The Sooners enter Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday with their season on the line.
Not only has Oklahoma made it to Arlington every season since the Big 12 championship game has returned, but Lincoln Riley’s squad has also won the Big 12 every time it has gone down there. A loss in Stillwater on Saturday, and the Sooners won’t even make the trip to Jerry World. Riley met with reporters Tuesday in Norman. Here are three things he said about Oklahoma State.
1. Does Previous Bedlam Success Carry Over?
Riley hasn’t lost a Bedlam game since taking over in 2017, amassing a 4-0 record against the Cowboys.
And the Sooners’ all-time success in the series is well documented. It gets mentioned in nearly every OSU vs. OU watercooler talk. But does the Sooners’ previous success in the series play a factor in this year’s game? Riley said it is what you make of it.
“I think we can take the confidence that we’ve prepared well and been able to play well in this game historically, but the flip side of that is if we think that alone is gonna allow this team to do that, then we’ll be mistaken,” Riley said. “You’ve got to have a lot of respect for this opponent, and you’ve got to prepare at a high level. You gotta play at a high level. You gotta do it in a road venue. You have to handle all that well. Past teams have been able to do it, but this team’s gotta go do it. We’ve gotta prepare that way. We’ve gotta play that way on Saturday.”
2. Spencer Sanders Improvement
Spencer Sanders hasn’t yet gotten a full shot in a Bedlam game.
He was the Cowboys’ starter in the 2019 season but was injured before the game, and Dru Brown filled in for him. Sanders started last season’s Bedlam game, but he was injured for the middle portion of it. So, this could be the year where Sanders gets his full shot at the Sooners.
When he did play last season, Sanders was 10-for-19 with 97 yards and an interception while being sacked three times — far from his best outing. OSU’s gunslinger has improved as of late. In OSU’s past five games, Sanders has completed 61% of his passes for 1,038 yards, nine touchdowns and only one interception.
“He’s really doing a nice job,” Riley said. “He’s improved a lot through the years. … He’s always been a tremendous athlete. I think everybody’s known that. He’s obviously running well and a factor with his legs, and I do think he’s really improved in the throw game, not that he was bad before but he’s certainly done some nice things this year. They’ve done a good job with him.”
3. OSU’s Veteran Defense
This will be the third consecutive week the Cowboys’ defense has played against a freshman starting quarterback.
TCU’s Chandler Morris and Texas Tech’s Donovan Smith combined to go 20-for-49 with 208 yards, no touchdowns and were sacked 10 times. OU’s Caleb Williams is expected to play at least a little better than those two, but it won’t be easy against the Cowboys’ veteran-heavy defense.
“They’ve played at a high level this year,” Riley said. “They’ve played very consistent. Their front’s done a good job creating pressure on quarterbacks. They’ve obviously had a lot of tackles for loss, sacks, all that. They’ve really played pretty clean football. Haven’t given up a lot of big plays, haven’t had a lot of penalties, hadn’t had a lot of busts. They’ve made people, when people have moved the ball or scored points, people have had to earn it.”
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