OU-OSU: Two players, two problems, two preposterous predictions and one pick

OU-OSU: Two players, two problems, two preposterous predictions and one pick

Guerin Emig: Brent Venables will compensate for Ollie Gordon’s emergence and Danny Stutsman’s potential absence by loading up to defend the run. That leaves Alan Bowman to decide OSU’s offensive fate.

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

| Nov 3, 2023, 9:00am CDT

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

Nov 3, 2023, 9:00am CDT

Mike Gundy was talking this week about Tom Brady wanting to maim his rivals when he played, got around to Bedlam and said: “These guys are friends with all those guys. They’ve been in touch. They play seven-on-seven together. They had the same trainers in high school. Some of them played on the same high school teams or are friends on Instagram. They talk, they communicate. Some of our guys go to their games on open dates and they’re coming to our games on open dates. It’s crazy.

“It’s much different than it ever has been before, because these guys all have relationships.”

Maybe rivalry games like Bedlam are less personal for players. 

Just don’t misplace players’ desire to win them, or their attitude about doing so. 

A short while after OSU’s victory over Cincinnati last week, a reporter asked Ollie Gordon what he expected about stepping onto Bedlam’s stage.  

I expect the Pokes to come out on top,” Gordon answered. 

A short while after OU’s practice last Monday night, a reporter asked Dasan McCullough about Gordon.

“I think it’s gonna be a great challenge for us. I think we are definitely up for the challenge, too,” McCullough answered. “If we come into this game more physical than them, I don’t really see it being an issue for us.”

Nothing cocky about either reply. Nothing close to disdainful. 

Just two important players expressing confidence about winning the biggest game of the season to this point. Which is how it should be given OU is 7-1, OSU is 6-2, both teams are tied for first place in the Big 12, and this game IS the biggest till now. 

If winning is the thing Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium, and history and vitriol are more for the fans, pundits and bystanders, how do the Cowboys and Sooners go about that?

One player for the Sooners: Wide receiver Nic Anderson

Reflexes take us elsewhere. 

To Dillon Gabriel, in need of a rebound after Jeff Lebby tied his left arm behind his back at Kansas. 

To Tawee Walker, the one OU running back capable of making something out of nothing, who must do what Eric Gray, Kennedy Brooks, Rhamondre Stevenson, Rodney Anderson, Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon all did the past decade – gash OSU in the ground game.

To Kip Lewis, the young linebacker who must track and tackle Gordon if Danny Stutsman can’t play. 

I flash back to OU’s win over UCF two weeks ago. A friend in the press box noted Anderson reminded him of a young Dede Westbrook, and this was before Anderson popped the Knights for 29- and 42-yard touchdowns. 

All he does is catch touchdowns, folks notice of Anderson’s 8 TDs over his 17 career receptions.

For OU to prevail Saturday, Anderson has to do more than score. He has to be Gabriel’s primary downfield target all over the field, because he is most likely to be open against OSU’s vulnerable secondary. 

Anderson’s career highs are his five catches against UCF and his 120 yards against Tulsa. He’ll want to double those totals in Bedlam. His team needs him to do so. 

One player for the Cowboys: Quarterback Alan Bowman

Again with the reflexes.

To Gordon, whose danger to OU is encapsulated by this Brent Venables quote: “If we don’t tackle better than we did last week, Gordon is going to pull away from the pack when it comes to college football rushing.”

To Brennan Presley, OSU’s best open-field weapon who Kasey Dunn has figured out how to exploit (20 catches and 3 touchdowns over the past three games). 

To Collin Oliver, who ended OU’s 2021 rescue attempt by sacking Caleb Williams and now takes aim at Gabriel. 

I figure the same as you do – Venables will compensate for Gordon’s emergence and Stutsman’s potential absence by loading up to defend the run. That leaves Bowman to decide OSU’s offensive fate.

Dicey.

Bowman has ridden shotgun to Gordon over the majority of OSU’s four-game winning streak, with 6 touchdown passes, 2 interceptions and one 300-plus yardage showing (336 vs. Kansas). He has been the quintessential game manager. 

He can’t get away with that Saturday, because the Sooners aren’t likely to let Gordon get completely away from them. 

“He’s manufacturing,” Gundy said of his QB1 this week.

Bowman needs to be mattering in Bedlam. 

