Four beat writers. Four pressing questions about Saturday’s Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game.
Here’s your Bedlam 2013 reporter roundtable:
MIZELL: Where do the Sooners have the biggest advantage in Saturday’s game?
KERSEY: It’s tough to find many OU advantages when you look at individual units, beyond the Sooners’ obvious edge with kicker Michael Hunnicutt. But I’ll give OU the mental edge Saturday. That may sound crazy, considering the Cowboys’ blowout of Baylor, but bear with me here. OU — whether it wants to admit it or not — absolutely can play a spoiler role to Oklahoma State’s Big 12 title dreams, and that has to be a factor in some way. Also, the Sooners enter the game feeling confident about their offense for the first time in several weeks, and the OU defense has played well for most of this season. I know what happened the last time OU visited Stillwater, but the Sooners have still won nine of the last 10 games in this series, which could give them a slight edge mentally. Bob Stoops-coached teams typically play pretty well in the underdog role, and even though I’m picking the Cowboys to win, I don’t think it will be an overwhelming OSU victory.
ABER: It’s hard to find much of an advantage when you start going down the group-by-group breakdown. Probably the one that stands out is at placekicker. Michael Hunnicutt has been outstanding for the Sooners, hitting 14 of 17 field goals, including a pair from longer than 40 yards out (he’s also missed from 48 and 52 yards out). OSU’s Ben Grogan was struggled a bit, hitting just 8 of 13 and making just 1 of 4 from 40 yards out. Conditions won’t be easy for either kicker but if it comes down to a field goal late, the Sooners would feel better about putting the game on Hunnicutt’s leg than OSU would with Grogan’s.
HELSLEY: Kicking game. Not return game, but kicking game. Michael Hunnicutt is a proven asset on field goals, while OSU’s Ben Grogan inspires little faith. Grogan did make his last field goal in a clutch situation, at Texas, so he does arrive at Bedlam with that bit of momentum. Cowboys punter Kip Smith has been good at times, inconsistent others. On a cold day when field position could be vital, there’s no room for the shanks.
MIZELL: Agree with the kicking game. Mike Gundy called Grogan’s last field goal, a 39-yarder at Texas, his best kick of the year. But cold weather in a rivalry game would provide a totally different environment for a clutch kick, if needed.
HELSLEY: If you can pick one key player other than quarterbacks on each side, who are they?
KERSEY: I’ll go with running back Desmond Roland for Oklahoma State and cornerback Aaron Colvin for Oklahoma. If Roland and the OSU run game is successful against the Sooners, I don’t see how OU has any chance to win. Oklahoma stuffed Kansas State’s run game in Manhattan two weeks ago. Colvin is still battling a painful shoulder injury, but he still played remarkably well in the second half against KSU’s Tyler Lockett. The senior isn’t listening to some of those close to him who have suggested he take Saturday off and heal up before the NFL Draft, and if he’s able to lock down one side of the field against OSU, it would be huge for the Sooners’ chances.
MIZELL: I’ll go Calvin Barnett for OSU and Aaron Colvin for OU. Barnett is huge in helping free up the Cowboy linebackers to make plays, both in the running game and in pressuring the quarterback. We saw two weeks ago how important Colvin is to the Sooner secondary, and he’ll often battle big-play threats Charlie Moore and Jhajuan Seales on the outside.
ABER: I’m going safeties on both sides. For Oklahoma, it’s safety Gabe Lynn. Lynn caught a ton of heat the past two seasons for getting burned repeatedly but he’s been much better this season. Going against a group of receivers as deep as Oklahoma State’s, Lynn is going to have to step up and make plays. For the Cowboys, it’s Daytawion Lowe. Lowe has been key to Oklahoma State’s much-improved defense both against the pass and the run. He could be in for a big day Saturday.
