NORMAN, Okla. – No. 7 Oklahoma, champions of the Big 12 Conference, will face No. 14 Auburn from the Southeastern Conference in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans at 7:30 p.m. on January 2.
OU, winner of nine games in a row, will face a Tiger team that lost two of its final three games, including a 30-12 defeat at the hands of No. 1 Alabama.
“I know our fan base is going to be very excited. It ought to be a good game,” said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said.
Malzahn has only competed against the Sooners once during his college coaching career. In 2007, during his first season as Tulsa’s co-offensive coordinator, OU beat the Golden Hurricane 62-21.
“You’re talking about a big-time offense to go with a very good defense. We have a lot of respect for them,” Malzahn said. Stoops said Oklahoma will be playing “an excellent football team in Auburn, so it’ll be a great challenge, but we’re looking forward to it.” It will only be the second meeting between OU and Auburn. The Sooners beat the Tigers 40-22 in the Sugar Bowl following the 1971 season in a game that featured Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan.
Oklahoma won the Big 12 in convincing fashion by downing No. 12 Oklahoma State 38-20 in the rain in Norman last Saturday.
Four players paced the Sooners.
- Junior quarterback Baker Mayfield hit 13 of 19 pass attempts with three touchdowns.
“That’s the best I’ve seen him play,” OU offensive coordinator said of Mayfield. “He didn’t really throw a bunch. He threw it 19 times and I would say, probably 18 of those were spot on. His decision-making was outstanding. He was great in scramble situations. In those kind of conditions, he was awesome.”
- Junior running back Samaje Perine had 37 carries for 239 yards (6.5 per carry) and one touchdown even though he had to leave the game due to injury in the second half.
Perine could have scored one more time with seconds left to go in the game but instead stopped and took a knee. Stoops said it was all Perine’s decision.
“What’s the point of scoring?” Perine asked. “We were already up by two touchdowns with only a few seconds left, so there’s really no need to run up the score. I did what I thought was the right thing to do.”
- Senior receiver Dede Westbrook had four catches for 111 yards and one score. He left the game in the first half after being injured and he stayed out the rest of the game.
OU adjusted after Westbrook was lost.
“The coaches did a great job with that,” Mayfield said. “We’ve had that mentality all year long of next-man-up so we looked at (Jordan) Smallwood and said it’s your time to shine and he said ‘let’s go’. He had a great week of practice and he was ready for the moment. It’s awful to see the best player on your offense go down, but we’ve had that next man up mentality and we did a good job of overcoming it.”
- Junior running back Joe Mixon had 106 yards on 11 carries and one score.
The Sooner defense held OSU to 403 total yards. Cowboy quarterback Mason Rudolph hit only 11 of 25 passing attempts for 186 total yards. Cowboy receiver Jhajuan Seales had three catches for 80 yards and James Washington had only two catches for a total of 50 yards.
“I thought we’ve played well in halves before, and I thought Oklahoma State is a much better team than they were a year ago,” said OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. “I thought their line played well to create seams. We just played better and we executed. I’m just really proud of this group to endure what we had to endure all year, but we’re Big 12 champs again. That’s for all the naysayers or whatnot. This was a challenging year for different reasons that people will never understand, but I couldn’t be more proud of our kids to overcome all of that. All of the credit goes to them.”
OU outgained OSU 629 to 403 in total yardage.
Oklahoma secured its 10th Big 12 title in the last 17 years, all under Stoops. The Sooners have now won more Big 12 Championships under Stoops than they have lost home games (nine).
OU is the first team to go 9-0 in Big 12 competition. The Sooners’ nine wins are their most ever in regular season Big 12 play. OU also went undefeated in the Big 12 in 2000, 2003 and 2004 (played eight games).
“That was a big deal to the players through the week, that we’ve never had the chance to hoist a Big 12 Championship trophy on our own field,” Stoops said. “Did we need any more motivation? I wouldn’t think so, but the players thought it was pretty cool to be able to do that here.”
“I like all of them. I’ll take those ones back in Arrowhead, too, in two degrees. That’s pretty good too.”