Instant Analysis: Oklahoma topples Baylor, muddles Big 12 playoff picture
WACO, Texas — Oklahoma knocked out one of the Big 12’s two remaining undefeated teams and kept itself alive in the Big 12 title hunt with a 44–34 win against No. 6 Baylor. Here are three thoughts from a rainy night in Waco.
1.The Sooners’ three biggest offensive stars came up huge
Quarterback Baker Mayfield completed 24 of 34 passes for 270 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed 15 times for 76 yards and a touchdown. Tailback Samaje Perine carried 28 times for 166 yards with two touchdowns. Meanwhile, receiver Sterling Shepard caught 14 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bears sliced No. 12 Oklahoma’s lead to three when quarterback Jarrett Stidham hit Jay Lee for a 17-yard touchdown with 10:29 remaining. It appeared Baylor would get the ball back when a Travon Blanchard sack of Mayfield forced the Sooners into third-and-long deep in their own territory. But Blanchard was called for a horse collar tackle on the play, and Oklahoma went from third-and-forever to first-and-10 at its own 32. Mayfield guided the Sooners down the field after that. On third-and-goal from the seven, he danced in the pocket behind excellent protection before hitting Dimitri Flowers for a touchdown.
On Baylor’s next play from scrimmage, Ahmad Thomas intercepted Stidham. The Sooners then ran out the clock.
Stidham, the true freshman who was making his second start in place of the injured Seth Russell, completed 16 of 27 passes for 257 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Sooners held Baylor star Corey Coleman to only six targets, resulting in three catches for 51 yards. Coleman caught two passes that had floated out of bounds in the first half, and he dropped a slant before getting clobbered in the third quarter. Oklahoma kept a safety to his side for most of the night. With their best playmaker covered, the rest of the Bears couldn’t pick up the slack.
2. Oklahoma’s win complicates the Big 12’s playoff picture
The Sooners moves on to the next stage of the Big 12 knockout round, but their win complicates matters in terms of a Big 12 team making the playoff. It would have been much tidier for the Big 12 had Baylor won and then faced Oklahoma State in a clash of undefeated teams in Stillwater next week. Now, the Sooners move on to a matchup with a potentially hobbled TCU in Norman next week. Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin left Saturday’s win against Kansas after a first-half ankle injury and didn’t return.
Like Ohio State last year, Oklahoma looks like a completely different team than the one that suffered an early-season loss. Since falling 24–17 to Texas on Oct. 10, the Sooners have won their past five by a combined score of 276–84.
Because of that loss to Texas, Oklahoma must keep winning and probably needs to hope for some chaos elsewhere. For example, a Michigan State win at Ohio State next week could be a huge boon. The last thing the Sooners want is to wind up fighting an 11–1 Notre Dame for the final playoff spot. Why? Because Notre Dame would also have several quality wins and a 38–3 win against Texas that isn’t even close to one of its best. The Fighting Irish’s loss, meanwhile, is at Clemson. The Sooners really need Stanford to beat Notre Dame on Nov. 28 and eliminate them from the playoff hunt.
It also goes without saying that Oklahoma needs to beat TCU next week and Oklahoma State on Oct. 28. That might be difficult enough.
3. It’s time to seriously consider Mayfield for the Heisman Trophy
Before Saturday’s game, Oklahoma sports information director Mike Houck passed out a sheet that showed the numbers for Mayfield compared to the numbers for the past 13 quarterbacks to win the Heisman through the first nine games of their Heisman seasons.
Mayfield’s numbers do stack up favorably, and his performance in the Sooners’ biggest game to date only helps his cause.