In three weeks, the Big 12 and Southeastern conference championship games could feature rematches of Saturday’s games. Oklahoma and Auburn won on their home fields by a combined 41 points, might need to defeat, respectively, TCU and Georgia, on neutral sites to secure their places in the College Football Playoff.
If those rematch scenarios come to pass, the SEC version will be presented as a resurrection opportunity where the winner will either make history (Auburn as a two-loss CFP team) or as a program’s return to national prominence (Georgia, which won its last national title in 1980).
The Big 12? The ramp up to Oklahoma-TCU II will also be about resurrection but as a punch line instead of reverent consequence.
The rebirth of the Big 12 championship game after a six-year absence is regarded a jury-rigged joke. The Sooners, two victories away from outright clinching of their third consecutive regular-season title, will need to prove themselves all over again. The Big 12, absent from two of the first three CFP final fours, will hold its breath for three-plus hours on Dec. 2 and silently cheer for an OU victory.
In April 2015, the Big 12 board of directors decided the conference needed a championship game. The nine-game round-robin schedule, unique to the Power Five, didn’t provide the “13th data point” provided by the championship games in the other four P5 leagues. The fact that the extra game would add extra legal tender had little impact on the decision making (wink wink, nudge nudge).
As is the case in most business flow charts, the bosses make the decision and the underlings are charged with figuring out the dirty details. The other P5 leagues pit division champs in their championship game. In the three conferences with 14 teams (SEC, Big Ten, ACC), the chances of a rematch of a regular-season game are slim and regarded as ordained by the football gods.
The 10-team Big 12 had no simple path to decide its championship game matchup. The simplest solution was to have the first-place team face the second-place team. Only on the rarest of occasions will that format afford the second-place team a path to the CFP. In most cases, the thinking goes, it’s a chance for the Big 12 to once again Charlie Brown a football yanked away by Lucy.
The Sooners’ 38-20 dismantling of Gary Patterson’s defense in Norman Saturday night proved that Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield is the Heisman Trophy front runner and that the Horned Frogs’ defense – ranked No. 1 in the Big 12 and No. 6 nationally – was no match for the Sooners’ scheme and talent.
⭕️🙌🏈 stats at …HALFtime. Yes, these are halftime stats.
Baker Mayfield 299yds, 3 TDs.
Rodney Anderson 203 tot yds, 4TDs. #SoonerNation
Are we sure there’s only one Heisman 🏆 to give out? I️ mean, they saw THIS, rt? pic.twitter.com/veXnwnvTy0
— FnA Oklahoma Sooners (@FnA_OKSooners) November 12, 2017
That could well be the same outcome in three weeks. However, a second-chance for Patterson to design a better game plan based on the film of an 18-point loss is a dangerous proposition. The TCU coach relishes the underdog role and after what OU did to TCU in the first half, he has plenty of motivational factors to go with his game planning.
“We spotted them too many points and when we finally woke up, it was too late,” Patterson said.
And was his team’s second-half shutout of the Sooners: A. The product of his halftime threat of a team scrimmage Sunday?
B. Some schematic changes that bring hope in the rematch?
C. Oklahoma shutting down its attack to play bleed-the-clock?
D. OU first-year coach Lincoln Riley turning to the vanilla section of the playbook to save a few flavors for the potential rematch?
Oklahoma has beaten three top 15 teams – TCU, Oklahoma State and Ohio State – by double digits. Two of those victories came on the road; four top 10 teams lost road games Saturday. The Sooners’ 62-52 victory in Stillwater rekindled the debate about the Big 12 not playing any defense but OU’s rebuttal was impressive.
TCU, over the last month, had allowed 3.7 yards per play and had given up three touchdowns while defending 54 drives. The Frogs had held six opponents, including their last four, to under 270 total yards. They led the nation in rushing defense (69.7 yards per game). TCU had not allowed more than 36 points in a game and had allowed a total of 27 points in the last four games.
Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield worked the middle of the field beautifully against TCU on Saturday in the Sooners victory over the Horned Frogs. pic.twitter.com/pj0cPJIBJG
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) November 12, 2017
Here’s how busy the Sooner Schooner was in the first half:
- 38 points.
- 395 total yards on 36 snaps (10.9 yards per play).
- 13 plays of at least 10 yards – 46 yards (twice), 30 yards, 24 yards (twice), 50 yards, and 33 yards.
- 96 yards rushing on 15 carries (6.4 yards per attempt).
What has become glaringly apparent to anyone who watches the games: Of all this season’s national championship contenders, none have an offense that compares to the Sooners. Combining the first half of Saturday night with Bedlam, in those six quarters Oklahoma had 1,190 yards of total offense and averaged a first down per play – 10.6 yards.
Mayfield, in his third season working with Riley, is performing at an unprecedented level. Last season he set NCAA FBS records for passing efficiency (196.4) and yards per attempt (11.1). He’s on pace to break both of those; his efficiency number is 202.1 and he’s averaging 11.9 yards per attempt (his yards per attempt against TCU was 12.3).
‘You watch him every week, and he’s doing something unreal,” Frogs senior quarterback Kenny Hill said.
In addition to the untested Riley moving from offensive coordinator and replacing Bob Stoops, the concern Sooner Land coming into the season was replacing the top two ground gainers (Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon) and top receiver (Dede Westbrook). Mayfield and a veteran offensive line were in place but who would be the play makers at the skill positions?
Oklahoma answered that question: its pipeline is full and flowing. With his TCU performance, Mayfield burnished his Heisman chances, but the MVP for the Sooners was third-year sophomore running back Rodney Anderson. His first two seasons in Norman were lost to injuries and through five games this season he had 11 carries.
Against TCU, he provided OU’s offense with potent choices. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Anderson scored four touchdowns – two rushing, two passing – while gaining 151 yards rushing and 139 yards passing. He bedeviled TCU linebackers with his out-of-the-backfield pass routes and even lined up at wide receiver. That sort of versatility means that the Sooners can run their up-tempo packages without substituting, providing yet another option to keep defenses off balance.
“He was tremendous tonight,” Riley said. “He was awesome. He’s got a unique skillset in that he can kind of do it all. He can bring the power, ran through a lot of tackles and made a couple tremendous catches. He’s been awesome for us here several weeks in a row.”
TCU plays at Texas Tech Saturday and Lubbock has been a pit of misery for the Horned Frogs. But the Big 12 championship opponent comes down to this: if TCU beats the Red Raiders, OU plays the Frogs. If Texas Tech wins, it’s Bedlam II matching the Sooners and Oklahoma state.
“We rose to the occasion tonight,” Mayfield told The All-American after the game. “I said it last week: we’re still getting better and better. We haven’t even hit our peak yet. We’re getting better at the right time of the year.”
“Quite frankly, I don’t really care who we play. I believe in our guys.”