NORMAN — Bedlam football 2012 arrives Saturday. A series that once sported a script chiseled in cement this season offers mystery.
No one has a clue what will happen on Owen Field. An OU blowout? A commanding OSU victory? A nail-biter in the fourth quarter dusk?
Any of the scenarios is believable, befitting a wacky college football season in which Notre Dame and Kansas State, neither in the preseason top 20, have inhabited the No. 1 rankings the last two weeks, while the preseason top team, Southern Cal, is headed for its fifth loss. And oh yeah, the Heisman Trophy might be won by a Texas A&M freshman.
And now you can't even count on Bedlam. Time was, OU-OSU football was automatic, so long as the Sooners had a Rushmore coach.
Under Bud Wilkinson, Barry Switzer and Bob Stoops, OU was 43-3 against OSU. Then came the 44-10 shellacking the Cowboys delivered last December. Followed by a strange 2012 season in which the Sooners have alternated between impressive and exasperating, while the Cowboys have gotten better and better despite three quarterback changes mandated by injury.
So going into OSU-OU, look at what we don't know:
* Does OU's customary home-field advantage still hold?
The Cowboys have played poorly on the road this season — losses at Arizona and K-State, a narrow win at Kansas. But the Sooners have lost three of their eight home games, after starting 74-2 under Stoops.
The last time the Sooners played on Owen Field, they survived Baylor 42-34.
“It's hard to win on the road anyway, but it's harder to win on the road against teams who are well-coached and have really good players,” said State offensive coordinator Todd Monken. “Over the last couple years, our place has become difficult to play. Why? Because we have good coaches and good players.”
That helps on the road, too.
* We don't know which team has the better defense. In September, the Sooners held K-State and Collin Klein to 17 offensive points, while OSU gave up 636 total yards and 52 offensive points to Arizona.
But the last two weeks against opponents, OU (Baylor, West Virginia) has given up 1,202 total yards and 83 offensive points, while OSU (West Virginia, Texas Tech) has given up 862 total yards and 55 offensive points.
“We've got a little confidence behind us,” said OSU linebacker Caleb Lavey. “At the beginning of the year, we were giving up too many points. We weren't getting enough turnovers, and by no means have we arrived to where we want to be.”
* We don't know which team will get the better quarterbacking. Landry Jones has played great down the stretch and leads the Big 12 in passing efficiency for conference games, with 20 touchdowns and six interceptions.
But OSU counters with its version of Rudy. Third-teamer Clint Chelf has quarterbacked two straight impressive victories. He has eight touchdown passes and two interceptions in 2 1/2 Big 12 games, and Chelf's quarterback rating in conference games surpasses even Landry's.
Stoops won't tip his hand on how he sees the game coming out but expresses confidence in his team.
“Usually, that feeling's pretty good,” Stoops said. “Every now and then, I get surprised. Twenty percent of the time, I've been surprised. My average is pretty good.” Stoops' career winning percentage is .807.
“We'll have to see and play it out.”
The Sooners have played three one-possession games in the Big 12. In the Stoops era, only in 2005 has OU played more (four).
So expect another dramatic finish? Do so at your own peril. The truth is, no one knows what to expect Saturday in Bedlam.
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 FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.