November 28, 2008

Bedlam Distractions? Cowboys deal with hype

Inside the borders of Oklahoma, Thanksgiving is a nice holiday, but it is overshadowed by Bedlam football.

This is the week that Oklahomans of every age and sort line up and defend their orange and black or crimson and cream. No matter the records of Oklahoma or Oklahoma State, Bedlam is a huge game.

That's most definitely true this year, but this one is bigger than normal. You see, Bedlam has gone national. OSU and OU will face off Saturday night at 7 on ABC in a contest that will go a long way toward figuring out bowl placing and Big 12 and BCS implications.

And, oh yeah, finding out who is the best in Oklahoma.

Because of the national angle of this game, Bedlam is bigger than normal. In fact, this might be the biggest Bedlam game in 20 years. At the least, it's the biggest since 2003, when No. 14 OSU went to Norman and was blitzed by the No. 1 Sooners, 52-9.

Beside this game being seen on national television, it's also the centerpiece of the ESPN college football universe. The Worldwide Leader will be broadcasting from the Edmon Low Library Lawn all weekend long, with the morning staple "College GameDay" taking place on Saturday from 9-11 a.m. Central Time. This is only the second time OSU has hosted GameDay. The first was for Bedlam in 2004.

All this isn't lost on the players.

"It's a huge game, Matt Fodge said. "We've got two ranked opponents. It's always exciting when you get to play one of the best teams in the country, if not the best team. College GameDay is going to be there and it's going to be a sold-out crowd, really loud. I'm just looking forward to it."

"We're expecting a big game," David Washington said. "We know they're going to be ready and we've got to be ready, got to bring our A-game. It's just going to be a showdown. We've got GameDay coming in and that's always a fun deal. It'll be fun to play in this one."

The coaches realize that this year's version of Bedlam has taken on circus sideshow-type proportions because of the national exposure. Head coach Mike Gundy just wants to make sure the players don't get consumed by all the attention.

"I would like to think that the team has matured to that point that they understand how important that is," he said. "And they can handle some of the distractions on and off the field. There's a lot going on this week. There's a lot of attention in the state and now you're bringing in GameDay and everything with their crew and what all that brings to the game. Hopefully our players understand that ultimately the only thing that matters is when we kick it off on Saturday night. Everything else is just kind of a sideshow leading up to that event."

It's hard not to get caught up in all of this. Seeing Bedlam being talked about on SportsCenter all week definitely helps to get the juices flowing on both sides. Gunter Brewer definitely believes that, saying that everyone gets up for this one.

"I think it's your administration, coaches, players, everybody in this town," he said. "Everybody in this area that's a Cowboy fan knows how big a game this is. There doesn't need to be much said about it. I'm glad there is a lot said about it; just brings more to the forefront and the young kids start to understand how important that is to play your down-the-road, cross-town rival. Even if you're not from the state of Oklahoma, you pretty quickly understand what a big game it is."

Especially this year. Much is on the line for both sides. An OU win would put the Sooners in position to return to the Big 12 title game and possibly the BCS Championship Game as well. However, an OSU win means the Cowboys could be returning to the best non-BCS bowl out there, the Cotton Bowl.

"Oh I think its big game for everybody in the state, I don't think there's a reason to deny that," Gundy said. "From a business standpoint I see it as any other game. I think it's very important, it has a lot of high expectations for people involved in the game. We just go about it in a business-like manner. I don't know any other way to prepare for it other than to come up with a good game plan and work really hard and try to stay mentally focused. There's a lot of distractions involved in this game, but that's part of it. So we just try to stay focused and get prepared to play."

So is all of this a concern for coaches? Is this just a harder week to get the players focused on the task at hand? Brewer says no.

"I think the other stuff is for the fans and for the media and the coffee shop guys," he said. "We don't get to go over there; we don't see any of that. Our kids are focused on everyday business and we're trying to move up in the polls and move up in the bowl picks, so we've got a lot on the line and they've got a lot on the line. Nothing else needs to be said about Bedlam.

"This game doesn't need anymore hype; they're just throwing gasoline on a fire. So that's good for the fans and people that are going to be here, but as far as we go, we're going to show up and put our game plan in, they're going to show up and put their game plan in and when the ball is kicked off the rest of it is irrelevant until the final whistle."

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!