The Oklahoma Sooners improved to 11-1 on the season with arguably their most impressive, and complete, performance of the season defeating Oklahoma State in Bedlam 34-16 on Saturday night.
OU now sits #6 in the College Football Playoff rankings with one week left to play. The Sooners need help, but are obviously firmly one of the top contenders to land the fourth and final playoff spot.
The Sooners now head to Arlington for the Big 12 Championship Game for a highly anticipated rematch with the Baylor Bears, who still have playoff aspirations of their own.
Before diving into Oklahoma-Baylor II, let’s reset the playoff scene and what exactly needs to happen this weekend for OU to reach the playoff for the 4th time in 5 years.
4 Teams: 1 Spot
For all intents and purposes, three of the four College Football Playoff spots have been filled.
LSU and Ohio State are in no matter what happens this weekend. Even if they got drubbed by 30+ in their respective conference title games, I bet they would still make it.
Clemson may not be able to survive a loss this weekend like the Tigers and Buckeyes, but the prospects of them falling at the hands of the Virginia Cavaliers are extremely low.
That leaves #4 Georgia, #5 Utah, #6 Oklahoma, and #7 Baylor all vying for the final spot.
The only team that truly controls their own destiny in that group are the Bulldogs, but they have to deal with the juggernaut that is LSU and likely Heisman-winner Joe Burrow.
Assuming Georgia loses, the potential debate between PAC-12 Champion Utah and the Oklahoma/Baylor winner will be quite intense and will undoubtedly be one of the more controversial decisions the committee has had to make to date no matter which way they choose to go.
In my personal opinion, the Oklahoma/Baylor winner deserves the final spot over the Utes. Both will have significantly stronger wins than what Utah can offer, and that weighs really heavily in my mind. Not to mention that Utah’s loss is only slightly more quality than OU, and not more quality than Baylor.
Also, in the Bears’ case, they will have avenged their lone loss of the season with a win on Saturday – something that certainly helped Oklahoma a year ago when they took down Texas.
As far as what I actually expect the committee to do…it is extremely hard to say.
I tend to lean, honestly, that Utah will get in with a win barring Oklahoma or Baylor blowing out the other. The committee has now told us for several weeks they view Utah more highly than the Big 12 squads, so it seems hard for them to totally justify a change in mind in the final week without something drastic happening this weekend.
But with this committee, you never really know. Maybe picking up one more big win over a top 10 team will be enough to lift the Big 12 winner over the Utes, time will have to tell.
Of course, this whole conversation and debate is irrelevant if Oregon can upset Utah Friday night, or if Georgia defeats LSU on Saturday afternoon.
One thing is for sure, it is going to be a really wild weekend in the college football world.
What Needs to be Different than the First Meeting for OU to Win Again
Turning our attention to the Big 12 title game specifically, there are a few things that Oklahoma needs to do better this time around if they want to knock off the Bears again.
First off, it wouldn’t hurt to get off to a better start. OU was extremely fortunate they were able to overcome the 25-point hole they got themselves into in Waco.
I would never expect Baylor to get off to that kind of a start again, but really any kind of early momentum for the Bears would be huge to avoid. Don’t let Baylor believe, let them think the second half in Waco was the “real” one and the first half was the fluke.
Secondly, as every Sooner fan knows at this point, avoiding turnovers is paramount for this team. They turned it over several times in Waco and in the home finale against TCU and had to escape both games by the skin of their teeth. In Stillwater, they avoided turnovers and won pretty handily. What an interesting concept that is – avoiding turnovers helps you win. They must keep from costly turnovers.
Another thing that Oklahoma needs to do differently than the first Baylor game is something they’ve done much better the last couple of weeks: run the ball with Kennedy Brooks.
Brooks is a flat out beast, that is abundantly clear at this point. In Waco, Jalen Hurts threw it 42 times and ran it 27. In Stillwater, Hurts threw it 16 and ran it 16, while Kennedy Brooks had 22 carries for 160 yards. You have to feed Brooks and base your offense out of the run game. It controls the time of possession, which gives the defense rest, and wears down the opposing defense.
Lastly, shut down the QB run game if at all possible. In Oklahoma’s better games, like Texas and Oklahoma State, they allowed nothing from the opposing quarterbacks on the ground. In their worse games, like TCU and Iowa State, the QB run game caused some problems. Charlie Brewer had a lot of success scrambling early in the first matchup and that was a big part of the Bears’ early lead. Cut that down, and the defense will be in good shape.
It is truly incredible that we are already at the final game of the season before bowl mania begins, and we are going out with a bang this weekend.
I think this will be a pretty solid and fun game, with Oklahoma pulling away late. Similar to the Big 12 Championship game against Texas last year with a little less sweat on the OU sideline.
It’ll be competitive into the second half, but I think it’ll end up being like Bedlam was this past Saturday. The defense will start to rack up some stops, maybe some turnovers, and Lincoln Riley will ground and pound the football with Hurts and Brooks and Oklahoma will win by 14+.
Like I said earlier, in my opinion Oklahoma should get the nod over Utah if both win this weekend. But, I wouldn’t bank on the Sooners jumping the Utes at the final hour if both win and look solid doing it.
With that being said, I truly believe there is a great chance Oregon defeats Utah on Friday night. I happen to think the Ducks are a really solid team, who just ran into a bad night against Arizona State and couldn’t quite pull it out. It would really surprise me if LSU didn’t beat Georgia, so a Utes loss and Sooners win would mean Oklahoma makes the College Football Playoff once again.
Starting Friday night to the selection show on Sunday, this may be the most exciting final weekend of the college football season since the CFP era began. Buckle up, and enjoy the ride.
The #6 Oklahoma Sooners take on the #7 Baylor Bears in the Big 12 Championship Game seeking a fifth consecutive conference title on Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington at 11:00 on ABC, and can be heard over the air as always right here on 107.7 The Franchise.