By CLIFF BRUNT, AP Sports Writer
This year’s Bedlam matchup likely will affect the Big 12, College Football Playoff and Heisman Trophy races.
No. 8 Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1 Big 12, No. 5 CFP) and No. 11 Oklahoma State (7-1, 4-1, No. 11 CFP) share the Big 12 lead, and the winner of Saturday’s showdown would be positioned well to reach the Big 12 title game. While the loser still could play for the conference title, its national title hopes will take a major hit.
There’s an extra layer to the story this year. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph are considered by many to be top contenders for the Heisman Trophy. The winner of the game could get a boost in the eyes of voters.
“Should be a great game,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. “I know it’s an important game to this state, to this conference race right now, important game on the national scene. That’s how Bedlam should be.”
Mayfield finished fourth in the Heisman race in 2015 and third last year. He ranks second in the nation in passing efficiency and leads the Big 12 after setting the FBS record for passing efficiency last season.
“He’ll make you miss,” Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer said. “He’s a tremendous ball player. He’s hard to tackle, can throw on the run, makes great reads, he’s tough, doesn’t back down from a challenge. If you’re down the street in the park picking sides on Saturday, he’s your first pick.”
Rudolph already is one of the most successful quarterbacks in Oklahoma State history. He’s the school’s all-time leader in yards passing, and he has a chance to leave as one of the rare Oklahoma State quarterbacks to beat Oklahoma twice — Josh Fields was the most recent to do it, in 2001 and 2002.
“Great player,” Mayfield said of Rudolph. “I think the biggest thing for both of us — we have great supporting casts and teams that are playing hard for us. Those guys make our jobs easy.”
Here are some things to watch when Oklahoma and Oklahoma State meet again:
Oklahoma might have found its go-to back after using a committee approach most of the season. Rodney Anderson gained 181 all-purpose yards two weeks ago against Kansas State, then had 202 last week against Texas Tech. Trey Sermon, Abdul Adams and Marcelias Sutton also will likely get work, but Anderson appears to have moved ahead of the pack.
“Just getting opportunities, confidence,” Riley said. “It just kind of all goes together. He’s on a nice run now. He’s really in sync with the offensive line right now. He’s running hard, running confident.”
Oklahoma State star receiver James Washington has a chance to move to the forefront of the Biletnikoff Award conversation. For the season, he has 45 catches for 1,005 yards and eight touchdowns. He was held to 50 yards on two catches last year against the Sooners.
OKLAHOMA STATE FAVORED
The Cowboys haven’t often been favored in the series, but they are this year. When told about it, a surprised Mayfield said, “Underdog?” and then said nothing.
Oklahoma State has four players with two interceptions this season — Ramon Richards, Justin Phillips, A.J. Green and Tre Flowers. Richards ended the win against Texas with an interception in the end zone. The team has 12 overall. Mayfield, who has only thrown three interceptions all year, knows he needs to be careful.
“They’re getting after the quarterback and they’ve got guys that are making plays on the ball,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing I see on film — they have a lot of guys taking the ball away for them.”
HAIR vs. HAIR
Mayfield plans to once again show up with a horseshoe mustache. Two years ago, he showed up with one, saying there was a new sheriff in town. Oklahoma rolled to a 58-23 win . He did it last year, too, for Oklahoma’s 38-20 victory , and he said he’d do it again this year.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy continues to wear the mullet that has gained him notoriety.
“Gotta respect the mullet,” Mayfield said. “Business in the front, party in the back. The mustache has to show up on Saturday. It’ll be a battle of who has the best — mullet or mustache.”
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .
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