NORMAN — Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch was always familiar with the Bedlam rivalry at his previous coaching stops, from the Pacific Northwest at Washington State, to the Rust Belt at Ohio State, and more understandably, the Midwest at Missouri.
Bedlam’s established enough to grab attention nationwide.
But the OU-Oklahoma State series has drawn curiosity from another far off territory in recent years, and that interest will peak Saturday when the teams meet.
OU senior nose guard Neville Gallimore is from Ottawa, Canada, just across the border from Vermont and New York. He’s been a mainstay on the defensive line and is a co-winner of the program’s Don Key Award, given to outstanding seniors each season.
OSU running back Chuba Hubbard is the nation’s leading rusher and is lining up to be a Heisman Trophy finalist. He’s from Edmonton, just off the edge of the Canadian Rockies.
Their space apart growing up is nearly the equivalent of growing up on opposite coasts. Hubbard and Gallimore didn’t have a prior relationship before football, and still don’t have much of one now.
But there’s mutual respect.
“Another Canadian who has a dream of trying to play ball at the highest level. There’s definitely a lot of value in that,” Gallimore said. “There’s always a love seeing a guy come from the same country as you. You understand what adversity you’ve got to come through.”
Gallimore came out of Canada Prep Football Academy as a four-star rated prospect. If he stays healthy, he’s likely to leave OU with a shade under 40 starts. His ability to draw double teams has freed up OU’s defensive ends and linebackers to make bigger plays this season.
He’s journeyed to get here. Big things were expected of him early on, but each season before now Gallimore seemed to question whether he was meeting his own standards.
Hubbard hasn’t noticed.
“I’ve been watching him since high school where he was an Under Armour All-American, the first Canadian,” Hubbard said Tuesday. “He’s been doing great things for Canada since Day 1. Just to be able to go up against him will be fun. It’s amazing to see Canadians doing great things.”
Hubbard and Gallimore aren’t the only players representing Canada, which last week underwent its Grey Cup — the Canadian Football League’s version of the Super Bowl — with Winnipeg’s victory.
OSU linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga has been one of the Cowboys’ best players on defense with 14 tackles for loss. He’s from Calgary, not far from where Hubbard grew up in Alberta.
“I feel like we all understand what it is to make it out of the country, then on top of that to be dominant and to be effective and to play ‘down south’ as we call it,” Gallimore said. “I’m always rooting for my fellow Canadians, even the guys at the next level. For those of us who aren’t there yet, that’s definitely something we’re striving to be.
“I feel like as guys continue to expand their games, coaches continue to find reasons to go up to Canada, you definitely will see a lot of great players. You’ve just got to go find them. For Canadians, we know we’ve always got to find ways to show we’re worth getting recruited. There’s obviously a lot of hardship in that. But again, if you have a mindset and a talent with the work ethic to go with it, there’s always going to be someone that’s looking to give you an opportunity.”
Those dreams are at odds this weekend. Gallimore’s part of a defense that will be focused on stopping Hubbard — which few teams have done. He has 1,832 yards and 20 touchdowns this season.
It won’t be all Gallimore’s responsibility. Hubbard is more than one person can handle.
“To think you’re going to make a living in 1-on-1 situations, the film suggests that you’re not. So it’s all hands on deck,” Grinch said. “It’s the home run. It's the one missed tackle that turns into a 90-yard run, an 80-yard run, on and on and on. He runs like a track guy, but also has the power element to it. That's the thing I've been really just studying this week, seeing him on TV and seen some highlights, but you can't put him in the category of just a speed guy. He runs strong.”
OU at Oklahoma State
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Place: Boone Pickens Stadium | Stillwater
Rankings/records: CFP No. 7/AP No. 7 OU (10-7, 7-1 Big 12); CFP No. 21/AP No. 21 OSU (8-3, 5-3 Big 12)
Line: OU (-13.5)
Radio: KRXO-FM 107.7
• Neville Gallimore (DT, OU): He dropped 35 pounds to fit into Alex Grinch’s defense and has three sacks this season.
• Amen Ogbongbemiga (LB, OSU): He’s been OSU’s most disruptive player with 14 tackles for loss.
• Chuba Hubbard (RB, OSU): If Hubbard has a poor game, it will be his first this season. The nation’s leading rusher is the Cowboys’ biggest offensive threat.