For the third year in a row, Sooners Illustrated breaks down Oklahoma’s most important 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.
2015 record: 10-3
Last year vs. OU: Oklahoma, 58-23
Why this game is dangerous: To say that it is just Bedlam is a bit of a cop out, isn’t it? There’s definitely more to it than that, but it’s also Bedlam. Two years ago, Mason Rudolph led the Cowboys to that stunning victory in the regular season finale as a true freshman. He’s now two years older and two years more experienced. Oklahoma State can put the ball in the air with the best of the Big 12 Conference, and the running game should get a jolt. Rudolph has options, and the offense should be one of the best in the country. The Cowboys will also have to replace Emmanuel Ogbah and a lot of depth from its already suspect defense. Oklahoma State could come in to Norman needing a win for a good bowl. There’s a decent chance that the Cowboys will already have three losses to their name – with road games at Baylor and at TCU coming before Bedlam. A potent offense could be a bit desperate.
Opponent to watch: Oklahoma State’s run game has to get better. It just has to be improved, if the Cowboys are going to make a serious run to the title. Forget the defense for a minute, because it’s obvious there are holes there and not just one player than needs to be watched. Running back Barry Sanders returns to the state of Oklahoma with the Cowboys this season after graduating from Stanford. He can’t fix the running game by himself, but if he’s able to find holes that means the offensive line is actually creating them. This will be Sanders’ final home game in Oklahoma, and he’ll probably try to make it a big one.
Prediction: This has always been the year that most thought Oklahoma State would return prominence. They’ve got Rudolph and 16 returning starters. Coming into the final game of the regular season, it could very well be for the Big 12 Championship – once again. Both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State go on the road to TCU. The Cowboys will be just two weeks removed. This sets up for potentially a really big Bedlam matchup – and an offensive showdown to say the very least. There will be a lot of points, although maybe not as many as last year’s 81-point total. Baker Mayfield and Rudolph have a duel for the ages, and this one goes into the fourth quarter again. A big defensive play – a sack fumble by Charles Walker – turns the tide in the final five minutes. Oklahoma wins the Big 12 title with a 38-35 victory. But is it enough to get into the College Football Playoff?