This is going to sound crazy, but why the heck not sound crazy on a Bedlam Saturday?
If you can’t swing for the fences with a finely tuned observation, one inspiring a prediction, when it’s these two teams and these two coaches, both of whom are bound to get everything they deserve today, then when can you?
Since Lincoln Riley came to Norman, Oklahoma’s playing it’s best football right now. And if it’s not, it’s playing its best football since the 2016 season, the only other one the Sooners failed to reach the College Football Playoff since Riley, not yet a head coach, got to town.
Impossible, you say?
In this season, and that one, OU suffered two early losses bound to keep them out of the final four. Maybe it’s not fair the playoff calculus doesn’t call for the best four teams at the end of the season — rather than the best four seasons — but it doesn’t.
But that year, after losing a — wink-wink — “neutral-site game” to Houston and at home to Ohio State, not only did the Sooners run the Big 12 table, but they ran it scoring the ball and playing defense at the same time, the closest game of their last three before topping Auburn in the Superdome was an 18-point decision over their 11th-ranked Bedlam rival.
The Sooners gave up 46 points in a victory at TCU and 40 in a Cotton Bowl victory over Texas and 59 against a pretty good quarterback and Texas Tech, yet after that … not so much. Nobody got to them for even 30 points in their last six victories at a time they were putting games away early and managing them to the end.
Right now, OU’s playing similar complementary football, yet with better defense, and as long as Rhamondre Stevenson remains fresh and healthy and Spencer Rattler keeps his wits — not quite guarantees given the depth in the RB room and Rattler’s youth; yet if and when they do — it’s an offense as capable as ever.
You say they had to be better all those seasons they went to the playoff? Try again, because what they did those seasons was lose early and infrequently enough for the stars to line up for them as long as they didn’t lose again, which is just what they did by the absolute skin of their teeth.
They were actually quite good in 2015, too, yet still escaped TCU by just a point in Norman in Game 11.
Two years later, they gave up 41 points at Baylor, lost the next week at Iowa State, eclipsed unranked Texas by only five and unranked Kansas State by seven and two weeks after that allowed 52 points, and won, in Stillwater.
That's not great football.
That's Baker Mayfield refusing to lose football.
The Kyler Murray season, OU played the worst defense, presuming the field doesn't expand, any playoff team ever will.
Last season, it was smoke and mirrors, dodging the throwing deficiencies of a quarterback that unloaded a good deal of Riley’s tool belt.
Right now, OU just finished allowing 14 points to TCU, holding Texas Tech scoreless long enough to score 42 straight and holding Kansas to a field goal until the last pay of the game.
All this and we’re supposed to look at this Bedlam game as some should-be nailbiter, in line with Blake Bell's 2013 cold-weather classic, the next season’s overtime tilt or 2017’s 114-points-between-the-two-teams fireworks show?
We're supposed to believe that because the Pokes beat Tulsa, which hasn’t lost since, 16-7? Because they’ve gone 2-1 in their last three, the wins by a combined five over Iowa State and Kansas State?
Yes, we know, those teams beat the Sooners, but this is a classic that-was-then, this-is now scenario.
Look, it’s possible the nation will never know how well OU’s playing right now. Instead, it will only see the Sooners as a team that righted its ship and took advantage of a struggling conference.
But if you’ve been watching closely, you know, and if you’ve been watching Oklahoma State closely, you know the Pokes are terribly offensively challenged and you know pretty much no defense can ground Riley’s offense. Mostly, only a quarterback who can’t throw or has lost confidence can do that.
The polls say the Pokes are in front of the Sooners and the oddsmakers that OU’s just a touchdown better. It’s hard to see how that can be.
Tonight, enjoy it.
It shouldn’t be close.