It’s okay if you don’t know the (deep) meaning of the term “Bedlam Series.” It does not make you a lousy citizen. Only those addled with college football tend to know the name. “Bedlam Series,” or “Bedlam” as those in the know call it sometimes, is not a national phenomenon. It is a phenomenon in one moderately populated state. Historically, in the national college football picture that determines so much of the happiness and misery in the nation, it has registered only in certain seasons.
It is, however, a phenomenon, and there’s something building this September that might make this rivalry between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State more phenomenal than ever.
There could be two “Bedlam” games.
To those in the know, it might be too much to ponder.
In the national picture, the state of Oklahoma is glowing-red this month. It is shaking — and not just from some fracking tremor. In the three mostly so-so weeks of college football that finally veered into the wacky Saturday, the most impressive win in the country has gone to Oklahoma. It dared to go into Ohio State, where it won decisively (31-16) and, in a lunatic nation, wound up planting a flag that might have caused a brawl had the home players not already left the field.
Further, Oklahoma State went to Pittsburgh on Saturday with a No. 9 ranking and a supposed nonconference test at hand, then scored 49 points in the first half and 59 overall — or perhaps more than that, in the event the people in charge simply stopped counting.
“That is a top-five football team, for sure,” said Pitt Coach Pat Narduzzi, whose good program, remember, just last Nov. 12, had won at Clemson, your defending national champions. “I’ve got no question about it.”
If No. 3 Oklahoma and quarterback Baker Mayfield are top five caliber and if now-No. 6 Oklahoma State and quarterback Mason Rudolph are top five caliber and if the Cowboys can play a Football Bowl Subdivision team on the road and author the stat of the year so far — four receivers with 100 or more yards — then “Bedlam” promises serious bedlam.
Now, to those without lives who follow this stuff, “Bedlam” usually dangles off the back edge of the schedule, waiting there with its rivals 80 miles apart, its promise of exquisite contempt and its lopsided all-time record in which Oklahoma State has won only 18 of the 111 matchups. But this year, enter (no, reenter) the Big 12 championship game. It is set for four weeks after Oklahoma and Oklahoma State play in Stillwater on Nov. 4 — on Dec. 2 in Jerry Jones’s digitally dazzling funhouse in Arlington, Tex.
With the Big 12 still clinging admirably to its one-division and round-robin format, this game will feature the top two Big 12 teams. Oklahoma, 28th among states in population, sits forever above Texas, No. 2 in that category while No. 1 in self-image, which does create neighborly complications. Mere days before his stunning retirement in June, then-Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops tweeted gleefully about having recruited “a gunslinger from across the border,” the border needing no further illumination.
By Dec. 2, this proud state could send two teams barreling into Texas to play a game available to four Texas schools, had only those Texas schools been able to beat anybody from Oklahoma. While it might not officially get the name “Bedlam,” it could have College Football Playoff implications, and it could exceed bedlam into outright maelstrom.
It helps explain why the heavy part of the lens is on the state of Oklahoma right now, even as other parts of the lens observe college football’s kingdoms: one in deeply impressive, continuing construction, others in woe. The former, Clemson, which supposedly lost an all-time quarterback to the NFL in January (it did), looked so superlative in its decimation of Louisville that it’s time to count it among the perennial titans. Every aspect of it looks so beautifully thought-out, play upon play, the only worry being that as fans in general are built for worrying, these particular fans have so little fodder for worry.
Meanwhile, there’s no woe quite like woe in a kingdom, and it’s burning right now in Louisiana, where LSU took its 37-7 clobbering at Mississippi State with two reminders: It has grown remarkable that LSU’s offense still, after all the tweaking of recent years, cannot budge against steep competition, and Mississippi State Coach Dan Mullen remains damned excellent.
Woe falls, too, upon the faded kingdom of Nebraska, where home losses to Northern Illinois are not what the locals envision, even if the locals surely know about the frequent excellence of Northern Illinois. At Tennessee, they’re bummed-out about going perpetually sideways because a Florida wide receiver got beyond a Tennessee safety on a last-play bomb. And at Texas, the kingdom seems slightly recovered, rather than the cataclysm it was assumed to be, after the gripping 27-24 double-overtime loss at Southern California, during which Sam Darnold’s 35-second, 52-yard drive to the Trojans’ game-tying field goal was so breathtaking as to remind us why we bother.
Can Texas take further games so seriously? Oklahomans will keep a sneering eye on that, even as their 111-game series against one another might get installments Nos. 112 and 113. It’s just too bad there won’t be any repeats of Game 1, in 1904, in cold wind that blew a punt backward, which got this account in Charles F. Long’s history of the University of Oklahoma:
“When the ball landed it didn’t stop. Down an incline it went and right into the waters at Cottonwood Creek. The temperature was below zero that afternoon, and the water looked mighty cold. Still, a touchdown was at stake, and members of both teams did just what you would expect. First man to reach the water’s edge was an Aggie (the nickname, then, for the school later named Oklahoma State). He grabbed a stick and tried to reach the ball with it. A University player, charging with momentum, went crashing into the Aggie’s backside and knocked the man into the water. Then he dived into the water after him, and both were desperately treading water toward the floating ball when it occurred to the Sooner to duck the Aggie. The Aggie, waterlogged, then headed for shore. The Sooner kept after the ball; they say he couldn’t swim a stroke. Delighted spectators stood on shore cheering and laughing. The aquacade increased in size. Three other players ran into the water, and, finally, Ed Cook captured the ball, struck out for the bank and shimmeringly touched it down there for a touchdown.”
Three conclusions here:
●That Ed Cook must have been one tough dude.
●Whenever a relative or other person tells you things were saner way-back-when, that relative or other person is delusional.
●It’s lamentable that in high-tech, 21st-century college football, there’s no more room for frozen creeks.