Oklahoma will not get any time to relax this week after Saturday’s dreary and atrocious loss to Kansas because it is officially Bedlam Week.
Oklahoma State has quietly put together a solid season. They are 6-2 overall and part of a five-way tie for first in the Big 12 with a 4-1 conference record. Their season started off rocky, with close wins over Central Arkansas and Arizona State, a 33-7 loss to South Alabama, and a 34-27 loss to Iowa State. But the Cowboys have rebounded, winning four in a row, including victories over Kansas State and Kansas.
On the other hand, the Sooners will need to forget last week’s loss quickly if they want to avoid another upset in this rivalry game. OU is ranked No. 9 in the first College Football Playoff rankings, with Texas ahead of them at No. 7. But the Sooners will have a difficult enough challenge playing Oklahoma State even without those rankings. In this article, we’ll take a look at key stats and players on the Oklahoma defense and the Oklahoma State offense.
Bedlam Preview: OU Defense vs. Oklahoma St. Offense
Oklahoma’s defensive unit has underperformed recently, giving up an average of 32.2 points and 455.67 yards of offense in its last three games. Needless to say, that is not what either Brent Venables or OU fans expect out of this defense.
But perhaps the biggest question for the Sooners will be about the health of leading tackler and All-American hopeful, Danny Stutsman. He missed nearly all of the second half last week with an ankle injury, and Venables provided an update on his status on Tuesday: “I feel good about Danny, he feels pretty confident, but we’ll see. Might be something that we don’t know until close to game time.”
While that’s not ideal, clearly there’s still a possibility that Stutsman will play. If he doesn’t, redshirt freshman, Kip Lewis, will take his spot. He played well while filling in for Stutsman last week, and he’ll have to pick up where he left off against a Cowboys team that is anchored by the nation’s leading rusher, Ollie Gordon II. Ethan Downs and the rest of the Sooners’ defensive line will need to be stout up front and rack up tackles for loss to ensure Ollie doesn’t run roughshod.
Venables addressed another issue from the Kansas game, namely missed tackles. He took the blame for the team’s sloppy tackling and stressed that it would be a point of emphasis during practice this week.
In his press conference, Venables also noted that Gentry Williams, who missed the Kansas game, returned to practice and should be available for this week’s game, which will bring the secondary back to full strength.
Oklahoma forced three turnovers last week, and they have excelled at creating havoc all season. Oklahoma State’s quarterback, Alan Bowman, has taken relatively good care of the football so far, but he is also terribly inaccurate, with just a 57.3 completion percentage this season.
Key Player: Key Lawrence
The senior Key Lawrence was fired up on the sidelines last week as he tried to inspire his defense, and he’s undoubtedly looking forward to avenging that loss this week. He’s been decent in coverage this season, defending three passes and intercepting two. He’s also third on the team in tackles for loss, which will be hugely important against this OSU team that runs the ball often.
Oklahoma State Defense
Running back Ollie Gordon II is the engine that powers this Cowboys offense. He leads the country in rushing yards with 1,078, averages over seven yards per carry, and has scored 11 total touchdowns on the year. The sophomore from Fort Worth is a big back, at 6’1” and 211 pounds, who is very patient and gets north and south in a hurry. He’s also strong enough to run through arm tackles with ease and fast enough to outrun defenders down the field.
Oklahoma will have to key on Gordon II and make sure that he doesn’t single-handedly beat them because he certainly can. Oklahoma State’s next leading rusher only has 156 rushing yards, and their signal-caller Bowman isn’t a world-beater either.
Alan Bowman hasn’t been relied upon to win games for the Cowboys but has played better recently, throwing for at least 210 yards and two touchdowns in his last three games. However, he has thrown five interceptions this year, and one apiece in the last two contests, and as mentioned earlier, his accuracy is highly questionable. His favorite target this year, Brennan Presley, doesn’t have the most impressive numbers, but he has caught five touchdowns, putting him among the league leaders.
Key Player: Ollie Gordon II
This game will likely come down to whether or not the Sooners can contain Gordon II. He will get his fair share of touches, but Oklahoma has to limit the damage he does with them. If Gordon II is stymied, the rest of the Cowboy offense won’t have the playmaking abilities to make up for him.
Playing without Danny Stutsman, who has been OU’s best player at tackling runners behind the line of scrimmage, would be a tall order regardless of the Sooners’ opponents. But playing without him and having to contain Gordon II could be a season-defining moment for Oklahoma. If the defense can rally itself and mitigate Gordon II’s impact on the game, they should feel good about themselves. But if he gets going, Oklahoma could find itself in a shootout.