The rain never ceased, but it wasn’t a problem for Oklahoma’s offense in the Sooners’ 38–20 win over Oklahoma State in this year’s edition of the Bedlam series. Oklahoma clinched the Big 12 championship with the win and guaranteed itself a spot in the Sugar Bowl. Here are three thoughts on an entertaining, if occasionally sloppy, game in Norman.
1. Oklahoma State was burned by big plays
With an unceasing rain soaking the field, the game balls and the players, this year’s edition of Bedlam looked like it’d need to pivot away from long pass plays and toward a more traditional run-based attack for either team to be able to move the ball. After an ugly first four drives that featured four punts, both teams adjusted to the conditions to find some offensive rhythm. But it was the Sooners’ ability to break big plays that prompted them to their second straight win in the rivalry series.
Baker Mayfield got it started with 69-yard touchdown pass to preferred target Dede Westbrook (who would eventually leave the game with a concussion but still compiled 111 receiving yards), which gave Oklahoma an early 7–3 lead. Mayfield would find Dimitri Flowers on the next drive for a 67-yard pass that set up Austin Seibert’s 34-yard field goal to push the lead to seven. Tack on a 42-yard pass from Mayfield to Jeffery Mead, which set up Geno Lewis’s game-tying TD in the second quarter; a 66-yard run by Samaje Perine to set up the go-ahead touchdown on the opening drive of the second half; and a 79-yard touchdown run by Joe Mixon to secure the 38–20 victory, and it was the big plays that ultimately made the difference.
The Sooners logged four plays of 60 yards or more and benefited from 338 combined rushing yards from Mixon and Perine (Mixon also caught a touchdown) to keep the Cowboys on their heels. Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, whose name has been linked to some head coach vacancies, made perfect use of his depth and showcased why he’s one of the nation’s most revered offensive minds even at the tender age of 33. So much of Oklahoma’s offense has run through Mayfield and Westbrook, who logged at least 100 yards receiving and one touchdown in eight of nine conference games this season, but with Westbrook out, Riley pivoted the attack Saturday to focus on Perine, who finished with 239 yards rushing and one touchdown. The Sooners won’t be in the College Football Playoff, and every defense of the fortunate four is probably relieved that they’re not around.
2. Baker Mayfield should go to New York
The outspoken Oklahoma quarterback is known for being one of college football’s most colorful characters. Despite a host of doubters (many of whom Mayfield publicly has called out), the junior quarterback again showed that he’s one of the best signal-callers in the nation. After a splendid season that saw him finish with 3,381 yards and 35 touchdowns, Mayfield should be elected to travel to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. While there’s little to no chance that he jumps Louisville QB Lamar Jackson to win the award, Mayfield’s spectacular campaign shouldn’t go ignored.
Some naysayers may point to the amount of top playmakers he has to assist him (Westbrook, Mixon, Perine), but Mayfield was in top form Saturday. He didn’t miss any of the big throws that spread out Oklahoma State’s defense and led to Oklahoma’s scoring plays. He also hit Mixon with a 14-yard laser for a touchdown that would give the Sooners a 31–17 lead that they wouldn’t surrender. (He had another pass to Mixon that should have been a touchdown that the running back dropped.)
Despite a superlative sophomore season, Mayfield was still considered inferior to the likes of UCLA’s Josh Rosen and his Saturday counterpart, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, at various points during the season (I was one of those critics). Sometimes it’s good to be wrong, and Mayfield should earn some Heisman votes for his stellar play.
3. The Sooners are the hottest team that will miss the playoff
With virtually no route into the College Football Playoff, Oklahoma will have to assume the mantle of hottest team not to earn one of the four coveted spots. After a rocky start to the season that featured losses to Houston and Ohio State, the Sooners dominated Big 12 play and extended their conference winning streak to 16 (tying Alabama for most consecutive conference victories). The two-back tandem of Perine and Mixon provided a boost that no Big 12 defense could figure out, and Westbrook established himself as the best big-play receiver in college football this season.
The loss to Houston is what will ultimately cost the Sooners a playoff spot, but they’re a tough team to omit from the national semifinals even though the Big 12 had a down year. Oklahoma’s dominance of the conference and its unstoppable offense make it an elite team, but the Sooners will have to settle for a Sugar Bowl berth to continue their play. If they dominate that game, too? Well, maybe the committee will regret not looking at them closer.