Smells like Roses: OU wins Big 12 Championship, likely headed to Rose Bowl
Baker Mayfield and No. 2 Oklahoma were happy to have another game, even with the potential consequences. The Sooners definitely left no question about whether they will be in the playoff.
Heisman Trophy front-runner Mayfield threw four touchdowns and the Sooners staked their playoff spot with a 41-17 win over No. 10 TCU in the return of the Big 12 championship game Saturday.
“The reason I came back was to play for a national title,” Mayfield said. “The most exciting thing about today is we control our destiny. ... That’s all out in front of us.”
With their record 11th Big 12 title, the Sooners (12-1, No. 3 CFP) are a lock to be in the College Football Playoff for the second time in three seasons. They are the only Big 12 team to make the four-team playoff format that started in 2014.
The Sooners probably would have made the playoffs even if the Big 12 hadn’t played its first championship game since 2010. But a loss would have likely knocked the Sooners out of contention.
“I’m really proud of our group for not listening to all the noise on the outside and we’ve played pretty good ball here at the end,” Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said. “We knew there was going to be a championship game and that was just going to be part of our journey if we wanted to get to this place.”
Oklahoma jumped out to a quick 17-0 lead, including Caleb Kelly’s 18-yard fumble return for a touchdown after running back Kyle Hicks’ turnover on the first offensive play by TCU (10-3, No. 11).
Kenny Hill threw two TD passes to get the Horned Frogs within 24-17 at halftime, but Oklahoma scored twice on its first three offensive plays after the break.
“Big plays, we gave up a couple. ... Two plays basically in the second half,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “The worst thing that could happen in the third quarter happened.”
A week before the Heisman Trophy winner will be named, Mayfield finished 15-of-23 passing for 243 yards and take game MVP honors. The first two touchdowns were to tight end Mark Andrews .
Hill opened the second half with three consecutive incompletions. On the first play after the punt, Mayfield hit Mykel Jones for a 55-yard catch-and-run score.
On fourth-and-1 from the Oklahoma 41 on the next drive, Hill bootlegged to the right side. Big defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo chased him toward the sideline before Parnell Motley delivered the crushing blow that kept TCU’s quarterback from getting a first down.
Two plays later, Marquise Brown made an impressive over-the-shoulder grab for a 52-yard TD and a 38-17 lead.
Hill finished 27-of-37 for 234 yards passing and led TCU with 51 yards rushing.
The Sooners clinched their third straight Big 12 title, all since former Texas Tech transfer Mayfield took over as the starting quarterback. Their 11th Big 12 title overall was the first without Bob Stoops, the coach for their last national title in 2000 who resigned unexpectedly last summer. Riley, at 34 the youngest FBS head coach, is only the fifth coach in FBS history with no previous head coaching experience at a four-year college to win at least 12 games in his debut season.
Oklahoma is 8-1 in Big 12 championship games, winning seven of them between 2000 and 2010, when the Sooners beat Nebraska in the league’s last championship game until Saturday. ... TCU has previously won or shared conference titles in the old Southwest Conference, Conference USA, the WAC, the Mountain West and Big 12. But this was the Frogs’ first conference title game.
Up next, the Sooners wait to find out who they will play and in which national semifinal game, the Rose Bowl or Sugar Bowl.