ARLINGTON (AP) — Oklahoma could already be playoff bound, except Heisman Trophy front-runner Baker Mayfield and the No. 2 Sooners have to play in the revived Big 12 championship game — and beat No. 10 TCU for the second time in four weeks.
For a league left out of the College Football Playoff twice in the first three years of the system, the timing of its title game return could be less than ideal.
“We’ve known it for a while, and we’re excited to play,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said. “If they all of a sudden sprung this on us here at the end, you probably wouldn’t be real happy about it. It’s another chance for us to go play. It’s a great thing, I think, for our league to showcase two great football teams going at it.”
The Sooners (11-1, 8-1, No. 3 CFP) would almost certainly be a lock for one of the four playoff spots even without another win. But a loss could unravel everything the league had hoped for by resuming its championship game after a six-season hiatus.
Even TCU coach Gary Patterson acknowledged, when asked this week, that “probably the best (outcome) for the Big 12 is Oklahoma to win.”
That doesn’t mean the Horned Frogs (10-2, 7-2, No. 11 CFP) are going to roll over and clear a playoff path for Oklahoma.
Patterson’s group relishes the chance to avenge a 38-20 loss in Norman, Oklahoma, just three weeks ago and win a championship, even with no realistic chance of getting in the playoff if they win.
“I have an obligation to TCU to try to win the game. Period,” Patterson said.
“We feel extremely focused and confident,” left tackle Joseph Noteboom said. “We just wanted another chance at them. In college football, you don’t get really an opportunity to play someone again once you lose a game.”
This is the first time since 1913 that TCU is playing the same opponent twice in the same season.
Oklahoma jumped out to a 38-14 lead on Nov. 11 after Mayfield threw two TDs in the final 5 1/2 minutes of the first half. Running back Rodney Anderson accounted for 290 yards (151 rushing, 139 receiving) and four touchdowns.
“I don’t think either side is going to come in and just totally scrap what they do and change it completely up,” Riley said. “Both teams have obviously had a lot of success doing what they’re doing.”
Patterson said what his Frogs have to change is getting off to a faster start and tackling better.
“We did not tackle Rodney Anderson at all in the first half,” Patterson said. “And if we tackle the same way, it won’t matter what defensive call we have, it’ll look about the same way.”
(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)