No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 8 Baylor meet up in the Big 12 championship game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, with a possible College Football Playoff berth on the line.
It’s a rematch of an epic game in Waco just three weeks ago, one in which the Sooners fell behind 28-3 before pulling off the biggest comeback in program history to beat the Bears 34-31. The Bears’ fearsome defense suddenly had no answer for quarterback Jalen Hurts, who turned the ball over three times before catching fire and outdueling Charlie Brewer for the win.
Oklahoma got its first turnover in more than a month to start the third quarter, but then Baylor’s James Lynch stripped Hurts as he crossed the goal line. After that, the Bears had the football for fewer than six minutes in the second half as the Sooners rallied.
Both teams talked this week about not drawing too much from the earlier matchup. It was like two different games, after all. Instead, they’re taking a fresh approach — essentially “this week’s opponent” — so here’s everything you need for the 2019 Big 12 championship game:
MORE: Get the latest NCAA odds & betting advice at Sports Insider
Baylor vs. Oklahoma odds
Oklahoma is an 8.5-point favorite, according to Sports Insider.
Baylor vs. Oklahoma all-time series
Oklahoma leads the all-time series 25-3. The Sooners won the first 20 games before Baylor won three out of four matchups from 2011-14. Oklahoma has won the last five meetings, and Lincoln Riley is 3-0 against Matt Rhule.
Three trends to know
— Oklahoma has won 12 of the league’s 24 conference championships (sharing a title with Kansas State in 2012). Texas owns the second-most conference crowns with three. OU’s mark includes a 9-1 record in title games, including four straight appearances dating back to 2010 (the championship game took a hiatus from 2011-16). The Sooners are going for their fifth consecutive Big 12 championship.
— Oklahoma in 2017 had a Heisman Trophy winner and a Big 12 championship in tow, and probably should have had a Playoff victory over Georgia. That same season, Baylor was 1-11. Now, both teams are 11-1, making Baylor the first Power 5 team to go from 11 losses to 11 wins in just two years. One more win and Baylor sets the school record.
— For the third year in a row, and with his third different quarterback, Riley’s offense leads the nation in yards per game (564.3) and yards per play (8.4). Jalen Hurts has a higher completion percentage, more total yards and more total touchdowns than any of OU’s four Heisman-winning quarterbacks did through 12 games.
MORE: A complete guide to conference championship weekend
Three things to watch
Hurts so good
Replacing the legacy of Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield had to be daunting. But if anybody was ready for such a task, it was Hurts. In fewer than 11 months learning Lincoln Riley’s system, Hurts leads the nation in yards per attempt (11.7), yards per completion (16.3) and points responsible for (25.2 per game); ranks third nationally in total offense (380.3 yards per game) and passer efficiency rating (202.3); and is fourth in completion percentage (.719). He’s also 73 yards from breaking the school record for rushing yards by a quarterback (1,289) and is five total touchdowns away from breaking Sam Bradford’s single-season record of 55.
Led by defensive end James Lynch, linebacker Terrel Bernard, nose tackle Bravvion Roy, linebacker Blake Lynch and cornerback Grayland Arnold, the Baylor defense is one of the best in college football. The Bears rank ninth in the country with 40 quarterback sacks and third nationally with 28 takeaways. Anyone who thinks Baylor doesn’t play defense hasn’t watched the Bears deliver one bone-jarring hit after another. Lynch is an All-American candidate, and since Big 12 tackles leader Clay Johnston went down with an ACL, Bernard has been even more productive at middle linebacker.
CeeDee Lamb vs. Grayland Arnold
Lamb, a Biletnikoff Award finalist and All-American candidate with 1,045 yards and 14 touchdowns ib 50 catches, missed the matchup in Waco after taking a hard hit to the head in the Iowa State game. Over the Sooners’ next two games, he caught just six passes for 52 yards. Arnold is one of the Big 12’s best and most experienced cover corners, and picked off Hurts in the first meeting to return it 71 yards. With Lamb back and healthy, Arnold faces his greatest challenge of the season.
MORE: Picks against the spread for every conference championship game
Stat that matters
Oklahoma is the first Big 12 team since Nebraska in 1997 to lead the conference in both total offense (564.3 yards per game) and total defense (336.1 yards per game). The offense part is certainly no surprise, as the Sooners have led the nation in total offense each of Riley’s three seasons. But last year the Sooners defense ranked 114th in the nation in total defense and 129th (last in all of FBS) in pass defense. This season? The Sooners, in their first season under Alex Grinch, lead the Big 12 in both categories.
Baylor vs. Oklahoma prediction
Hurts has been remarkably good this season, but he’s also been unforgivably bad at times, too. In the last meeting with Baylor, Hurts gave away three turnovers, including a fumble at the goal line and an interception into coverage. In all, he has lost the ball 11 times. If Hurts plays clean football, Oklahoma wins its fifth straight Big 12 title, and maybe more. But if the Sooners (minus-5 in turnover ratio in 2019) can’t take care of the football, Baylor has a shot at the Playoff. That said, we’ll go with Oklahoma winning — and a familiar score.
Final score: Oklahoma 34, Baylor 31
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