One problem for the Cowboys: Their defense is due to catch up with them

Kansas State rushed for 220 yards Oct. 6, West Virginia for 226 Oct. 21 and Cincinnati for 277 last week. Kansas quarterback Jason Bean threw for 410 yards Oct. 14.  

OSU won all four times because of timely defensive plays – think Kendal Daniels intercepting Bean in the end zone to prompt a second-half rally. Timeliness has become Bryan Nardo’s lean-to as defensive coordinator. 

OSU ranks 105th in FBS total defense, with equal issues against the run (101st) and pass (90th). The Cowboys are hanging in because they rank 14th defending the red zone and occasionally steal the ball. It’s akin to Glenn Spencer’s OSU tenure from 2013-17. 

The problem down the stretch of Spencer’s run was he eventually encountered an OU offense with enough playmakers to turn yards into points. There was a borrowed-time element to the Cowboys’ defense, and Bedlam often signaled midnight.

Gabriel isn’t Baker Mayfield. Anderson isn’t Westbrook or Marquise Brown. Walker isn’t Perine or Mixon. Lebby, for that matter, isn’t Lincoln Riley.

Still, OU is dynamic enough to punish a defense with points. The Sooners average 42. That feels attainable Saturday. 

We’ve played pretty well as of late,” Gundy said of his defense this week.

“Pretty well” won’t cut it in Bedlam. 

One problem for the Sooners: They aren’t trustworthy enough

There was every reason to believe in the OU team that beat Texas three weeks ago. Back then Gabriel was as multidimensional as he was clutch, Stutsman and Jaren Kanak were as disciplined as they were physical, and Venables and Lebby coached around any deficiencies lingering from 2022. 

Then came an open date, a sloppy win that could have easily been a loss, and a sloppy loss that, had someone done something right in 1 of 100 scenarios, could have easily been a win.

I would suggest another open date, but then that’s what triggered OU’s unseemly turnaround. Instead, the Sooners enter the most hostile venue of their season for a game with their Big 12 championship hopes in the balance …against the hottest team in the Big 12. 

Venables spent his postgame at Kansas and his press conference this week revisiting the faults of players and coaches. And while McCullough and the players portray confident belief that things will be different in Stillwater, can anyone trust that will happen?  

I think OU has the better defense and the better quarterback, two game-tilting advantages typically. I just don’t know whether that will pan out, and not just because of Bedlam’s archives.

This game has a way of turning “See Spot Run” into “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” I’m crazy for even attempting this breakdown. 

If even the most stable OU teams have been affected, how are we to trust these suddenly unstable Sooners to manage? 

One preposterous prediction for OSU: Gundy completes a pass to The Pride

OSU welcomes the 1983 Cowboys back to Stillwater this weekend for a 40-year reunion. That’s the team that lost Bedlam 21-20 in part, according to legend, because OU’s Pride of Oklahoma band played “Boomer Sooner” something like 157 times. Barry Switzer even presented the band a game ball for their effort. 

In a nod to ‘83, Gundy hears “Boomer Sooner” interrupting the traditional rendition of “Friends in Low Places” at the end of Saturday’s third quarter, asks the referee for the ball, walks down his sideline until he is directly across from The Pride, and then fires a pass directly into one of the tuba’s cones. 

Nobody can hear him but Gundy mutters: “There’s your game ball.” 

One preposterous prediction for OU: The Boz goes bare-chested

Gundy cracked on Brian Bosworth for taking “Vitamin C” this week. Bosworth returned fire on Twitter by challenging Gundy to meet face-to-face on Boone Pickens’ 50-yard line Saturday.

That doesn’t happen at Bedlam, but Bosworth makes his presence known just the same.

Sensing the Sooners need a halftime lift, The Boz charges into their locker room and has a Wrestlemania moment, tearing the T-shirt from his body as he implores the players to tear Gordon’s from his. 

Gordon’s jersey stays on, but the Sooners go off. 

One pick: OU 36, OSU 34

 

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Guerin Emig is a columnist for the Sellout Crowd network. Read his work at selloutcrowd.com and guerinemig.com. Reach out with feedback and/or ideas at [email protected] or (918) 629-6229. Follow him on Twitter at @GuerinEmig and Instagram at @guerin.emig. .

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