Bedlam Day: 5 things to watch

Oklahoma’s Curtis Bolton (18) celebrates a big play during the Sooners’ game against Kansas State last month at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

It’s Bedlam Day in Oklahoma.

The No. 6 Sooners welcome Oklahoma State to Owen Field for their annual matchup at 2:30 p.m. OU has won three straight in the series since the Cowboys won in double overtime in 2014.

Here’s what to watch for in this week’s game:

1. Don’t let him escape: OSU running back Justice Hill has had an up-and-down season.

He’s rushed for more than 100 yards five times, but he’s also had games where he’s been unable to break loose, totaling 32 yards against South Alabama, 66 yards against Iowa State and 41 yards against Kansas State.

While OU’s defense hasn’t lived up to expectations, the Sooners have avoided giving up the big play. That will be key this week. In each of those games where he was held to less than 70 yards, the opponent kept him from ripping off a 20-plus-yard run. If the Sooners want to keep the Cowboys out of rhythm offensively, they’ll keep that from happening Saturday.

2. Taking care of it: OU quarterback Kyler Murray threw two uncharacteristic interceptions early against Texas Tech.

Murray hasn’t had many turnover issues this season. He threw one interception against Iowa State, Texas and UCLA, all bad decisions, but otherwise had been near perfect at avoiding those in the lead up to Lubbock. It’s easy to chalk it up to a difficult road atmosphere.

OU’s only played two difficult road games, at Iowa State and at Texas Tech. It will be interesting to see how Murray deals with that in a big rivalry game against OSU.

3. Replacing McCleskey: When OSU lost one of its top returning receivers, Jalen McCleskey, to transfer earlier this season, the Cowboys were looking for someone to fill his spot.

Since Tylan Wallace has taken the reins and emerged as the team’s top receiver with 58 receptions for 1,062 yards and seven touchdowns. But the Pokes are still searching for the No. 2 and No. 3 guys. Tyron Johnson has 29 receptions for 486 yards, and Jenks product Dillon Stoner has taken off in his second year, hauling in 24 catches for 308 yards. One of those two will need to show up in a big way this week to keep OU from focusing entirely on stopping Wallace.

4. The big play: It seems like whenever these two get together, a big special teams play occurs.

There are plenty of explosive players on both sides who could do that this season. It’s been a while since the Sooners had a big kick/punt return, but cornerback Tre Brown and receiver CeeDee Lamb have shown they’re more than capable of doing it. Running back Chuba Hubbard has been the top guy for the Cowboys in kick return, and Stoner has been the top guy in the punt return game.

5. Keep it cool: Last week, some of the battles after the whistle were just as intense as those before it, and OU paid the price.

The Sooners racked up 113 yards on 10 penalties, including 30 on one play against Lamb when emotions flared, though the Big 12 has since admitted the first flag shouldn’t have been thrown.

In any case, OU can’t afford personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct penalties this week. They could flip momentum either way, and passion runs high in this rivalry.

Both teams have had issues with avoiding penalties this year, with OU ranked No. 94 in fewest penalty yards and OSU at 126 out of 130.