The Bedlam Series 2013 may not be able to live up to the thrilling outcome of last year’s contest, but we will still be treated to an intense matchup between two in-state rivals. This season’s installment of the series features the Oklahoma Sooners trying to ruin the BCS bowl bid of the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
To do that, however, they’ll need to go into Stillwater—where the Cowboys are outscoring their opponents by 28.4 points.
With so much on the line, here are some the important questions and key players that will determine the outcome of the rivalry game.
Can the Cowboys Defense Keep Their Momentum?
Based on their statistics from the entire 2013-14 season, there isn’t a great discrepancy between the two defenses.
|Comparing the Defenses|
|Teams||Points Allowed/Game||Yards Allowed/Game|
But the Oklahoma State defense has looked absolutely dominant in their last two games (both of which were against ranked opponents). Facing the Texas Longhorns and the high-octane Baylor Bears, the Cowboys came out on top and shut down the opposing offenses.
If the Cowboys can continue that elite level of defensive play, they have too much offensive firepower to not clinch their bowl berth.
Who Wins on the Ground?
The Sooners offense is all about the rushing attack. Trevor Knight, Oklahoma’s redshirt freshman quarterback, played well last week against the Kansas State Wildcats, but his passing is built off of his running ability—not the other way around.
|Trevor Knight: Pass vs. Run|
Oklahoma is one of the best teams in the country on the ground—both offensively and defensively—and without Blake Bell, it doesn’t have the capacity to win a shootout against the Cowboys.
The Oklahoma offensive line is definitely good enough to win the battle at the line of scrimmage, but it will need to play one of their best games of the season against an Oklahoma State defense that is stingy against the run.
Oklahoma’s offensive line has been a dominant force powering the rushing attack, leading the Big 12 in yards before contact according to ESPN Stats and Information.
In the Sooners’ two losses however, the O-line hasn’t been as effective.
|Oklahoma Yards Before Contact|
|Yards Before Contact Per Carry||3.6||1.1|
|ESPN Stats and Information|
As has been the case for most of the season, the fate of the Sooners rests on the shoulders of the big men up front and whether they can get enough push in the running game.
Players to Watch
Oklahoma State Cowboys: Caleb Lavey, LB
The senior linebacker can strengthen his case for the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year with an impressive outing against the Sooners’ excellent rushing attack.
Lavey has made 82 tackles on the season, and he is fourth in the conference with four interceptions. He’s the leader of the Cowboys defensive front, and he’ll need to tackle well and make plays to stuff the Oklahoma run game.
Oklahoma Sooners: Jalen Saunders, WR
Given the absence of Blake Bell and the reliance of the Sooners offense on running the football, the Cowboys are likely to stack the box and force Oklahoma to beat them through the air. For the Sooners to effectively pass the ball, Jalen Saunders will need to have a big game.
Saunders leads the Sooners in receptions and receiving yards, but he’ll be matched up against projected first-round pick Justin Gilbert. If Saunders can win some of those one-on-one battles, he’ll have opportunities to make big plays in the passing game. If he can’t, the Sooners offense will be stuck on the ground.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 41, Oklahoma 23
Oklahoma State has scored at least 40 points in four of the last five Bedlam Series meetings, and that streak will continue in 2013. The Cowboys are too good at home (18-1 in their last 19 home games), and their balanced offense will eventually wear down the Sooners defense.
Trevor Knight won’t be able to replicate last week’s excellent performance against a much better Oklahoma State defense, and the Sooners will struggle to move the football. If Blake Bell were active, this game would be closer, but it’s asking a lot of a freshman quarterback to go into Stillwater and come away with the win.