The stakes couldn’t be much higher for No. 7 Oklahoma this week.
After beating then-No. 4 Baylor 44-34 Saturday night in Waco, OU will host No. 11 TCU this Saturday as all three teams battle for a Big 12 championship.
If the Sooners beat TCU, it will set up a showdown in Stillwater November 28 with the winner (if Oklahoma State beats Baylor) being the Big 12 champion and probably getting a spot in the four-team national championship playoff.
Whoever loses Saturday won’t win the conference.
TCU might be without their two best players – All Big 12 quarterback Trevone Boykin and receiver Josh Doctson. On Monday, TCU coach Gary Patterson said both were questionable for the OU game.
“I can already tell the difference in our football team, yesterday in the hour of practice we have on Sunday, them understanding the urgency if either one of those guys don’t play,” Patterson said Monday.
“We have such respect for him,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said of Boykin on Monday. “Whether he’s able to play or not, we will operate under the assumption that he will. With him, compared to the other guys, it’s obvious that you have more quarterback run game and the ability of the quarterback to have designed runs – which they are good at. You can get some with the other guys as well.”
In a win against Kansas Saturday, TCU backup quarterback Bram Kohlhausen made 13 of 19 passes for 112 yards and an interception during the second quarter and first series of the third quarter. After the interception, with the game tied 10-10, TCU inserted redshirt freshman Foster Sawyer for the rest of the game. Sawyer went 1-for-7, completing only a 42-yard touchdown pass to Shaun Nixon, but also producing two field-goal drives.
“One of the things that will happen this week is these guys will actually get more and more reps, so they’ll be more prepared for the ballgame, more ready to go,” Patterson said.
The Horned Frogs (9-1, 6-1) beat the Sooners (9-1, 6-1) 37-33 in a hard-fought game last season in Fort Worth. OU holds a 9-5 series lead. TCU has won 17 of its last 18 games and is 21-2 over the last two seasons.
If the Sooners do win the next two, will it be enough to go past Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama or Notre Dame?
“The obvious part of it for us is that we have to play really well this week to win, against another Top 11 team,” Stoops said. “And after that, you have Oklahoma State who is in the Top 4.
“So we have opportunities but the only way things happen for us is to continue to play well and win this week. Then there will be more to talk about after that.”
Stoops said going on the road and beating a Top 6 team by double digits “says something.”
“If we can play well this week, there will be more to say next week,” Stoops said. ”We have done all we can to play well and to put ourselves in a position to be one of the teams in the top four. But we’ve got to win this week.”
Stoops said the quality of opponents, their records and the people they have defeated with weigh in with the selection committee. “That’s what they say they recognize – the quality of your opponents,” Stoops said.
OU has one of the top scoring defenses (ranked No. 21) in the country. They held Baylor to 250 yards less than their average on offense and held Texas Tech to 200 yards less than their average.
“They are the top one and two offenses in America,” Stoops said. “Obviously, we are playing well in all parts of the game. And statistically it shows that.”
Stoops discounted criticism of the strength of the Big 12 Conference.
“Four of the top 11 in the country are in the Big 12,” Stoops said. “Obviously, we are one of the better conferences.”
OU had a great game Saturday in front of a national TV audience.
OU quarterback Baker Mayfield was named Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week for his play against the previously unbeaten Bears. Mayfield hit 24 of 34 passes (70 percent) for 270 yards and three touchdowns. He ran for 76 yards and one touchdown. “Offensively, Baker Mayfield was tremendous, and all the guys around him made big plays,” Stoops said after the game.
Mayfield’s ability to scramble and extend plays made a difference. “Yeah, sometimes we have a few more sacks than a few teams, and that’s why,” Stoops said. “His ability to scramble out of some things are different from a lot of other guys, and you have to live with those. Sometimes he gets trapped in the pocket and can’t make something happen, so you’re going to have some of those. He makes far more plays outside of the pocket than just throwing the ball away or surrendering, so that’s how it goes.”
Across the nation, Mayfield is tied for No. 1 with at least four touchdowns seven times this season. He ranks second in pass efficiency rating (183.9), second in passing yards per attempt (10.0), third in completion percentage (70.2) and fifth in passing touchdowns (31).
When Baylor scored, OU was able to come back with points of its own.
“That’s something we just talked about all week,” Mayfield said. “We knew Baylor was going to score points. We needed to just focus on us, so we went out and executed. Our goal was just to react and respond to them, and that’s what we did.”
OU’s Sterling Shepherd had 14 receptions for 177 yards and two touchdowns. Shepard now ranks third in program history in career receptions (208) and career receiving yards (3,197), and is tied for fourth in career touchdown receptions (24) and third in career 100-yard games (11). “I’m just taking it one game at a time and not listening to anything outside, and we’re just keeping it in house,” Shepard said Saturday. “We’re just striving to play better in the next game.”
Did the Sooners make a statement with the win over Baylor?
“Yeah, you always want to make a statement for yourself,” Shepard said. “Your next performance, however, is what people are going to remember you by, so you want to come out and compete. The offense today just allowed me to get open and get the ball. The line did a great job blocking, Samaje [Perine] did a great job running the ball, and Baker [Mayfield] was fantastic as always.”
OU’s Samaje Perine rushed for 166 yards on 28 total carries while adding two touchdowns for Oklahoma. The Sooners outrushed Baylor 241 yards to 159.
The OU defense did a number on the Baylor’s offense and freshman quarterback. The high-powered Bear offense was held to eight possessions with four plays or less.
“Playing Baylor’s offense, that doesn’t happen very often,” Stoops said.
OU held Baylor to just 13 first-half points, its lowest total in a first half this season (previously 21 vs. KSU) and its lowest since scoring seven points in the first half against Texas in 2013. It marked the fifth time this season OU has held its opponent under 14 points in the first half. The Sooner defense held Baylor to its second lowest point total of the season (31 vs. Kansas State) and is just the third unit to hold Baylor under 50.
OU’s defense limited Baylor wideout Corey Coleman to season lows in receptions (three) and yards (51). The Sooners are just the second team to hold Coleman under the 100-yard mark this year and the first team to keep Coleman out of the end zone.
“They rolled to him a whole bunch,” said Baylor coach Art Briles. “They really did a good job with him and we didn’t do a good job of taking advantage of the other things we had. But they came in and by not being able to run the ball, it allowed them to do some things on the back end that limited everything and that’s why you keep trying to run, because if you run, then you can define the back end a little better.”
Stoops said he is hoping for a “charged up” home crowd Saturday night against TCU with a 7 p.m. kickoff.