SITE: Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, Okla.
SURFACE: Football Pro
SERIES: Oklahoma leads 81-17-7 (last meeting, 2010, Oklahoma 47-41
RECORDS: Oklahoma 9-2, 6-2 Big 12; Oklahoma State 10-1, 7-1 Big 12); Oklahoma State No. 3 AP, No. 5 USA Today)
PREDICTION: Oklahoma State 44-38
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- For Oklahoma: Avoid turnovers. For Oklahoma State, which gives up a bunch of yards, turnovers have been elevated to almost a defensive strategy. The Sooners must answer when the Cowboys score.
-- For Oklahoma State: Get turnovers and stops on defense.The Cowboys thrive off a league-best 37 takeaways. DE Jamie Blatnick and CB Broderick Brown are among the most disruptive Oklahoma State defenders, with seven sacks and four interceptions, respectively.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
Oklahoma only scored 26 points against Iowa State, and yet still got better as an offensive football team. Playing in constant 30 mph winds, the passing game struggled and accounted for less than 300 yards for only the second time all season. But the running game countered with 253 rushing yards, even with a 35-yard loss on an errant punt snap. OU 547.2 yards and 43 points per game, yet those numbers may be less important than the balance OU may be able to maintain in the Bedlam game.
It depends how you look at Oklahoma's defense. The Sooners are allowing 18.8 first downs, 373 yards and 20.8 points per game, all of which are significantly lower than Oklahoma State's offensive averages. And, the Sooners are coming off one of their finest defensive games of the season, allowing 245 yards (and only six points) to Iowa State. And yet, the most similar-to-OSU offenses the Sooners have faced are Texas Tech and Baylor, which combined to gain 1,152 yards and to score 86 points on OU. The Sooners just have to be better than the have ever been this season against a team that can really throw the ball.
After viewing the video of the Nov. 18 loss at Iowa State, Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden concluded that some of his throws were ill-advised. He said he noticed throws he had not tried to make all season were evident, including three interceptions. Two of those interceptions after balls were tipped, but Weeden still said he made poor reads, despite throwing for 476 yards and three touchdowns. With two weeks to sharpen his accuracy, the Cowboys should value the football more against Oklahoma. More help from the run game is essential after RB Joseph Randle and RB Jeremy Smith were ineffective against Iowa State.
The ending to the Iowa State defeat was unsettling for Oklahoma State. The Cowboys simply wilted on defense and allowed three runs up the middle for the decisive touchdown. After previous struggles with place-kicks during the season, Iowa State was relieved not to try a field goal. It was a bad ending for an Oklahoma State defense that has thrived on takeaways all season, but couldn't hold up fundamentally and withered against Iowa State. Too many playmakers exist on defense for that unit not to carry some kind of swagger, especially with games taking on more importance.
Sooners: If Oklahoma wins, it will have at least a share of the Big 12 title. There could be a three-way tie with Kansas State joining the Sooners and Cowboys at the top. Still, the winner of the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game will be due the automatic BCS bid to the Fiesta Bowl. ... The Bedlam series has been going on seemingly forever. Saturday will mark the 106th meeting between the two programs. The series predates statehood, beginning in 1904 and being played every since, save for 1905 and 1909. The first game was played in Guthrie, which would later become the first state capital. The game has also been played in Oklahoma City six times, from 1915 to 1919 and again in 1943 and 1944. ... Oklahoma State is a three-point favorite heading into the game, but the Cowboys will have overcome history to win, having not won the Bedlam game since 2002 in Stillwater. In fact, from 1995 to 2002, OSU won the Bedlam game five times. OSU also won it five times from 1924 to 1933 (and tied it three other times). Yet part from those stretches, OSU has only won it six times in the other 97 meetings. OU has won the last eight meetings, but that's not close to the longest streak in the series. OU won the game 19 straight seasons from 1946 to 1964. ... WR Jaz Reynolds has been reinstated following a one-game suspension for breaking team rules and should start Saturday. In his last game, Reynolds ought seven passes for 114 yards.
Cowboys: Oklahoma State has never played in a BCS game and last claimed a share of a conference title in 1976 in the Big Eight. ... You might think home-field advantage would help the Cowboys, but the Sooners have won four straight in Stillwater and eight straight in the series. ... Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Todd Monken is being considered for the head coaching vacancy at Tulane. Tulane officials spoke to head coach Mike Gundy about Monken, who is in his first season overseeing the Cowboys' offense. Oklahoma State's last two offensive coordinators, Larry Fedora and Dana Holgersen, went on to head coaching jobs at Southern Mississippi and West Virginia, respectively. ... Monken is one of 27 finalists for the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation's top assistant coach. He coached before at Oklahoma State from 2002-04 under Les Miles, working as the passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach. ... WR Justin Blackmon probably will forgo his senior season and declare himself available for the NFL Draft. Gundy said earlier this season he would advise Blackmon to make that move because he is projected as a top-10 pick.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Landry Jones -- Last season, Jones overcame three interceptions to play an unbelievable fourth quarter in the Sooners' win. For his direct role in getting the Sooners over the hump, it remains his signature game. He may need to play another one to win another Bedlam game.
RB Brandon Williams -- Roy Finch has come on strong ever since Dom Whaley was lost for the season to a broken ankle, but Williams' emergence with 14 carries for 106 yards the last two weeks has given OU a better and more complete running game and offense. If he can keep it going, the Sooners should have more options to keep the ball and chains moving.
DE Frank Alexander -- Oklahoma State's offense may not be stopped, only contained, and if OU is to contain it, it's near certain that Alexander, with 18 tackles for losses and 8.5 sacks will be in the middle of it.
QB Brandon Weeden -- After becoming Oklahoma State's all-time passing leader in the Iowa State game, the second-year starter needs 167 yards to break the season record he set last season with 4,277 yards. He also needs one touchdown pass to break his season mark of 34.
WR Justin Blackmon -- The reigning Biletnikoff Award winner is a finalist again for that honor and needs nine catches to break his Oklahoma State record of 111 receptions set last season. He remains five short of the school-record he set last season with 20 touchdown catches.
PK Quinn Sharp -- Missed a potential game-winning field goal at the end of regulation against Iowa State. How Sharp bounces back will be interesting. He leads the Big 12 with a 47.6-yard punting average and stands 17-for-20 on field goals. Also leads the nation with 50 touchbacks on kickoffs.
Sooners: RB Brandon Williams (undisclosed, probable).
Cowboys: WR Michael Harrison (ankle, probable).