Strength of Schedule: Oklahoma State

Sooners look for Bedlam bounce back while Cowboys look to win two-straight

For the second year in a row, Sooners Illustrated breaks down Oklahoma’s toughest games for the upcoming season. The rating system is based on the importance of a win, the strength of the opponent and a general idea of how key the game will be in terms of scheduling and performance.

It starts with the easiest game and ends up with the toughest.

10. Oklahoma State

Another year, another Bedlam matchup. It will be very hard to forget last year’s Bedlam loss for Oklahoma because it’ll be replayed inside Boone Pickens Stadium at least once. This year will be very different, though. Both teams are in far different places than they were last season. Oklahoma State isn’t necessarily rebuilding any more, and Oklahoma is in a retooling stage – adding new coaches and likely breaking in a new starting quarterback.

2014 record: 7-6

Last year vs. OU: 38-35, OT, Oklahoma State

Why this game is dangerous: Last season was supposed to be the most uneventful Bedlam in recent memory – a perceived mismatch between a team with preseason national-championship aspirations and a team that might have been without a coach had it not been for Tyreek Hill. This time, Oklahoma State comes in with players who are a year older and a year better with the knowledge and confidence that they can beat Oklahoma. None more so than rising sophomore quarterback Mason Rudolph, who threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns last year. Oklahoma State also returns eight players on defense.

Players to watch: There will be no encore performance for Hill, who left for Akron but will have to sit one next season. In fact, Oklahoma State has just one scholarship running back returning from last season. It’s not clear whether Rudolph can beat Oklahoma on his own just yet, especially behind a Cowboys offensive line that allowed 40 sacks last season – worst in the Big 12. Sooners’ middle linebacker Jordan Evans and hybrid defensive lineman Charles Walker could shine in shutting down the Cowboys’ rushing attack. Zack Sanchez and Steven Parker will also be key against a talented passing attack that brings back its top three weapons from last season.

Prediction: Oklahoma State, which went 7-6 last season, hadn’t lost fewer than eight games since Mike Gundy’s second season on the sideline. Bedlam hasn’t gone to overtime in back-to-back years in the rivalry’s history – although it has been settled in an extra period in two of the past three years. It won’t head back there this year, and two standout sophomores will share the stage – Rudolph and running back Samaje Perine. One streak that will break will be Oklahoma’s string of victories. Oklahoma State has won back-to-back Bedlam games since 2002. Perine, who was just a few months past his seventh birthday then, will run for more than 160 yards, but Oklahoma can’t stop Rudolph when it counts. Oklahoma State wins fewer games than Oklahoma in the 2015 season but takes the season finale, 38-31.

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