No. 2 Oklahoma, led by presumptive Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield and first-year head coach Lincoln Riley, is one game away from playing for a national championship.
Mayfield, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson and Stanford running back Bryce Love have been invited to the Heisman ceremony in New York Saturday night.
The Sooners took care of business Saturday, dispatching TCU for the second time this year and winning the Big 12 Championship. The reward was a ticket to the semifinals of the College Football Playoff to face No. 3 Georgia, the champions of the Southeastern Conference, at 4:10 p.m. on January 1 in the Rose Bowl, televised on ESPN.
The OU/Georgia winner will play the winner of the other semifinal between No. 1 Clemson and No. 4 Alabama, who also play on January 1 in the Sugar Bowl. The College Football Playoff National Championship is Jan. 8, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
“It’s gonna be a challenge,” Riley said. “It’ll be one of the best defenses we’ve played in our three years here, but it’s a challenge we’re very much looking forward to.”
The lone loss for Georgia was 17-40 to Auburn. The only blemish for OU was a 31-38 loss to Iowa State. In a rematch, Georgia beat then-No. 2 Auburn 28-7 Saturday in the SEC Championship game, giving Georgia (12-1) its first SEC championship since 2005.
Second year Georgia coach Kirby Smart is a fan of Mayfield, who probably will win the Heisman Trophy Saturday.
“He’s unbelievably talented,” Smart said of Mayfield. “He’s got great athletic ability. Seems like he’s been playing forever.”
This will be first meeting ever for OU and Georgia. Oklahoma has won the last four games against SEC opponents and went 7-3 against the SEC in the Bob Stoops’ era.
The Rose Bowl, played in Pasadena, California, is the old bowl game. It was first played in 1902 and has been played continuously since 1916. This year’s game is scheduled to kick off at 4:10 p.m. CT and will be televised by ESPN.
OU is 12-1 and just won their third Big 12 Championship in a row. Georgia is 12-1 overall and went 7-1 in the SEC to win the East Division. Georgia got a 28-7 win over Auburn in the SEC Championship Game. Georgia boasts one of the best defenses in the nation, ranking fourth in total defense (270.9 yards per game), second in passing yards allowed (158.3 yards per game), third in scoring defense (13.2 points per game) and 12th in rushing defense (112.6 yards per game).
Oklahoma is the only Big 12 program to qualify for the College Football Playoff. OU has the best offense in the nation. The Sooners lead the nation by averaging 583.3 yards per game and 8.4 yards per play. Only one team (Hawaii at 8.6 in 2006) averaged more yards per play for an entire season.
Mayfield leads the nation in completion percentage (.710), passing efficiency rating (203.8; would break his own FBS single-season record), yards per pass attempt (11.8), yards per completion (16.6) and pass of plays of 20-plus yards (75), while ranking second in passing touchdowns (41), fourth in total offense per game (357.7) and fourth passing yards per game (333.8).
A finalist for the Maxwell, Davey O’Brien, Manning and Walter Camp Player of the Year Awards (and the Burlsworth Trophy), Mayfield has completed 262-of-369 passes this year for a career-high 4,340 yards and 41 touchdowns to just five interceptions (8.2-to-1 ratio) while rushing for 310 yards and another five scores.
Oklahoma is making their 19th straight bowl appearance. Only two schools own longer active consecutive streaks of bowl appearances recognized by the NCAA: Virginia Tech (25) and Georgia (21). Oklahoma has a 29-20-1 all-time bowl record.
This will mark just OU’s second appearance in the Rose Bowl. In 2003, the No. 8 Sooners beat No. 7 Washington State a 34-14 behind quarterback and game MVP Nate Hybl. Running back Quentin Griffin rushed 30 times for 144 yards and a touchdown, and Antonio Perkins returned a punt 51 yards for a score.
In Georgia’s only previous appearance in the Rose Bowl Game, the Bulldogs beat UCLA, 9-0, on Jan. 1, 1943. The win resulted in a national championship for Georgia.
“I couldn’t be more excited for our team and especially our seniors with the selection of our team to participate in the College Football Playoff,” said Smart. “It also represents a great challenge playing a team like Oklahoma who has proven to be one of the country’s most accomplished programs in college football history.”
“I have a lot of respect for the University of Oklahoma and their football team and for Baker Mayfield, great player,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said after the 17-41 loss Saturday. “Against a team like that, especially offense you can’t make mistakes. …But you have to give Oklahoma a lot of credit. I’m proud of them being our conference champion. You want to beat them, now the game, at the end of the days you need to cheer for them. They asked me if I thought they were one of the best ones in the country, and I said yep, I told them their offense was probably like when we played Sam Bradford back in 2008 which tells you how long I’ve been around here. That group played for a national championship.”
Against TCU, Mayfield hit 15-of-23 passes for 243 yards and 4 touchdowns with no interceptions and ran for 65 yards on six carries, including a career-long 54-yard rush in the second quarter.
OU tight end Mark Andrews had a career-high seven catches for 58 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Marquise Brown caught three passes for 87 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Brown now has 981 receiving yards on the season to rank 10th on OU’s single-season list.
OU linebacker Caleb Kelly scored on an 18-yard fumble recovery in the first quarter. It was his second career fumble recovery (both this season). Linebacker Kenneth Murray got the first forced fumble of his career in the first quarter.
“We found ways to win games early in the season when we weren’t at our best and we kept our heads down and kept fighting and kept getting better and better, not listening to the noise on the outside and we’ve played pretty good ball here at the end,” Riley said after the TCU win. “Also, really proud of our group not listening to the entire narrative across the country that we shouldn’t be playing this championship game and all that mess. That had nothing to do with it. We knew there was going to be a championship game several months ago and that was going to be part of our journey if we wanted to get to this place. We were excited honestly just for the chance to play another game together. We only got a few left and to get that one we’re appreciative and thankful we had the game.
“To beat a really, really good TCU team again was tough. Their coaching staff and players are tremendous. It’s a really, really good football team. So hats off to them and hats off to the rest of the league. I thought it was a great year for the Big 12 conference. The depth, the quality of teams, the competition, week in and week out was as good as any conference in the country.”