November 29, 2008

It's Bedlam time! OSU, OU face off tonight

Much has been said about the game all week long.

Now? Time to prepare for some Bedlam.

It's finally game day, which means the annual battle between Oklahoma State and Oklahoma is just about ready to kick off. While Bedlam is always big for both teams, there's a lot on the line for both the Cowboys and Sooners. For OSU, a win would mean a 10-win regular season and a great shot at a Cotton Bowl bid. For OU, a win would mean a great shot at the Big 12 South title, depending on how that zany BCS Poll shakes out. Everything will play out tonight at 7, when the teams hit the gridiron for a national telecast on ABC.

As many fans saw on Friday, there's a reason why the big rivalries are saved for the end of the season. On that day alone, there were plenty of wild contests, as Nebraska, Pittsburg and Arkansas all picked up wins that included a crazy finish.

That could play out again at Boone Pickens Stadium, as the last several Bedlam games in Stillwater have featured breathtaking finishes. And luckily for the No. 11 Cowboys (9-2 overall, 5-2 Big 12), they're playing at home. OSU hasn't fared well in Norman since the 2001 miracle ending against the Sooners. Defensive Coordinator Tim Beckman has seen plenty of rivalries over the years and says they all have a common theme.

"It's a rivalry," Beckman said. "The importance of rivalry and playing at home. The rivalries I've been in have seemed to fall that way too. The Auburn-Alabama one that I started in, Ohio State-Michigan and even the Bowling Green-Toledo game. When we played Toledo at home we beat them and when we played at their place we didn't. So those are rivalries."

Gunter Brewer is no stranger to Bedlam, or series like it. He had a lot of exposure to a similar rivalry in the past: The Egg Bowl between Mississippi and Mississippi State. He says that he and this staff are ready to get a Bedlam win.

"We've played them well over the years," he said. "Coach (Mike) Gundy has been a part of some huge wins against them. We'd like to get one, our new staff, and there would be nothing better than destroy their bowl hopes and Big 12 championship hopes and national championship hopes. We're just disappointed it's not us playing for the whole thing too. We had our opportunity and it slipped away but our kids are excited with the chance of potentially moving up and the thing they've talked about and the bowl positions and the BCS and things because it's good for our kids."

But for that to happen, the Cowboys must take down a Sooners squad which is firing on all cylinders. OU (10-1, 6-1) is coming off three-straight games of 60-plus points. And their last win against Texas Tech only backed up just how well the Sooners are playing right now.

"It was pretty impressive," Gundy said of the win. "On tape, I thought they had a great plan and the snowball got started really small and got bigger in the end. They performed very well. I thought they tackled very well. As the year has gone on, I think that (Austin Box) and (Travis Lewis) have improved in getting to the football and tackling and obviously through experience and reps that happens with most college players."

Of course, the biggest threat to the Cowboys will be quarterback Sam Bradford. On the season, the former Putnam North Panther has thrown for 3,710 yards, 42 touchdowns and completes 68 percent of his passes. Oh yeah, he only has six interceptions.

"I think he's very good," Gundy said. "He's very, very accurate. I think he is moving better and has done a better job of converting third downs than he has in the pass. If they're covered, he'll take it and run it down the field and convert it and get down, so he's a very good player. I recommend that he comes out early while he has the opportunity."

On the other side of the ball, the solid OSU offensive line will match up against a tough Sooner defensive line.

"I believe they're a really good, physical group," Washington said. "And they're probably the best we'll face this year. It just makes you want to work harder. You've got to give them credit, they're a great defense. You've just got to have a great technique and be physical and the more physical line will win, that's always the way it is."

And if it is another close one, the tiebreaker could turn out to be the home field. This will be the first time Bedlam has been played in the new BPS Horseshoe setup, and the games this season have been markedly louder than in the past.

"The home field advantage is going to work toward your favor, and I think that's going to be over the years," Gundy said. "But I'm glad we're going to be playing at home, I think the players are more comfortable at home, just like most teams are and they'll enjoy being in front of their families on senior day.

"I think (the fans will) be excited, I think they'll be loud. I don't think there's any question that our people will be fired up for the game and it'll be a great environment playing another night game. I think that they'll be loud and excited and ready to go."

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