Bedlam has arrived. Motivation is not in short supply on either side, not in any season, but especially with the conference title and Fiesta Bowl on the line.
I know, I know. The Cowboys already have secured at least a Big 12 co-championship. But it will be a hollow honor if OSU ties OU and Kansas State atop the standings. The Cowboys have been there, done that before, and all they got for the trouble of tying OU and Colorado for the 1976 Big Eight crown was a Tangerine Bowl bid.
So lighting a fire is not a problem for Mike Gundy and Bob Stoops this week. The flames will burn 24/7 until about 11 p.m. Saturday.
But just in case Stoops seeks a little extra kick, here it is. Stoops can tell his ballplayers that everyone's against them. And he won't be bluffing.
The Stoops Troops and their legions desire an OU win. Same as the Fighting Gundys and their long-suffering faithful crave an OSU triumph.
But everyone else? Everyone with a thread of neutrality? A Cowboy victory is preferred. A Cowboy victory is needed.
The state. The conference. The sport. The bowls. The bowl-haters.
All would benefit from an OSU conquest.
For this reason. This is a heck of a rivalry considering the same side always wins. The Cowboys have won just 16 times in more than a century of contests.
That's more lopsided than Texas-Rice, or Tennessee-Vanderbilt, or Washington-Washington State.
Deleting the disastrous four years of Howard Schnellenberger and John Blake, the Sooners have lost Bedlam thrice in the last 45 years. Lost just five times since World War II.
And yet Bedlam has not only endured, it's thrived. National acclaim (GameDay's showed up four times in the previous eight Bedlams). Regional acclaim (moved to this December to fill the void of no Big 12 Championship Game).
Where would this rivalry go if the Cowboys started winning every once in awhile? It's already reached Michigan State-Michigan, Georgia Tech-Georgia, Texas A&M-Texas status.
Could it approach Alabama-Auburn?
Did you read what some of the Sooners said Saturday after beating Iowa State? That Bedlam has caught the Texas game as OU's biggest rivalry?
And even though fans don't want to admit it, their actions say different. Example: an OU fan, a woman probably about 35, walked past some Iowa State trainers coming off Owen Field and said, “Thanks for beating OSU.”
A Cowboy victory, especially in this Bedlam game that ranks as the de facto Big 12 title game, would do more than validate the OSU program. It would elevate this rivalry within the state. The Sooners' massive shadow can obscure much. But there would be no holding back the truth of an outright Big 12 championship for the Cowboys.
Sure, OU fans would have that 82-17-7 series edge to crow about. But that bravado loses a little energy when the Cowboys have just posed in front of the scoreboard that shows their status as champions.
The league would benefit, too. The beleaguered Big 12 has been labeled a two-team conference. Texas, which calls most of the shots, and OU, which wins most of the football trophies. But an OSU championship would dent that perception and draw the Big 12 a little closer to the SEC, which has distributed its last six football titles among five schools.
College football in general would be enhanced by an OSU victory. The rise of new blood helps keep honest this tradition-rich sport. The Pac-12 needed Oregon to emerge. The Big Ten needed Wisconsin. College football is better when the same old faces don't always win.
The Fiesta Bowl would love to host OSU. The Sooners have been to Phoenix three of the last five years. The Fiesta could use fresh meat, though the yellow jackets are too diplomatic to say so.
The minor bowls, too, would like an OSU win. The Cotton hasn't had OU in 10 years and the Alamo never has hosted the Sooners. In those 10 years, State has been to the Cotton twice and the Alamo twice.
Even the BCS-bashers could use a Cowboy victory. OSU, third in the BCS, represents the best hope for Big Bowl controversy. LSU-Alabama seems the sure matchup, but a Bedlam victory would give the Cowboys a bump in the polls and the computers. The BCS-bashers prefer disharmony.
Disharmony is missing in Bedlam. Both sides know its place. The Sooners and Cowboys annually play an anticipated game, often with great dramatics, but almost always with the same result.
The natural order is set. An OSU victory Saturday night could change that, and only the Sooners would find it distasteful.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.