Norman, OK (SportsNetwork.com) - The historic Battle of Bedlam is on tap for Saturday afternoon at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, as the 18th- ranked Oklahoma Sooners play host to the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the Big 12 Conference regular-season finale.
At just 5-6 overall (3-5 Big 12), Oklahoma State is in danger of missing out on bowl season for the first time since 2005. After an excellent 5-1 start to the season, the Cowboys have dropped five straight games, most recently falling at nationally-ranked Baylor on Nov. 22, 49-28.
Despite his team's struggles, coach Mike Gundy remains optimistic about his team's progress.
"We've had a number of young players who have continued to improve," Gundy said. "Unfortunately, we probably played out best game we've played in six weeks last night against what could have very well been the best team on our schedule this year."
Oklahoma had sky-high expectations coming into the season as the No. 4 team in the country, but it has fallen well short of its lofty goals by dropping out of the Big 12 race with three losses this season to all three teams ahead of it in the standings - TCU (37-33), Kansas State (31-30) and Baylor (48-14). Since their most recent setback the Sooners have righted the ship with two straight wins to get reintroduced to the polls, most recently downing Kansas at home on Nov. 22, 44-7.
"(Oklahoma State is) one of the teams that are better than the record indicates," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "They always do a good job with balance, run and pass. Gundy's teams are always that way."
It's been a one-sided all-time series, with Oklahoma holding to a 83-18-7 advantage, including a 39-9-2 showing in Norman.
Oklahoma State doesn't fit in very well in the high-scoring Big 12, as it ranks in the bottom half of the league in terms of both scoring (26.5 ppg) and yardage (369.7 ypg).
Daxx Garman (.549 completions, 2,041 yards, 12 TDs, 12 INTs) missed the Baylor game with a concussion and is questionable to return on Saturday. In Garman's absence the last time out, Mason Rudolph had an uneven performance, throwing for 281 yards and two touchdowns but on just 13-of-25 passing with a pair of interceptions.
The Cowboys have run more rushing plays this season (431) than passing (339), but they have only picked up 3.5 yards per carry for 137.5 ypg. Desmond Roland (579 yards, eight TDs) and Tyreek Hill (496 yards, TD) earn the most work.
David Glidden (39 receptions, 549 yards, two TDs) and Brandon Sheperd (27 yards, 483 yards, two TDs) anchor a modest receiving corps.
The Cowboys' defense has not done a good job picking up the slack for an underachieving offense, as they allow 31.7 ppg and 438.5 ypg.
Emmanuel Ogbah is one of the best pass rushers in the league with 16.5 TFL and 11.0 sacks, while Josh Furman (12.0 TFL, 6.0 sacks) has found some success opposite him. Jordan Sterns and Ryan Simmons are tied for the team lead in tackles with 85. Ramon Richards has picked off three passes.
The Sooners possess a potent offense, as they rack up 39.3 ppg and 485.6 ypg, and the unit is riding high after a record-setting performance by its freshman tailback the last time out.
Just a week after Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon set a single-game FBS rushing record, Semaje Perine topped it with a historic performance of his own against Kansas by running for 427 yards and five touchdowns.
"The guy is just so exceptional in everything that he does," Stoops said. "We were thinking about resting him, and then someone said he only needs 35 more yards, and you know, that's just too close not to do it, and there was too much time left in the game."
Perine's emergence late in the season has left him with 1,428 yards and 19 touchdowns on 214 carries (6.7 ypc).
Perine and the running game were leaned on heavily in the Kansas win with quarterback Trevor Knight (2,197 passing yards, 340 rushing yards, 19 TDs, nine INTs) out with a concussion. Even with a bye week in between, Knight will not be ready to play on Saturday, leaving another start for Cody Thomas, who's completed just 20-of-49 passes this season for 222 yards, a touchdown and four picks, although his rushing numbers (149 yards, TD) have been stellar.
Thomas' presence under center has hindered the production of the receivers, especially Sterling Shepard (59 receptions, 957 yards, five TDs), who's bidding for an All-Conference selection at year's end.
The Sooners' defense has not lived up to the expectations of a Stoops-led unit, but they have nonetheless played admirably this season in allowing only 23.5 ppg while forcing 18 turnovers.
Zack Sanchez has a large say in the turnover battle with five interceptions. Dominique Alexander is the leading tackler with 93 stops and Eric Striker generates a strong pass rush with 13.5 TFL and 7.0 sacks.