STILLWATER — Bedlam football 2011 arrives Saturday night, and only the scoreboard can keep OSU revelers from storming the field.
Stillwater's Finest don't figure to put up too much of a fight if the Cowboys win.
Win this Bragging Rights Bowl, win the school's first legit outright conference title, and the celebration will spill out of Boone Pickens Stadium and far past The Strip. Win this game, and Saturday night will be forever remembered where OSU colors fly.
But win this game, and it won't be just the Boone Pickens turf that is stormed. Win this game, and State will have crashed the party of big-time college football.
OSU will have gone from pretender to achiever. The Cowboys will have taken the step that Wisconsin took in 1993, when it won the Big Ten for the first time in 31 years. The step Oregon took in 1994, when it won the Pac-10 for the first time in 37 years.
Now both Oregon and Wisconsin are Rose Bowl regulars. They don't dominate. They're not the big dogs in their leagues. But they stand in there scrapping most seasons.
And OU would like to keep the Cowboys from reaching similar status. Not for punitive sake, says Bob Stoops. Not because of Bedlam hatred.
“That's negative motivation,” Stoops said. “It's not a positive force. Players don't care about that. It's what's your carrot.”
The Sooners' carrot is their own Big 12 title. Their own Fiesta Bowl berth. Stoops says OU isn't trying to keep its foot on OSU. OU is trying to keep its foot on everyone.
“We've won too much to care about that,” Stoops said. “There's always going to be somebody” challenging.
But why can't that somebody be OSU? Why can't the Cowboys occasionally knock the Sooners and Longhorns from Big 12 supremacy?
The Cowboys have been slowly building. Some say going back to the Les Miles days. Heck, I'd say going back to the Bob Simmons days, with a few detours.
They've reached the field. Time to rush it.
“You gotta win,” said OSU offensive coordinator Todd Monken. “You gotta kick the door down. Until you do it, you're just a nice team.”
Truth is, this Bedlam loser, either way, gets saddled with that tag. This appeared to be an historic Bedlam, a literal national semifinal. Then the Sooners inexplicably lost at home to Texas Tech, OSU inexplicably lost in double overtime at Iowa State and the Sooners removed all doubt by losing at Baylor.
Those latter two games ended with frenzied fans flooding their home fields. Such delirium is reserved for historic victory, which is what Bedlam 2011 would be for the Cowboys.
“We haven't won as much as they have,” OSU grad and defensive coordinator Bill Young said of the Sooners. “Having the opportunity to beat ‘em, steal some of their thunder, it's huge. It's huge in recruiting. It's huge in personal pride.”
The Cowboys have gotten close. 2010 Bedlam was for the Big 12 South title. Over the last four seasons, OU and OSU have the exact same conference record (24-8), and it's not like the Cowboys have taken advantage of a Sooner slump. In three of the last four seasons, OU has been ranked No. 1 at some point.
“It's not been easy for anyone,” said Mike Gundy. “In order for us to win a Big 12 championship, we have to go through Austin and Norman. I don't think that changes until we accomplish the goal.
“We can only state the facts. Our conference has been dominated by those two schools. Until somebody goes through the conference and wins the championship, I don't think anybody has the right to say they've reached that level.
“I don't know that anybody's been as close as we've been. We're right there.”
Ready to join the club. Ready to storm the field reserved for champions.
Only the scoreboard stands in the way.
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.