A depleted Big 12 eliminated its conference championship game in football this season, yet managed to retain it at the same time.
Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1 in Big 12) and Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2) meet at 7 p.m. Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium, and there couldn't have been anything more appropriate than Bedlam to determine this year's conference champion.
If the No. 3-ranked Cowboys win, they would advance as Big 12 champs to the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 5 in Glendale, Ariz., or they possibly could have an outside chance at qualifying for the BCS national championship game on Jan. 9 in New Orleans.
If the No. 10-ranked Sooners win, they would win all conference tiebreakers and become the Big 12 representative in the Fiesta Bowl for the fourth time in the last six seasons.
Even though an OU victory would bring co-champions in the Sooners and Cowboys – or possibly tri-champions with OU, OSU and Kansas State – Sooners coach Bob Stoops still sees a "true" champion thanks to the league's first-ever round-robin schedule that had every Big 12 team face each other.
"That's how I've always looked at it," Stoops said during Monday's weekly Big 12 coaches' teleconference. "It's not like we haven't played each other. In our eyes, there'll be one (conference champion). That's just how I see it. Again, I don't know any other way to look at it. If you're all going to play each other it pretty well sets up that way."
OSU coach Mike Gundy said he also is a proponent of the round-robin schedule, which became necessary with the departures of Nebraska and Colorado this season.
"I think it's fair that each team in our conference competes against each other," Gundy said. "It eliminates all discussion of where a certain team would be or should be based on whether they were able to or not able to compete against certain teams.
"I do think the nine-game, round-robin schedule is going to put more teams in our league into what would be the six-win, seven-win, eight-win category than what would be in the eight-, nine- and 10-win category, which is evident this year with so many teams that are just barely bowl eligible. The reason why is you're playing another tough conference opponent versus maybe somebody that you would have played at home and paid, or bought a team to come in there that may not be as good on paper as what a team in this league would be. I do think it's better, but I do think there's a part that people need to realize the records are not going to be as good as what they've been over the last 10 years."
OU holds an astounding 82-16-7 series lead. Given the championship ramifications and this being the final regular-season game, Saturday qualifies as the biggest Bedlam matchup ever alongside the Nov. 24, 1984, game between the No. 2 Sooners and No. 3 Cowboys in Norman, which OU won 24-14.
"Oh, I think it's (always) been big," Stoops said. "A year ago we played on Thanksgiving and whoever won was going to go play Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game, so we look at it the same way."
Here's what Stoops and Gundy also had to say during Monday's teleconference:
Did Iowa State make special adjustments handling your Wildcat formation?
Stoops: “Some of it they did a nice job and, you know, that's going to happen. Other parts of it we didn't feel we did a very good job blocking as maybe we did in some other games and missed an assignment on an occasion or two. That's the game. Sometimes they play it a little bit more than you run it. Other times we did execute our blocks and we got it in. it's something that we just have to keep developing. For instance, the option that plays there if he keeps attacking the outside edge guy, but he's a redshirt freshman and has only played so much and we haven't run the option a bunch and he didn't execute it very well, so that's how it goes.”
What stands out about OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden?
Stoops: “The talented arm, poise, an experienced guy with a lot of talented receivers. He does an excellent job of going through his read progressions and executing the offense.”
Thoughts on Justin Blackmon?
Stoops: “Oh, geez. The size, strength, great hands, his ability to make plays even when he's covered.”
Does your team have an advantage having played for a championship more than your opponent?
Stoops: “It's hard to determine how that goes. I really don't know how to say it. Our guys have been in this position and are excited about it and know what they have to do this week to have a chance to win a championship, so hopefully we're able to do it. I would say that there's definitely confidence there since we were just in this situation a year ago.”
How have the substitute players done filling in for injured players?
Stoops: “For the most part, pretty well. The running backs have done a nice job covering for Dominique Whaley. Of course, we don't have his big physical presence. There's no replacing that. The other receivers have all in different ways have done a pretty good job. Dejuan Miller had a really nice game the other day. We were without Jaz Reynolds as well, but he should be able to play this week. Young Kameel Jackson has stepped up a little bit at receiver, too. So they're doing the best they can. Tight ends caught a few more balls last week and they were more of a factor. You just have to have other players make plays.”
Quarterback Landry Jones' biggest adjustments not having Broyles?
Stoops: "Just the familiarity. We notice there's a time or two where he's on his second or third read over the middle and normally Ryan is in that spot. He (Jones) settles down there. They were so on the same page where the other day the receiver keeps drifting and Landry throws it in back of him. Those are the little subtle things that we see that maybe the person watching that isn't as familiar doesn't see."
How beneficial was an open date to your team last weekend?
Gundy: “It was really good. Because of the tragedy we had here with the plane crash, it gave everybody a chance to kind of clear their mind. We were able to get away for a few days for Thanksgiving and some of the players needed some rest. They were a little bit beat up and I think it worked out really well for our team.”
How has Oklahoma's offense changed since the season-ending injuries to wide receiver Ryan Broyles and running back Dominique Whaley?
Gundy: "I think the biggest change with them over the last three or four weeks is maybe their Wildcat formation with their big quarterback (Blake Bell) in there and playing power football. They've expanded on that with some kind of a different run or some sort of play pass. Other than that, basically their offense in my opinion stayed the same. They've had other receivers who have made plays and the running back (Roy Finch) they're using right now has been productive for them. For the most part, it's been fairly consistent."
Who will win Bedlam?
Brown: "I just hope I get home in time to watch it. I may have to Tivo it because we'll be coming back from Waco. I think it'll be a great game between two teams that deserve all the accolades at the end of the year. You have to look at the two quarterbacks because they're both Heisman trophy candidates. … Wind conditions and quarterbacks – I would say would be the keys to that game on Saturday."
John Rohde: 475-3099. John Rohde can be heard Monday-Friday from 6-7 p.m. on The Sports Animal Network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. Follow him on Twitter @RohdeOK.