HELSLEY: Caleb Lavey for OSU, Gabe Lynn for OU. Lavey is the CPU of the Cowboys defense. And he’ll be keenly involved in recognizing the Sooner sets and in slowing the running game in the middle of the field. Lavey has been very good this season, All-Big 12 good. And he’ll need to be spot on Saturday. Lynn has had a roller-coaster career at OU. His senior season has been better. And he’ll need to be sharp against the Cowboys, not only helping with OSU’s inside receivers, but in helping the Sooners manage Clint Chelf in the running game.
KERSEY: How much will the cold weather impact Saturday’s game?
ABER: There’s no doubt it will have an impact, as much as both teams lie to say that it won’t. It will make things harder for both quarterbacks (and their receivers) in the passing game, which favors OU. It will also amplify the effects of injury, so I’d keep a close eye on how Aaron Colvin reacts the first time he takes a hit that does anything to his shoulder area. Overall, the freezing conditions don’t favor one team over the other, but it will certainly change the complexion of the game and likely keep the score lower than what it would’ve been.
MIZELL: I’ve gotten this question a ton lately, and I don’t know how much it will impact things. Both teams played in very chilly conditions two weeks ago — and both won — and it doesn’t sound like precipitation will be a factor at all Saturday. Both teams may run the football more, especially initially, to get a feel for the conditions. But I’d take OSU in 75-and-sunny weather, and I’ll still take OSU in frigid weather.
HELSLEY: I had this thought today, reading Melvin Gilliam’s comments in Jenni Carlson’s column, about how he didn’t want to go out for the second half, then hoped to get tossed: Is there a point in the game when one side starts thinking about just getting off the field, due to the conditions? I’d think that if one team gets a 10-point lead, the other team will get a serious gut-check.
KERSEY: The weather could impact Bedlam in a number of ways. If the wind is bad, that could have a major affect on Trevor Knight’s passing. He’s been inconsistent in that area, and if the Sooners can’t complete enough passes to keep the OSU defense honest, they’ll be in big trouble.The weather could keep the game relatively low-scoring, or it could have the opposite effect for Oklahoma State, which boasts the second-best turnover margin in the country. If Knight and the Sooners give the ball away, you can be sure that Clint Chelf and the OSU offense won’t have any problem making them pay for it.
ABER: Will the result of this game say something bigger about the state of these two programs, both overall and in recruiting?
KERSEY: I think so. Regardless of who wins, I think you’ll be able to draw some conclusions about both programs after Saturday’s game. If OSU wins and claims its second Big 12 title in three years, it’s a clear signal that the Cowboys are going to be remain a force to be reckoned with in the Big 12. But if the Sooners prevail, it’s a sign that OSU still has some catching up to do with their in-state rival.
MIZELL: Absolutely. Gundy has brought OSU to national prominence while still being dominated in Bedlam, which is actually a pretty impressive accomplishment. Beating OU on a consistent basis is the next step he needs to take with this program, whether he wants to admit it or not (he completely dodged questions about this at his Monday press conference). Capturing a second Big 12 title in three seasons by beating the Sooners would certainly would be huge, both for national perception and with recruits.
HELSLEY: I think it’s already been stated. OSU has elevated itself, there’s no arguing that. And the Cowboys have elevated themsevles in the eyes of recruits, too, getting players good enough to win with, and winning over a period of time. One team might be better Saturday, but there’s not much difference in the programs these days. We’re in a time when history and tradition means nada to high school kids. Fans, yes. Recruits, not as much. OSU has proven it can get recruits and win. That won’t change much with Saturday’s outcome.
ABER: It’d be hard to deny it either way. An Oklahoma State win signals that little brother has grown up. As much as Sooners fans might not want to admit it by spouting the numbers from their historical dominance in the series and even their dominance in recent years, if OSU wins this game, this is a rivalry in more than name only. If OU finds a way to win, keeping the Cowboys out of the Fiesta Bowl, then OU’s superiority complex continues and reasonably so. The Cowboys have arrived but without a competitive Bedlam series, the playing field will never be completely level.