I’m not 100 percent sure what to write here.
Look, I’m an unabashed University of Oklahoma athletics fan. I hold two degrees from the university and was raised in crimson and cream underwear. So, when my alma mater loses a heartbreaker of a football game to its in-state rival, it’s tough for me to find the words for my many mixed emotions.
Oh, I could say there was some poetic justice in the 27-24 win for Oklahoma State on Saturday, in what might be the final Bedlam football game for years to come. I could say this one-score game culminated two decades of great battles between Oklahoma universities on the gridiron. I could also even say it’s karmically funny, with OU getting ready to leave for the sabertoothed Southeastern Conference because the university needed the money after years of specious spending. As OU packs its bags for what school leaders hope will be greener pastures, it’s hard not to feel stuck with a questionable head football coach who has collected two 15-yard penalties this season, an offensive coordinator whose reputation is so compromised he would have to beg to get free salsa from any Tex-Mex restaurant in the state, and an overall outlook much murkier than the most rosy-eyed OU fan could ever admit.
Then again, I could also say Saturday was a short-lived Jolt-Cola ending for Oklahoma State in a Bedlam series mercifully, finally, coming to an end. Landing the final punch in a 120-108 boxing fight sure makes someone feel tough for a moment … but it’s a bit of a pyrrhic victory and is absolutely analogous to OSU upping its Bedlam mark to 20 wins in the last 118 games. I might say it’s the best, but ultimately last, showcase for an Oklahoma State program likely to slide into the mid-major tier in the coming decades as college football veers toward its Power 2 era with only the SEC and Big 10 drawing much attention.
So, sure, there’s a lot of pettiness one could latch onto from both sides here. In the end, it’s probably just best to move on and view Saturday’s game from a more Vulcan-like, logical viewpoint rather than to dive into the long-term ramifications that may or may not happen for either program, particularly from this one, individual game.
Therefore, that’s what I’ll write … or wrote, or have written … whatever … it’s all above this sentence. Don’t buy a jump to conclusions mat for either team or program. Ultimately, Saturday’s game was just a game, and an entertaining one at that. One team won and another lost. Acknowledging the overarching simplicity of a grandiose event opens the door to perspective and protects your hands from the scalding stupidity of too hot a take. At least, that’s the head space in which I found myself when I started this column.
Of course, those are also the words of a fan whose team ended up on the embarrassing end of a big game full of hangover-inducing highlights:
- To that end, I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate — about as much as my editor hates my repetitiveness — HATE blaming officials for anything. I’ve avoided it my entire athletic and sportswriting life. Still, I’m going to use the goodwill built up over 49 years to say several calls in the Bedlam game were circumspect, to put it nicely, and outright atrocious, to put it bluntly. Whichever side the rulings would and should have fallen, it was a blatant embarrassment to the Big 12 Conference and solidified arguments about what a rinky-dink, second-tier collective it will be once the new-look college football unrolls next season. I understand fans on either side of Bedlam will interpret this rant as either a positive or negative, dependent on their loyalties. It’s not meant as either, and I truly apologize for being overly opinionated and crass – I simply and gently meant to say Big 12 referees are swaggering tin-plated dictators with delusions of Godhood who shouldn’t be allowed near actual competitors and competitions and that the current Big 12 commissioner should stick to trying to get record deals for Jay-Z. That’s all. Moving on ….
- Kudos to the Oklahoma State coaching staff for identifying that they’ve been an (albeit successful) one-trick pony on offense the past few weeks. The Cowboys opened the game, and continued throughout, determined to throw the ball around. While OU was understandably prepared for the Ollie Gordon-led running game, it took a while for the Sooners to adjust to the OSU offensive changeup, by which time the Cowboys had built a lead.
