By Michael Kinney
Ever since Oklahoma lost to Texas back in October, they have been in playoff mode. Knowing a second loss on their resume would all but eliminate them from contention for a spot in the College Football Playoffs, the Sooners have been in must-win mode.
After defeating West Virginia Friday, Oklahoma now has a chance to strengthen its case for a third trip to the playoffs by earning a trip to the Big 12 Championship. But also as important to fans, they get another shot at the Longhorns, who they will meet at 11 a.m. Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
However, don’t expect the players to express the same revenge sentiment. When they met with the media Monday, they said their focus was on other things.
“The fact that this is a championship game and all that is riding on it overshadows that in my opinion,” coach Lincoln Riley said. “I don’t take it lightly. I get the historical significance behind it. I know OU and Texas haven’t played each other twice in a season in a very long time.”
Oklahoma is going for a record fourth straight Big 2 Championship. According to linebacker Kenneth Murray, that is all the team is focused on.
“It’s just another opportunity for us as a team to achieve the goals we wanted to achieve, which was win the Big 12 Championship this year,” Murray said. “Obviously, trying to win it for the fourth time in a row is really important to us. Trying to do something that has never been done before. So that’s the main focus for us.”
But in order to do that, Oklahoma has to get past a Texas squad that would love nothing more than to play spoiler twice in the same season. If UT sweeps OU this season, that would be a feather in their hats that the Sooners would never be able to live down.
The last time the two teams met at the Red River Shootout, the Longhorns victory was the final game for former OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops. Ruffin McNeil stepped in as the interim coordinator since then.
In those six games, the Sooners have given up 230 total points. That includes an average of 47 points over the past four games.
“We are 6-0 since the change,” Riley said. “That’s what matters most to me. We’ve had some games where we played really well. We’ve had some games where we haven’t played well at times. But we’ve made enough big plays to get it done. I think we’re progressing in a lot of ways, but we have to put it all together.”
One area that doesn’t seem to be much of a concern is Oklahoma’s offense, which is ranked No. 1 in the nation in several categories. That includes scoring offense (50.3 points), total offense (583 yards), yards per play (8.9) and yards per rush (7.0).
The Sooners are the only team in the nation with at least 30 rushing touchdowns and 30 passing TDs.
That may be one of the reasons Texas tried to bring in in former Kansas coach David Beatty to be a consultant to help the Longhorns prepare for OU.
“Coach Beatty can do what he wants to do,” Riley said smiling. “I don’t like the precedent of it, of being able to bring on somebody from the league in the same year. I don’t think that’s good for the conference, but it’s not against the rules and if they want to do it that’s fine.”
If the Sooners win Saturday and take the Big 12 title, the question will remain, will it be enough to put them into the playoffs. Only the CFP committee knows that.
But Riley doesn’t want his squad dwelling on it. They have other fish to fry first.
“Right now I’d ask them (CFP committee) if they understand how difficult it is to beat Texas because that’s all I’m worried about,” Riley said. “I get it. I get it’s going to be a conversation. It was the same thing last year. We knew that we had to win this game and most years, most teams are going to have to win their conference to get into the playoff. I know that’s not a surprise to anybody. I want my team’s focus right there.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider