Berry’s college football predictions: Why OSU is the pick over OU

Berry’s college football predictions: Why OSU is the pick over OU

Berry Tramel: The difference between OU and OSU is not much. The Cowboys clearly were in a September fog. The Sooners have hit an October snag.

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Nov 1, 2023, 9:00am CDT

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Nov 1, 2023, 9:00am CDT

NORMAN — This Bedlam farewell, the finale of a one-sided but wild series, a rivalry that goes back to the days when settlers were watching hawks make lazy circles in the sky, was all set to be about history.

Goodbye to Bedlam football, which has become the Bedlam to a nation fascinated by a rivalry known for crazy plays (Tim Lashar’s onside kick bouncing off Chris Rockins’ head, punting to Tyreek Hill for no good reason) and crazy scores (62-52, 61-41) and crazy domination (OU leads OSU 91-19-7; for historical comparison, Texas is 75-21-1 vs. Rice).

But the craziest thing of all is that Bedlam football is going away. To that big gridiron in the sky. On hiatus. On holiday, as they say where futbol clubs don’t stop playing each other just because.

Except the melancholy and regret and anger and satisfaction and all the emotion regarding Bedlam’s demise, have had to make room on Bullet’s saddle and the Sooner Schooner seat for more intrigue.

A sudden switch in Heisman Trophy candidates. Dillon Gabriel’s campaign, thrown for a loop. Ollie Gordon’s campaign, charging hard.

But the heroes and villains give way, too, to the simple stakes. Bedlam 2023 will be the game that determines the front-runner for the Big 12 Championship Game.

The Sooners planned to be there all along, of course, especially after beating Texas 34-30 on October 7. But OU lost 39-33 at Kansas last Saturday, when OSU completed a four-game October sweep by whacking Cincinnati 45-13. All that after a bewildering September in which the Cowboys lost to South Alabama and conceivably could have lost to Central Arkansas.

Suddenly, there’s a five-way tie atop the Big 12 standings, and the easiest remaining schedules among the five tied teams are No. 1 OSU and No. 2 OU.

The winner Saturday in Stillwater seems likely headed to Arlington, Texas, for the Big 12 Championship Game.

“No surprise that several weeks ago people had written Oklahoma State off after losing to South Alabama — a good South Alabama team — and they’ve just gotten better,” Brent Venables said. “They’ve responded. That’s what you want to be about when facing adversity and you’re building your team and your season, that’s what you want to look like.”

Meanwhile, the Sooners fell back and plateaued. After beating the Longhorns in Dallas, OU has played two straight down-to-the-wire games, surviving Central Florida 31-29 before losing to Kansas.

Mike Gundy said the Sooners coming in at less than the top of their game is not necessarily a good thing for the Cowboys.

“Some people see it opposite of that,” Gundy said. “Some people see us riding high and feeling good about ourselves and not getting ready, and they’re all mad about getting their ass kicked and they’ll prepare better than us.”

There’s nothing mysterious about this game. College football in general and the Big 12 in particular has been trending this way for awhile. Parity galore.

The immediate-eligibility nature of the transfer portal has spread out the talent, as free agency always does.

Games no longer are decided by talent, but by performance. Teams have to play well to win most games. Getting by on superior size or strength or speed is reserved mostly for the non-conference exhibitions that are so popular with coaches because they are controllable.

The difference between OU and OSU is not much. The Cowboys clearly were in a September fog. The Sooners have hit an October snag.

The game in some ways comes down to OU stopping Gordon, or OSU preventing deep-ball completions by Gabriel. Predictions are nothing but a lark.

Here’s how I lean. This game reminds me of 2002. The Sooners were much further ahead as a program then than now, and the Cowboys were much further behind as a program then than now.

OU started out No. 1 in the nation, went unbeaten through eight games, was upset by Texas A&M and was ranked third going into Bedlam on Thanksgiving Saturday.

OSU opened the season with a discouraging, 39-36 loss to Louisiana Tech in Shreveport, and the Cowboys were 2-4 through six games. But OSU caught fire and was quite competitive by Bedlam.

It seemed apparent that OSU, particularly at home, was playing as well as the Sooners. I picked the Cowboys, and I was proven right.

Seems like something similar 21 years later.

Let’s get to the predictions:

Last week:  36-11. Season: 384-109.

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State: Cowboys 33-31. Big 12 upset special. Sometimes we overthink things. The Cowboys have been playing better than OU, against equal or even better competition.

Kansas State at Texas: Longhorns 24-23. Wow. Another showdown. If OSU and K-State could pull the daily double, Brett Yormark will go dancing down Las Colinas Boulevard.

Kansas at Iowa State: Cyclones 25-24. Dare I say, this might be the biggest KU-ISU game in series history, and they’ve played 102 times.

Brigham Young at West Virginia: Mountaineers 19-17. WVU, 3-2 in the league, can stay in the hunt for Arlington with a win, considering the Big 12 could be down to just two one-loss teams by Saturday night.

Texas Christian at Texas Tech: Red Raiders 26-24. Sort of a bummer. This is the Thursday night game on FoxSports1. KU-Iowa State would have been awfully nice to watch on Thursday.

Houston at Baylor: Bears 34-20. Baylor and Houston haven’t played since 1995, the final year of the Southwest Conference. A 2020 game was canceled by Covid.

Central Florida at Cincinnati: Knights 28-26. Only seven Power Five Conference teams are winless in league play. These two, plus Syracuse, Michigan State, Indiana, Vanderbilt and Arkansas.

Louisiana State at Alabama: Crimson Tide 21-20. Could LSU pull a repeat of 2022, beat Bama and win the SEC West, all after a two-loss start that included a setback to Florida State?

Missouri at Georgia: Bulldogs 42-20. Mizzou, 7-1, is not a fraud. But the Tigers are not in Georgia’s league.

Texas A&M at Ole Miss: Rebels 27-17. With a win and an LSU upset of Alabama, Mississippi moves into a three-way for the SEC West lead. Alas, the Rebels play Georgia next week.

Kentucky at Mississippi State: Wildcats 24-19. The Bulldogs, 4-4, might need this one for bowl eligibility.

Arkansas at Florida: Gators 29-20. The Razorbacks are winless in the SEC? How can that be?

Auburn at Vanderbilt: Tigers 25-17. Playing Vandy is a blessing for SEC schools. OU, of course, doesn’t get that blessing in Year 1 of SEC membership.

Connecticut at Tennessee: Volunteers 55-10. What an odd November game. You think the Sooners will start pulling this kind of crap?

Jacksonville State at South Carolina: Gamecocks 32-10. Shane Beamer’s shine is starting to wear off in Columbia. His Gamecocks were 7-6 and 8-5 in his first two seasons as coach, but at 2-6, Carolina must win out to become bowl eligible.

Penn State at Maryland: Nittany Lions 26-17. Penn State has an amazing 30-3-1 lead in the series, but the Terrapins have won twice in the last decade.

Ohio State at Rutgers: Buckeyes 28-18. Ohio State hasn’t been dominant on the road, so this bears watching. Still, the Buckeyes have won at Indiana, Notre Dame, Purdue and Wisconsin.

Wisconsin at Indiana: Badgers 20-16. Bryson Green, who transferred from OSU last off-season, has 19 catches for Wisconsin.

Nebraska at Michigan State: Cornhuskers 30-13. With a win, the Huskers become bowl eligible for the first time since 2016. 

Illinois at Minnesota: Gophers 18-17. Minnesota is in a four-way tie for the Big Ten West lead. But the Gophers still must play Ohio State. The other first-place teams (Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa) play none of Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State down the stretch.

Iowa at Northwestern: Hawkeyes 11-7. Iowa finally is moving on from offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, son of head coach Kirk Ferentz. The Hawkeyes’ meager offense will have a new leader next season.

Purdue at Michigan: Wolverines 40-17. The Boilermakers are 2-6. Goodbye bowl game.

Washington at Southern Cal: Trojans 41-38. National upset special. We’ve spent weeks marveling at USC’s troubles, but has anyone noticed that the unbeaten Huskies are struggling, too? UW barely survived both Arizona State and Stanford the last two weeks. 

Oregon State at Colorado: Buffaloes 28-25. The Beavers, 3-2 in the conference, remain in the Pac-12 race, but for how long?

Arizona State at Utah: Utes 21-16. ASU has come alive, with a narrow loss at Washington and a win over Washington State.

UCLA at Arizona: Wildcats 27-20. Suddenly, UofA has become a Pac-12 title game contender, with a 3-2 conference record.

Stanford at Washington State: Cougars 24-22. WSU has lost four straight after a 4-0 start.

California at Oregon: Ducks 51-10. Oregon is on a roll — maybe to the College Football Playoff.

Notre Dame at Clemson: Tigers 24-21. Rough week for Dabo Swinney, whose team has slipped to 4-4 and whose fans are asking him why he’s being paid $11 million. But beating the Fighting Irish makes up for many sins.

Virginia Tech at Louisville: Cardinals 23-17. Only three Atlantic Coast Conference teams have fewer than two league losses, and these are two of them. Great recovery from the Hokies.

Florida State at Pittsburgh: Seminoles 35-23. Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi drew the ire of Pittsburgh when he seemed to besmirch his own roster, before backtracking.

Miami at North Carolina State: Wolfpack 24-19. This is where seasons go sideways. Each team is 2-2 in the ACC.

Wake Forest at Duke: Blue Devils 31-21. Duke is trying to hold on, but without star quarterback Riley Leonard, the Blue Devils aren’t likely headed for anything special.

Boston College at Syracuse: Eagles 20-15. BC gets bowl eligible with a win. Syracuse stops a four-game losing streak with a win.

Georgia Tech at Virginia: Cavaliers 27-19. Inexplicably, the Yellow Jackets could rise all the way to third palace in the ACC with a win.

Campbell at North Carolina: Tar Heels 55-7. Carolina needs a game like this, after consecutive losses to Virginia and Georgia Tech. 

Charlotte at Tulsa: Golden Hurricane 34-24. This is what conference realignment has wrought? TU and Charlotte in the same conference? What are we doing?

Southern Methodist at Rice: Mustangs 35-30. Will Rice one day be in the ACC? Hear me out. SMU and Rice were Southwest Conference mates from 1918-95. Then they were Western Athletic brothers from 1996-2004. Then Conference USA pals from 2005-11. SMU left to join the American in 2012, but now Rice comes on board, and here’s the reunion game. Next summer, the Mustangs head to the ACC. Surely Rice will follow.

Texas-San Antonio at North Texas: Roadrunners 42-29. UTSA joins Tulane and SMU as 4-0 teams in the American. Should be a fun finish.

Tulane at East Carolina: Green Wave 38-20. At age 63, Willie Fritz still getting it done with Tulane.

South Florida at Memphis: Tigers 32-21. Memphis has a conference loss, so the Tigers can withstand no more American losses.

Florida Atlantic at Alabama-Birmingham: Owls 27-24. Tom Herman is doing a nice coaching job at FAU — 4-4 overall, 3-1 in the league, despite losing quarterback Casey Thompson back in September.

Navy at Temple: Midshipmen 21-18. The Owls appear to be the American’s worst team.

Army at Air Force: Falcons 35-7. The Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy is destined to be back in Colorado Springs for a second straight year.

Boise State at Fresno State: Broncos 26-24. The loser likely is eliminated from Mountain West Championship Game consideration.

Utah State at San Diego State: Aggies 24-8. What a dismal season for the Aztecs – 3-5 overall, 1-3 in the Mountain West.

Colorado State at Wyoming: Cowboys 22-14. Wyoming’s schedule down the stretch is quite manageable, but losses to Air Force and Boise State likely will keep the Cowboys out of conference-title game contention. 

Hawaii at Nevada: Wolf Pack 13-12. Nevada seemed like perhaps the nation’s worst team, but the ‘Pack has won straight, over San Diego State and New Mexico, with perhaps more victories to come.

Nevada-Las Vegas at New Mexico: Rebels 44-17. A game at Air Force on November 18 keeps UNLV in the Mountain West title hunt.

Coastal Carolina at Old Dominion: Monarchs 30-16. With James Madison ineligible for the Sun Belt title, the East Division is wide open. These teams both 3-2, along with Georgia State, and Georgia Southern in front at 3-1.

South Alabama at Troy: Trojans 22-20. The Jaguars can tie Troy for the Sun Belt West lead at 3-2, along with the Louisiana-Arkansas State winner and perhaps Texas State.

Georgia Southern at Texas State: Bobcats 28-18. Been a long time since Texas State has been this good. Maybe back to the Dennis Franchione days.

Marshall at Appalachian State: Mountaineers 41-27. The Thundering Herd wishes the other Mountaineers, West Virginia, were on the schedule, too.

James Madison at Georgia State: Dukes 23-10. Don’t listen to the critics who say JMU is mistreated, not being eligible for the Sun Belt title. The NCAA rules are sound requiring a probationary period for schools moving up to Division I. Division I is too big already.

Louisiana at Arkansas State: Ragin’ Cajuns 24-13. The Red Wolves are 2-2 in the Sun Belt. Maybe Butch Jones keeps his job.

Louisiana Tech at Liberty: Flames 42-6. Liberty has the best chance of any team in America to finish undefeated.

 

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Berry Tramel is a 45-year veteran of Oklahoma journalism, having spent 13 years at the Norman Transcript and 32 years at The Oklahoman. He has been named Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Born and raised in Norman, Tramel grew up reading four newspapers a day and began his career at age 17. His first assignment was the Lexington-Elmore City high school football game, and he’s enjoyed the journey ever since, having covered NBA Finals and Rose Bowls and everything in between. Tramel and his wife, Tricia, were married in 1980 and live in Norman near their daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters. Tramel can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at [email protected].

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