU had Rusty Hilger in the 1980s, the Sooners were void. When OU had Troy Aikman (who transferred to UCLA; use all ambiguity to your advantage), OSU was void.

But in September 2015, in a Cowboys-Eagle game in Philadelphia, Tony Romo was injured in the third quarter, and OSU alum Brandon Weeden replaced him, finishing out a 20-10 Dallas victory over the Eagles, who were quarterbacked by OU’s Sam Bradford.

Rudolph put up big numbers against OU, completing 58 of 117 passes for 907 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions. Mayfield put up even bigger numbers – 54 of 80 passing for 1,066 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. In that 62-52 shootout, they combined for 1,046 yards and 10 TD passes.

“The last one was a good one, an exciting one,” Mayfield told Cleveland reporters. “I think it’s all a little bit different now. I’m sure as the years go on, we’ll continue something, but it’s different.”

This has the chance to become a long-standing NFL quarterback rivalry. Mayfield, the overall No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, is Cleveland’s anointed messiah. Rudolph, a third-round pick in that same draft, could be in line to take over permanently whenever the 37-year-old Roethlisberger retires or can’t continue. As division rivals, the Steelers and Browns play twice a year.

Mayfield and Rudolph are two of the five quarterbacks from the 2018 draft currently starting for one of the 32 NFL teams.

“We might be a little closer because we were an hour away from each other,” Rudolph said of he and Mayfield. “We would interact at a charity event here and there, so there’s more comfortability. But I’m friends with all those guys. They are all great, and we all talk when we see each other.”

So a Bedlam rivalry takes a new twist. Thursday Night Football, with perhaps many more Sundays to come.

Let’s get to the predictions:

Steelers at Browns: Cleveland 19-17. Of the five first-round quarterbacks from the 2018 draft (Miami’s Josh Rosen is not starting), Rudolph has a better TD-to-interception ratio than all but Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson. Rudolph is 11/4. Jackson is 15/5. Mayfield is 9/12.

Cowboys at Lions: Dallas 28-16. Too much angst has been spent over the Cowboys’ loss to Minnesota. That was a heck of a game, between two good teams, and it could have gone either way.

Jaguars at Colts: Jacksonville 23-20. Will Jacoby Brissett return for Indianapolis? We know Nick Foles is returning for the Jags.

Bills at Dolphins: Buffalo 18-16. A three-game winning streak is possible for Miami, so the Bills best be ready.

Broncos at Vikings: Minnesota 27-13. Can Brandon Allen keep up the Denver quarterback magic? Not likely in the Great North.

Saints at Buccaneers: New Orleans 31-21. I guess every team has a dud game, and New Orleans’ came last week against the Falcons.

Jetropolitans at Redskins: New York 23-17. If Washington wins, the Bengals have a two-game lead on getting the overall No. 1 pick.

Falcons at Panthers: Carolina 26-14. Kyle Allen, even in defeat at Green Bay, looks like a keeper at quarterback.

Texans at Ravens: Baltimore 29-21. Another great college quarterback rivalry is renewed. Lamar Jackson (Louisville) vs. Deshaun Watson (Clemson). Watson had the better team in college. Now Jackson has the better team. 

Cardinals at 49ers: San Francisco 24-13. Jimmy Garappolo and Kyler Murray never crossed paths in college. Eastern Illinois and Oklahoma don’t run in the same circles. 

Bengals at Raiders: Oakland 30-14. Don’t look now, but the Raiders are only a game out of first place in the AFC West.

Patriots at Eagles: New England 26-17. The Patriots should help Dallas return to solitary first place.

Bears at Rams: Los Angeles 14-13. Two offenses that have gone splat. Well, Chicago’s offense has sort of stayed splat.

Chiefs vs. Chargers in Mexico City: Kansas City 33-24. They say the field is fine in Mexico City this time. I would assume the Chiefs will triple check.

Last week: 5-8. Season: 92-55-1.

Related Photos
FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, file photo, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Steelers play at the Cleveland Browns on Thursday, Nov. 14. (AP Photo/Don Wright, File)

FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, file photo, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Steelers play at the Cleveland Browns on Thursday, Nov. 14. (AP Photo/Don Wright,...

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-7588f86e4329162c1eeec8889fb6ad65.jpg" alt="Photo - FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, file photo, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Steelers play at the Cleveland Browns on Thursday, Nov. 14. (AP Photo/Don Wright, File)" title="FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, file photo, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Steelers play at the Cleveland Browns on Thursday, Nov. 14. (AP Photo/Don Wright, File)"><figcaption>FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, file photo, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh Steelers play at the Cleveland Browns on Thursday, Nov. 14. (AP Photo/Don Wright, File)</figcaption></figure>
Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›

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