Jeffrey McWhorter/Associated Press
The Oklahoma Sooners remain kings of the Big 12 after avenging their October loss to the Texas Longhorns with a 39-27 win in Saturday’s conference championship game.
In the long history of the Red River Rivalry, this marks the first time Oklahoma and Texas have played twice in the same season. The fifth-ranked Sooners not only got revenge for their only defeat this season, but they are also in prime position for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Kyler Murray picked apart the Texas defense, going 25-of-34 for 379 passing yards, 39 rushing yards and three passing touchdowns. Sooners receiver CeeDee Lamb finished with a season-high 167 yards in the win.
Sam Ehlinger did everything he could to keep Texas in the game. The sophomore finished 23-of-36 with 349 yards passing, 42 yards rushing and accounted for all four Longhorns touchdowns (two passing, two rushing) and one interception.
Strong Resume Should Put Sooners in College Football Playoff
There are still games with playoff implications to be played, but Oklahoma has done what was necessary to be included in the College Football Playoff top four.
The only obstacle standing in the Sooners’ way would be a Georgia victory over Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. There’s mounting speculation the Crimson Tide, even with a loss on Saturday, would be included in the top four.
“It looks like there could be a way,” Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl president Gary Stokan told reporters in November.
Assuming chalk holds throughout Championship Saturday, that last spot is there for the taking.
CFP committee chairman Rob Mullens told reporters after Tuesday’s rankings were released that the selection committee gave Oklahoma an edge over No. 6 Ohio State on offense and strength of schedule.
“When you look at the numbers, while (Oklahoma’s) defense has been a challenge, their offense has been superior,” he said. “They find a way to win the games based on the talent that they have. That lines up that the offense carries them. … Oklahoma has a little bit stronger schedule than Ohio State at this point.”
Even though both the Sooners and Buckeyes each have one loss, Oklahoma’s was by three points to its biggest rival—ranked No. 14 in the playoff standings—at a neutral site. The two-time reigning Big 12 champs also scored a measure of revenge for that defeat with a statement on Saturday.
By comparison, Ohio State was blown out by 29 points on the road against a Purdue team that finished the regular season 6-6. Urban Meyer‘s team also plays a worse opponent in the Big Ten Championship Game—No. 21 Northwestern—than Oklahoma did in its title game.
With such a small gap separating the two teams, Oklahoma’s overall body of work is more accomplished than Ohio State’s, even with the Big Ten title still to be decided.
Kyler Murray‘s Historic Season Deserves Heisman Trophy
By virtually every account, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is going to win the 2018 Heisman Trophy. There’s a strong argument in his favor, given his staggering 70.3 completion percentage, 11.9 yards per attempt, 36 touchdowns and two interceptions for the nation’s best team.
A deeper dive would also show Murray has been even better than Tagovailoa in certain areas. The Sooners star entered Saturday with a better completion percentage (70.6), more yards per attempt (12.0), passing touchdowns (37) and rushing touchdowns (11 to five).
Per Sports Illustrated‘s Andy Staples, Baker Mayfield set the FBS record with 11.5 yards per attempt last season en route to winning the Heisman.
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray has now been responsible for 50 touchdowns this season.
That’s one more than Heisman winner Baker Mayfield had in 14 games last season. https://t.co/e7TgOcHgkC
ESPN’s Jesse Palmer laid out an argument for Murray to win college football’s most prestigious honor during the Nov. 24 broadcast of College Football Countdown (via 247Sports’ Sam Hellman):
“He’s doing something we’ve never seen before in college football. He’s averaging 300 passing yards and over 60 rushing yards a game. Never been done. You cannot argue that Kyler Murray is not more valuable to his team than Tua is to his. I think Bama is 11-0 with Jalen Hurts at quarterback. Oklahoma may not be a .500 team with their defense if they don’t have Kyler Murray.”
Oklahoma’s defense is ranked 100th in FBS with 32.8 points allowed per game. If Murray has an off game, the Sooners will have great difficulty overcoming it because they don’t stop opposing teams.
At least one Oklahoma fan was PUMPED for CeeDee Lamb’s touchdown. https://t.co/pPqwWnG76Y
Alabama reached back-to-back College Football Playoff Championship games with Jalen Hurts at quarterback. The Crimson Tide defense ranks third in the nation with 13.8 points allowed per game.
Mayfield could actually be an argument used against Murray. If voters assume Lincoln Riley’s system is designed to make quarterbacks successful, they may be less inclined to reward another Oklahoma star.
That would be a shame because there’s nothing in the numbers to suggest Murray doesn’t deserve to be crowned as the 2018 Heisman Trophy winner during the ceremony in New York on Dec. 8.
Tom Herman Has Texas Ready to Dominate Big 12 in 2019
It’s amazing how far Texas has come since the start of this season. Some analysts were putting head coach Tom Herman on the hot seat after a 34-29 loss to Maryland on Sept. 1.
Three months later, after an upset win over the Sooners during the regular season and standing toe-to-toe with their rival in the Big 12 title game, Texas looks poised to reclaim its spot as one of the nation’s elite programs.
One reason for the Longhorns to be optimistic heading into 2019 is the return of Ehlinger. The second-year star was destined to be Texas’ quarterback, growing up in Austin and committing to the program two years before graduating high school.
Sam Ehlinger was destined to be the @TexasLonghorns’ quarterback 🤘 https://t.co/fO7ESYx67D
Ehlinger has blossomed into an excellent playmaker this season, accounting for 34 combined touchdowns before Saturday and showing tremendous presence and accuracy from the pocket.
In addition to another year from Ehlinger, Herman’s recruiting efforts should start paying off as he heads into his third season with the program.
Herman has already established his team can compete with the best in the Big 12. Their four losses this season came by a combined total of 21 points.
The conference figures to be wide-open next season. West Virginia quarterback Will Grier is in his final year of eligibility. Oklahoma could look very different next season with Murray poised to begin his Major League Baseball career with the Oakland Athletics.
“I feel like I could play in the NFL,” Murray told reporters Monday, “but as far as giving it up, as of now, yeah, that’s the plan.”
Riley has also been connected to multiple NFL jobs throughout this season, including a potential Mayfield reunion with the Cleveland Browns.
The stage is set for Herman and the Longhorns to become the class of the Big 12 after a successful 2018 season.
With the regular season finished, Texas and Oklahoma will now wait to see which bowl game they will be headed to when the postseason schedule is announced on Sunday.