GAME NOTES: The annual Battle of Bedlam takes center stage early on Saturday, as the sixth-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys can clinch the Big 12 Conference title should they knock off the 18th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners.
Although Oklahoma has won back-to-back games over Iowa State (48-10) and Kansas State (41-31) in recent weeks to improve to 9-2 overall and 6-2 in conference play, it would not be in line for the conference crown even with a win in this one, as it has losses to both Texas (36-20) and Baylor (41-12) on its resume'. Regardless, the Sooners know how much they would benefit from a strong finish to the campaign.
"You know you're just fighting every week the same, so win or lose, you're constantly just trying to win the next one, so that's what we'll do this week," OU coach Bob Stoops said.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma State has set itself up nicely in the league by winning seven in a row since losing to West Virginia on Sept. 28 (30-21). The Cowboys control their own destiny after they defeated Texas (38-13) and Baylor (49-19) in late November, and head coach Mike Gundy is not wrapped up in this rivalry game, as a win at this juncture of the season is of utmost importance, regardless of the competition.
"(Bedlam) is the same as it has been for a long time," Gundy said. "Every game we play is big if we want to get to the next one."
The series has been a lopsided one, with Oklahoma holding a commanding 83-17-7 advantage, which includes a 51-48 overtime victory in last season's matchup.
In a conference filled with outstanding offenses, Oklahoma fits right in, scoring 31.7 points per game, and over the last two games that number has shot all the way up to 44.5.
Oddly enough, the Sooners' success over the past two games has come largely without Blake Bell (.599, 1,508 yards, 11 TDs, five INTs), who was knocked out of the game against Iowa State (Nov. 16) early with a concussion. Trevor Knight (443 passing yards, 391 rushing yards, seven total TDs) has played well in Bell's absence, although he is listed as probable for this contest.
OU's rushing attack has been potent, piling up 242.3 yards per game, with Brennan Clay (843 yards, six TDs) and Damien Williams (553 yards, seven TDs) splitting the majority of the carries.
Jalen Saunders is the top threat at receiver, hauling 51 passes for 615 yards and five TDs, while Sterling Shepard (37 receptions, 428 yards) has been on the receiving end of six scoring strikes.
Stoops has established a tradition of excellence on defense during his tenure at Oklahoma, and the 2013 campaign has been no different, as the unit allows just 21.1 points and 330.5 yards per game while picking off 13 passes.
Frank Shannon is the unit's top tackler with 79 stops while also adding 7.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks and an interception to boot. Gabe Lynn has been active in the turnover battle with three interceptions and a fumble recovery, while Charles Tapper anchors the defensive line with 8.0 TFL and 4.5 sacks.
Oklahoma State's offense (41.2 ppg, 444.2 ypg) has been even more explosive than its adversary, and amazingly enough, it has been even more potent once the team turned to Clint Chelf as the full-time starter at quarterback in late October, the team averaging 47.8 ppg since.
Chelf's passing stats don't exactly jump off the page, as he is completing less than 57 percent of his attempts for 1,592 yards, but he has thrown for 14 touchdowns compared to only five interceptions, and his rushing ability (305 yards, six TDs) has kept opposing defenses on their heels.
Chelf's dual-threat ability under center has certainly opened up more running lanes for the tailbacks, and both Desmond Roland (601 yards) and Jeremy Smith (400 yards) have cashed in with a combined 19 touchdowns.
Chelf has distributed the ball rather evenly to his receivers, utilizing the talents of Josh Stewart, Tracy Moore, Jhajuan Seales and Charlie Moore, all of whom have at least 30 receptions and 388 yards. Tracy Moore and Charlie Moore are targeted frequently in the red zone with six and five touchdowns, respectively.
Perhaps the biggest reason OSU is in line for a BCS bid, even more so than its offensive attack, is the play of its defense, which has been nothing short of outstanding in allowing just 18.8 points per game while generating 23 sacks and 29 turnovers.
Justin Gilbert is one of the nation's best cover corners and has let his play do the talking with six interceptions. Caleb Lavey has 82 tackles, 12.0 TFL and four picks, while Daytawion Lowe (71 tackles, two INTs), Shaun Lewis (61 tackles, 8.0 TFL, three INTs, two FF) and Tyler Johnson (8.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks) are also in the midst of great campaigns.
Although the Bedlam rivalry always brings out the best in the Sooners, they will be hard-pressed to tackle an Oklahoma State squad that has been nearly flawless since making the switch to Chelf under center. With a BCS bowl bid in their sights, expect the Cowboys to be focused on the task at hand.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oklahoma State 38, Oklahoma 27