- The Sooners did eventually adjust defensively, though, which culminated in two fourth-down stops in the third quarter. Yet, OU’s offense could never take full advantage of what the defense presented. Time and again, Sooners offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby attempted to prove he was the smartest guy in the press box by dialing up wildcat runs, backward passes, plays involving little-used players, calls I’m sure belabored the annexation of Puerto Rico and befuddled clock management. Thank goodness the man carries no extra baggage or one might think it’d be time for the Sooners to consider replacements.
- Oklahoma State has a clear run to the Big 12 title game. It’d be hard for me to imagine the Cowboys being less than a touchdown favorite in their final three games against UCF, Houston and BYU.
- OU, meanwhile, can still salvage its season. At this point, a Big 12 title game berth is likely a longshot, but winning out and notching a bowl victory to cap an 11-2 season would still be considered a no-doubt success.
- The happenings in Austin on Saturday were fascinating. The Longhorns dominated Kansas State for what seemed the entire afternoon, yet still had to hold on with white knuckles for a 33-30 overtime win. I’m entirely convinced Texas was the better team, yet the Longhorns appeared to simply get bored after taking leads of 17-0 and 27-7. It almost cost them, but ultimately didn’t because Kansas State’s coach opted to try a fourth-down conversion in overtime instead of tying it with a field goal. Details aside, Texas is on a collision course with the College Football Playoff, and I’d be genuinely surprised if they didn’t make it.
- Texas Tech beat TCU 35-28 on Thursday. It was a rather fun game between two underperforming teams, yet it had the best highlight involving marsupials this season.
- Clemson may be down this season, but nobody should relish playing them under the watchful eyes of Howard’s Rock. The Tigers toppled Notre Dame 31-23 at home Saturday, proving nobody knows anything about either team, and if they try to say they do, they’re lying.
- Arkansas went to Florida on Saturday and won 39-36, a game that should further cast doubt upon anyone who says OU will be in over its head in the SEC next season and beyond.
- Iowa beat Northwestern 10-7 in a game billed as having the lowest over/under total in the history of college sports (29.5). My rudimentary math skills show, yes, the under still came through. Considering the two teams COMBINED for 110 yards of offense by halftime, I’m convinced more scoring could be witnessed within any program on the Disney Channel.
- Washington put USC’s season out of its misery with a 52-42 win in Los Angeles. The Huskies awoke from their post-Oregon slump with 572 yards on offense against a helpless and hapless — and underfed? — USC defense. The Trojans kept it close — as they always do thanks to a Herculean effort from quarterback Caleb Williams — yet again did nothing to disprove the theory of Lincoln Riley-coached teams being mostly one-man (Baker Mayfield/Kyler Murray/Jalen Hurts/Caleb Williams) shows.
- Any illusion of Alabama being “down” this season ended with a 42-28 Crimson Tide win over LSU on Saturday. Sure, maybe Alabama isn’t what they’ve been in the past, yet when it’s all said and done, the Tide will be a win over Georgia away from being a top-two seed in the College Football Playoff.
- That’s a good chance you haven’t noticed one of the more interesting resurrections of the season in Tucson, Arizona. After beating UCLA 27-10, the Arizona Wildcats have won their last three games, all over ranked opponents, and sport a nifty 6-3 record. In fact, all three losses have come by a touchdown or less against legitimate teams. Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch should be a strong contender for coach of the year in the entire country this season.
- Army ended the Air Force’s undefeated season, 23-3, on the road. The academy teams have always fascinated me. Records are totally off the table when they play each other, as they all roughly run basically the same offense, and the intense rivalries between each make them nothing less than blood feuds. In other words, games among the three are truly toss ups and, to me, represent some of the best of college football.
- Finally, I had the pleasure of attending a classic Oklahoma high school football game on Friday night, as my alma mater Hartshorne Miners topped Liberty-Mounds 26-20. The Miners secured second place in district A-6 and a homefield game in the first round of the playoffs. I encourage everyone to support their local high school team and go find themselves a hometown hero to root for, such as the best-kept secret in small-school Oklahoma football: Hartshorne quarterback Jackson Moody.