No. 18 Oklahoma (5-2, 4-2 Big 12) hosts No. 14 Oklahoma State (5-1, 4-1) on Saturday in the first-ever primetime Bedlam matchup in Norman. This season’s installment of the rivalry game features a Sooner offense that leads the Big 12 in scoring against a Cowboy defense that is allowing just 17.8 points per game, which is tied for first in the conference.
The Daily spoke with The O’Colly’s Sudeep Tumma, the paper’s sports editor, about his predictions for Saturday’s game. Here's what he had to say:
The OU Daily: What separates this OSU team from previous Mike Gundy led teams?
The O’Colly: "Like most Big 12 teams, OSU’s traditionally always has an explosive offense, but what separates this team is their defense. They came into this season with 2011-esque expectations with Chuba Hubbard, Tylan Wallace and Spencer Sanders all coming back. There was a much smaller narrative with the defense — but that narrative really blew up this year. … There have been games this season where Mike Gundy can rely on his defense, punt the ball away and play field control and it actually works. That’s almost a crazy thought in the Big 12."
Daily: Have the Cowboy’s trio of Hubbard, Wallace and Sanders lived up to their high expectation this season?
O’Colly: "When you look at them statistically and production wise, it doesn’t look like that, but to me they have. … I don’t know if people everywhere know this, but (Oklahoma State’s) offensive line is down six or seven people since (the offseason)... the holes just aren’t there the same in the same way for (Hubbard). It’s difficult to have the same production without the same offensive line. So, I think he’s played well but is far from the Heisman conversation just because of his production.
"And there have been times this season where I’ve thought, ‘Man, even if Tylan’s covered, he’s not covered.’ I mean, it’s not impossible (to cover Wallace), but it’s very difficult no matter how good of a defensive back you are. This might be the most physical receiver in college football. … And (Sanders) makes play’s that guys don’t. He’s a gamer, he’s so competitive and so fiery. But, at times, that gets you in trouble. … (Sanders has) played well this season, his problem is his turnovers. You could have 20 great passes, but one bad one and (your game) looks really bad because it changes the complexion of the game."
Daily: In Oklahoma State’s last game, the Cowboys took down Kansas State, 20-18. What led OSU to victory in that game?
O’Colly: "In the second half, everything changed (for Oklahoma State). The offensive line played better — not great, but better — and gave Spencer Sanders enough time to drop back. The run game opened up and their defense shut (K-State) down. Kansas State had three-straight three and outs to start the second half. … That’s really where everything just flipped for Oklahoma State. (Hubbard and Wallace) were both hurt. It was a difficult game, but they came away with it."
Daily: How does Oklahoma State slow down Spencer Rattler on Saturday?
O’Colly: "Oklahoma State plays really well third-down defense. They’ll get you in third-and-longs and (run) a whole bunch of different things. (OSU) needs to get OU in those situations by stopping the run game before OU gets there. From there, they’ll need to get Rattler into more difficult situations. … Spencer Rattler and this OU offense, from offensive line to receiver, is a lot more dynamic than (other teams). I think they’ll need to contain Rattler outside of the pocket where I’ve seen him make a lot of plays this season… (Oklahoma State) needs to win this one in the trenches and then go from there."
Daily: Any final score predictions for this game?
O’Colly: "I can see so many scenarios where it can go either way, (but) I think it will be OSU, 27-23."