NORMAN — Bedlam is interesting on so many levels, but my favorite level is the one that Oklahoma State must feel and hope to know for certain, but that Oklahoma must feel and want to deny.
Because the Sooners, the program and its nation, have long accepted the Texas game as a world apart from all others. Even among coaches, a world in which the next game is always the most important game, the game at the Texas State Fair is acknowledged as something bigger.
The emerging story of Bedlam, though, is that it is becoming the same thing.
There is not the history of huge and meaningful tilts and there is no neutral field, but the Pokes, who have won 48 games this season and the previous four (two fewer than OU’s 50), including a conference championship only last year, have proven to have the thing most required to raise Bedlam to the next level.
Now on their third quarterback, Clint Chelf, the Cowboys have won seven games this season, eight if the refs get it right against Texas, nine, probably, if defensive coordinator Bill Young had been well enough to travel to Arizona State.
Still, for all of that which OU must come to terms with — seeing it’s old intrastate rival as a (near) equal — there is still something that might make Bedlam yet bigger and better.
A Big 12 championship game.
OU, amazingly, is back in the conference race. Kansas State holds destiny in its hands, but must beat Texas a week from Saturday if the Sooners can get by the Pokes in four days and TCU in 11.
But if there were a five-team North and a five-team South making up the 10-team Big 12, the Sooners and Cowboys (and, sort of, Texas) would be the last teams standing in a race to reach the conference title game, which one must admit is sorely missed.
It is not sorely missed because it puts the conference at a terrible disadvantage by not having it (although it might eventually rub a college football nation the wrong way that everybody else seems to play a title game and the Big 12 does not).
Instead, it is sorely missed because on the day the Big 10, SEC and ACC play their championship game, and one day after the Pac-12 plays its championship game, the Big 12 will offer fans this instead: OU at TCU, OSU at Baylor, Texas at Kansas State, Kansas at West Virginia.
Sorry, but it is simply not the same as the Sooners and Wildcats at Arrowhead Stadium, or the Pokes and Wildcats at Cowboys Stadium.
On the most meaningful day of college football’s regular season, the Big 12 will be strung out at four different venues, while college football’s other big dog conferences will have the nation focused on a single game.
One wonders if the conference sees such a reality viably in the long term. Especially in a college football world that continues to realign.
With Monday’s announcement that Maryland’s headed to the Big 10 and today’s anticipated announcement of Rutgers joining it, creating a 14-team league, could the Big 12 risk becoming rich beyond its wildest dreams, yet creepingly irrelevant at the same time?
Even if Louisville and Cincinnati’s following West Virginia and TCU into the fold — or Houston and SMU, or BYU and Colorado State or … pick two schools and you can play the game, too — failed to make dollars and sense, might it make too much competitive sense to keep the league topped out at 10?
All of that’s hard to know.
Easy to know is how much more fun Bedlam would be if just a little more, like a division title, was on the line.
It’s huge, yes, but it will be over by Saturday night. Put a championship game out there and it doesn’t have to end.