Bedlam football: OU has newfound respect for OSU this decade
STILLWATER — Lincoln Riley started talking about Bedlam this week, and Sooners of a certain age had to be wondering what Riley had been smoking.
“Excited about Bedlam,” Riley said. “Always am. Doesn’t matter when this game falls or where it’s at. Always a meaningful football game for this state. It’s been very important for championship races the last several years, this obviously being no different.
“It’s gonna be fun. We’re excited. We’re excited to get to Stillwater and play. Guys are really, really looking forward to this one as always. One of the best rivalry games without a doubt.”
Bennie Owen never said anything like that. Neither did Bud Wilkinson. Nor Barry Switzer. Those epic OU football coaches went a combined 48-3-1 against Oklahoma State. And it’s not like the Cowboys made up for it in other areas. Chuck Fairbanks, Gary Gibbs and Tom Stidham were a combined 15-0-1 in Bedlams. That’s how the Sooners have reached such one-sided domination in the series, leading 88-18-7.
But in the 21st century, Bedlam football has changed. Among Sooner coaches, only Bob Stoops and Riley know what it’s like to play high-stakes Bedlam games year after year. And so it is when OU and OSU play at 7 p.m. Saturday in Boone Pickens Stadium.
The Sooners are 10-1 and ranked seventh, fighting for a College Football Playoff berth. The Cowboys are 8-3 and ranked 21st, out of the Big 12 championship hunt but chasing a premium bowl bid (Alamo vs. Southern Cal? Camping World vs. Notre Dame?).
Before 2003, Bedlam had produced six showdowns in which both teams were ranked in the polls. This 2019 game will be the 11th since then in which both OSU and OU are in the top 25. Over those same 17 seasons, the vaunted Alabama-Auburn Iron Bowl has had seven top-25 matchups. Ohio State-Michigan has had nine.
Truth is, Bedlam always has been OSU’s most important game of the season. But now Bedlam threatens OU-Texas as the most important game on the Sooner schedule.
- Related to this story
- Article: Bedlam football: Why Chuba Hubbard and CeeDee Lamb aren't just elite but electric
- Video: OSU Football: Bedlam preview
“My first Bedlam,” said OU linebacker DeShaun White. “I’m looking forward to it. I know it’s a big-time rivalry. Just really looking forward to a really big opportunity on a big stage. What makes you love college football, just the grit of this sort of game. Such a big rivalry.”
Yesteryear Sooners never would have talked that way. But yesteryear Sooners never played this level of OSU program. In the last 12 years, the Cowboys are among the 12 winningest programs among Power 5 conferences. OSU has replaced Texas as the second-most successful Big 12 program in the ‘10s.
In this decade, OU has had only one season with at least four losses. OSU has had three. Texas has had 10. The list of Power 5 programs with three or fewer four-loss seasons this decade: LSU, Wisconsin, OSU, Clemson, Ohio State, OU and Alabama.
Also, nine years ago, OU lost an old rival in Nebraska, when the Cornhuskers jumped to the Big Ten. The Cowboys stepped into that void.
And of course, the nature of recent Bedlams has been wild and wooly football. Overtimes in 2012 and 2014. A game-deciding two-point conversion last season. Video-game scores of 62-52, 61-41, 48-47, 47-41.
“Those games are always crazy,” said OU center Creed Humphrey. “They have been for a while.
“Just the craziness of this game every year is really what sticks out.”
What sticks out to me is the newfound respect that the Sooners, from the top down, have for Bedlam.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.