John Klein: New parity leaves Bedlam wide open
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Friday, November 23, 2012
11/23/12 at 6:01 AM
Go to John Klein's Blog
For more Bedlam stories.Original Print Headline: New parity has Bedlam wide open
Oklahoma has been playing at the highest levels of college football since the 1950s.
Oklahoma State, with periodic peaks, has just recently found itself on college football's big stage.
It wasn't long ago that OSU coach Mike Gundy admitted the Cowboys weren't ready for the spotlight.
After the Cowboys lost at Georgia 35-14 to open the 2007 season, Gundy said OSU wasn't ready to play nationally significant games.
"I was probably a little too honest after that game," said Gundy. "But, we weren't ready for that big stage. Our program had not progressed to that point.
"That has changed. We've played and beaten some very significant football teams in the last four years. We're at a different level."
It has dramatically changed. Starting in 2008, OSU has won nine or more games every season.
The Cowboys have played and won a long list of significant games against traditional powers.
History, so long a hurdle for OSU football, has been ignored.
"I've always had a great respect for them before last year's game," said OU coach Bob Stoops.
Oklahoma State goes to Oklahoma on Saturday for Bedlam, and the Cowboys no longer appear to be tied to history.
"We've done some things around here in the last few years that we had not done before here," said Gundy. "I think what we've done around here in the past few years has been very significant for people that have been around here for a long time.
"Our players need to understand the importance of what they've done. It is significant. It has not been easy. It has taken a lot of hard work and they do understand what it takes."
Stoops isn't shy about saying history is great, especially for the Sooners, but it has nothing to do with the day-to-day operation of Oklahoma football.
Stoops said earlier this season "how everyone wants to ask about how a game last year relates - it doesn't relate. These are all new kids, a new team."
Stoops does not let his team live in the past or try to rely on tradition.
"Anything can happen," said Stoops. "Nothing surprises me anymore.
"Anyone can beat anybody else."
It is about the here and now.
"It's been a rival game and it didn't start last year," said Stoops.
Stoops is always quick to say that what happens on any given weekend has nothing to do with what happened the previous year or decade.
He wants OU players to understand that winning is about what they do that week, not what someone did five years ago.
Gundy has taken the same approach.
The Cowboys have risen because of what the current team is doing, not what Barry Sanders did in 1988 or any other uplifting moment from the past.
At the same time, Gundy believes the long list of disappointments, weird bounces and lopsided history of the Bedlam series should not be a factor in Saturday's game.
"Oklahoma State has been on the bottom side of that (Bedlam)," said Gundy. "Then, we got pretty competitive in the 80s. In the 90s, because of the probation, we kind of fell back.
"But since about 2000 it has been pretty competitive. When both teams are ranked and pretty good it is always more enjoyable for our state."
What Gundy sees in his team is that it has proven in recent years that it is good enough to play on the big stage, even in Norman.
"In the last three years, we've been good enough to play anybody anywhere and have a good chance to win," said Gundy. "I don't think we've played anyone we've been scared of in that time.
"Our guys expect to win when we play. They aren't relying on luck or a couple of guys. They've all been a part of what we've become."
What the Cowboys have become is a legitimate threat in a very balanced Big 12 Conference.
OSU won the Big 12 a year ago and, with just two games left in the season, it is once again in a position to have a shot at the title.
Obviously, the Cowboys or Sooners need a little help from Texas (to knock off Kansas State) but that is not totally out of the question.
In fact, because of the schedule, it is still possible for a four-way tie at the top of the Big 12.
"It isn't surprising because of the parity in the conference," said Stoops.
And, the new parity in Bedlam.
OU's Brandon Williams runs over OSU's Tyler Johnson during the first quarter of OSU's game against OU at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater Saturday December 3, 2011. MIKE SIMONS/ Tulsa World