Oklahoma has won the Big 12 again. And the Sooners could be going to the College Football Playoff for the third straight season.
No. 6 Oklahoma beat No. 7 Baylor, 30-23, in overtime on Saturday for a fifth straight Big 12 title. The victory puts the Sooners (12-1) in position to snag the No. 4 seed in the playoff if No. 4 Georgia loses to No. 2 LSU in the SEC championship game. No. 5 Utah lost Friday night to No. 13 Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game.
The winning score came courtesy of a five-yard run by running back Rhamondre Stevenson, a player who started the season third on Oklahoma’s depth chart at the position.
Baylor (11-2) had a chance to send the game to a second OT after Stevenson’s score. But the magic of its third-stringer ran out. Oklahoma blitzed the heck out of freshman QB Jacob Zeno on the possession and Baylor ended up turning it over on downs after a big third-down sack and a fourth-down incompletion.
Oklahoma turns to ground game in second half
Sooners QB Jalen Hurts didn’t have his finest game. Hurts was 17-of-24 passing for 287 yards and a touchdown but threw an interception and also fumbled. He also rushed for just 38 yards on 23 carries, though sacks are calculated in that total.
With the pass game not at its finest, Oklahoma ran the ball like crazy in the second half. And it worked. The Sooners trailed 13-10 at halftime and took a 23-13 fourth-quarter lead on the strength of its running game. The Sooners rushed the ball 26 times in the half and Stevenson was the most productive runner. He finished the game with eight carries for 48 yards.
While Stevenson had been splitting time with Kennedy Brooks following a season-ending injury to Trey Sermon earlier in the year, Stevenson was in the game in overtime because Brooks left the game late in the fourth quarter because of an apparent head injury.
Zeno completes first two passes for 159 yards
Baylor starting QB Charlie Brewer left the game in the first half after his head hit the turf on a sack. Brewer was replaced by Gerry Bohanan, though Bohanan gave way to Zeno after Oklahoma had built that 10-point lead and Baylor needed to throw the football more to get back into the game.
And boy, did Zeno deliver in regulation. His first passing attempt turned into an 81-yard catch-and-run TD by Tristan Ebner. His second pass was a 78-yard pass to Chris Platt that set up the short field goal that eventually sent the game to overtime.
But Zeno’s luck ran out after those two completions. He didn’t make a completion after Platt’s big reception and finished the game 2-of-5 passing.
Oklahoma’s defense plays well
Yeah, the passes Zeno completed were for huge gains. But the much-maligned Oklahoma defense kept the Sooners in the game as the offense fell short of its typical 44 points per game.
Baylor had just 265 total yards, meaning the Bears accrued just 106 yards outside of Zeno’s two passes. Bohanan was 4-of-15 passing while Brewer threw for just 15 yards before his departure.
The defense will have to keep playing well if Oklahoma gets into the playoff and has any hope of getting to the national championship game for the first time in the playoff era. The offenses of LSU, Ohio State and Clemson are three of the best in the country and steps ahead of Baylor’s.
If OU goes to the playoff, Baylor heads to New Orleans
If Georgia beats LSU, the Bulldogs are a near-lock for the playoff and it likely wouldn’t change what the tentative playoff field was heading into conference championship weekend. That would send Oklahoma to the Sugar Bowl.
If LSU wins, Oklahoma will be the fourth of four undefeated or one-loss teams near the top of the College Football playoff. And it should snag that coveted fourth slot. That should put Baylor in the Sugar Bowl, likely against Georgia.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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