Oklahoma’s long run of victories over Oklahoma State isn’t an easy thing for Lincoln Riley to sum up, since he’s been OU’s head coach for exactly one Bedlam game and a coordinator for just two others.
Despite being part of all three victories against the Sooners’ in-state rival the past three seasons, Riley views the Cowboys as quite formidable.
He’s not sure why OU has OSU’s number.
“Kind of hard for me to [say],” Riley said. “They’ve been absolute battles. The first couple, we had a chance to separate a little bit in those games. But they’ve always been battles. They’ve been very intense. You can tell when you are playing those guys that you’re going against a very good team. I’ve always felt that in all three.”
Riley was diplomatic on the topic with OSU set to visit No. 6 OU on Saturday (2:30 p.m., ABC). But it’s difficult to ignore the Sooners’ dominance in the series, especially as the Cowboys
have climbed into national
OU’s 87 victories against OSU are its most against any single opponent in school history. In the FBS, only Nebraska has more wins against another program (Kansas, 91).
With KU and Nebraska unlikely to schedule a series anytime soon, it seems likely OU will surpass that number soon, reinforcing the notion that Bedlam is college football’s most lopsided rivalry.
Entering his 14th year leading the program, OSU coach Mike Gundy’s 69 Big 12 wins were fourth in league history. But he owns just two victories in 13 tries against the Sooners.
“I think they’re good. Have you seen them play?” he said.
That’s certainly one answer.
Since 2009, only once (2016) has OU missed on out signing a top-15 recruiting class, according to Rivals.com’s team rankings, and 51 Sooners during that stretch became NFL draft picks. In that same span, OSU signed zero top-15 classes and groomed 19 future pros.
But even with the talent gap, coming into this season the Cowboys ranked 10th nationally in total victories since 2010 with 78. They’re winning games.
Just not against the Sooners.
“OU’s beaten a lot of people throughout the years. I don’t know [the answer],” OU co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh said. “We’ve obviously got good players. [OSU] is getting better, I think especially defensively. We had a good day [last year] but they are a lot better on defense. I have a lot of respect for that coordinator [Jim Knowles] and those coaches over there. But an explanation? No, I really don’t [have one].”
The rivalry differs from OU’s against Texas, in which the Longhorns have had the upper hand in total victories. Bedlam lacks the pageantry of playing at the Cotton Bowl each October, but it stokes fierce passion among fans statewide.
And playing OSU still matters to the Sooners.
Linebacker Curtis Bolton was redshirting in 2014 when the Cowboys came away with their most recent Bedlam win, a come-from-behind 38-35 overtime victory in Norman that largely rested at then OU coach Bob Stoops’ feet. He erred by re-punting to Tyreek Hill late in the fourth quarter, opening the door for Hill’s game-tying touchdown return.
“When they came in and we had to re-punt that ball and they took it back to the house and beat us in overtime, I kind of understood [the rivalry] after that,” Bolton said. “I’ve been around the state a little bit. You meet their fans and you’ll understand.”
Even with the Cowboys struggling to gain bowl eligibility this season — they’re 2-4 in the Big 12 and 20-point underdogs Saturday — OU views the game as both a bragging rights opportunity and vital hurdle toward reaching the Big 12 championship.
“I don’t know [why it’s been lopsided]. Like everybody said before, we take it really seriously,” OU tight end Grant Calcaterra said. “It’s basically like a state championship, I guess. You want to win, you want to be the best in your state.”