NORMAN — Like scores of other teams around the country, Oklahoma, as everyone around here knows, employs that “tempo” brand of offense from time to time.
But that word works both ways. As much as it has defined the Sooners' quick pace, going all the way back to Mike Leach, perhaps now more than ever is the time to slow things down.
Vegas set the over-under for Bedlam at 78. That would normally be a giant number, but not this year in the Big 12. (Baylor and Texas Tech were an astronomical 80 1/2 Saturday night, and they got there early in the fourth quarter — with Robert Griffin out of the game.)
Point is, Oklahoma needs to do whatever it can to keep the score under, and potentially well under, 78 points if it would like to win in Stillwater. That's not a gambling tip; that's a suggestion if OU would like to make it back to the Fiesta Bowl and win another conference title.
Saturday's very ugly, very boring win — win, mind you — against Iowa State provided the Bedlam Blueprint.
Oklahoma held the ball for 33 minutes against the Cyclones. It ran 45 times. It passed 45 times. That's balance rarely talked about, and even more rarely achieved, in OU's offensive scheme.
Take out the 35-yard loss on the poor punt snap, not the offense's fault or doing, and the Sooners ran 44 times for 288 yards. That's a 6.5 yards-a-carry clip, aided greatly by Trey Franks' two reverses for 88 yards.
This is the reality of OU football right now, with the Sooners giving up a bunch of big plays on defense and unable to lean on Ryan Broyles on offense.
When this season began, I would have said it didn't matter. I would have liked Oklahoma's odds in a shootout, just as much as a slugfest. But things have changed, as they so often do through the course of a long, strange season. Now slowing the game down has become OU's best chance to win Bedlam.
Could it still win something like last year's 47-41 game? Sure, I suppose so. But the odds have to be considered much higher in a game kept in the 30s or, gasp, 20s.
Fundamental to the point is this: Can the Sooners' secondary play well enough to keep Oklahoma under 40? Remember that in both of the team's losses, against Texas Tech and at Baylor, the OU offense did manage 38 points.
Javon Harris says his mistakes are correctable. But Harris' impact in the game could be minimal, since Aaron Colvin moved Saturday to free safety and Sam Proctor played at strong safety. You've got to expect that combo again this week.
The offense could always help the defense, of course. By going at a slower pace — or normal pace, really — it could help the defense stay fresher. The Sooners were gassed late against Baylor. They're again going to be playing this week without Ronnell Lewis, recovering from a knee sprain.
Keeping Brandon Weeden and Oklahoma State off the field could be just as important as what the defense does when the Cowboys do have the ball.
It's also become clear in the past two weeks that the OU offense, for good reason, just doesn't run as smoothly without Broyles making catches and plays all over the field. That seemed especially evident Saturday against Iowa State. Landry Jones was as accurate as he could possibly be in the gale-force winds at Owen Field, but his cold-handed receivers were not helping him out at all.
Missing the suspended Jaz Reynolds hurt, too, but there's no guarantee that his shoulder will have fully healed by Saturday. He might not be 100 percent, even if he's active.
With Roy Finch, Brandon Williams and Blake Bell, the Sooners have the ground game to grind out a win in Stillwater.
And who knows? It could be a preview of the 2012 OU offense.