The Big-12 Championship is perhaps the most intriguing of all the conference title matchups this weekend. Oklahoma and Baylor treated the nation to a thriller in November. Hopefully, their rematch is just as excited.
Oklahoma is poised to win its fourth straight conference title game. The Sooners are also angling for a spot in the College Football Playoff for the fourth time in six years.
Baylor has never played in the Big-12 championship game, but does have two Big-12 conference titles (2013, 2014). Their 2014 split conference title is part of the reason for the Big-12 title game, since Ohio State leapt Baylor in the SFP standings that season.
Big-12 Championship: The Game
This is the much anticipated matchup of the thrilling comeback victory for the Sooners in Waco, TX. Oklahoma came storming back in the second-half of that game to win 34-31. Heisman hopeful Jalen Hurts struggled early but led the way to the win.
Oklahoma sports the best defense in the Big-12 (336.1 yards-per-game), but Baylor isn’t far behind (352.8 yards-per-game). These two defenses will contend with high-scoring offenses and talented skill-position players.
Baylor will need to limit Hurts’ effectiveness outside of the pocket. The dual-threat quarterback threw for 297 yards and four touchdowns against the Bears, while also gaining 114 yards on the ground.
Hurts will need to take care of the football though, as he turned it over three times versus Baylor in November. The Bears are plus-12 in turnover margin this season, and that’ll be a key for both teams.
Big-12 Championship: College Football Playoff
Both of these squads are alive in the race for the College Football Playoff. Whichever team, Oklahoma (No. 6) and Baylor (No. 7), wins, they’ll be considered right along with Utah (No. 5). All three of these teams need Georgia to lose to LSU in the SEC Championship game.
Oklahoma’s case of the spot in the CFP is stronger than Utah’s or Baylor’s. A win would give Oklahoma a pair of top-10 victories as well as another top-25 victory. A blowout win by Oklahoma will all but put them in their fourth CFP bracket in six years.
Baylor is more of a long shot to make the final four. They’ll need to win, and for the chalk to prevail in the SEC, ACC and Big-10. If Georgia wins the SEC, Baylor is all but eliminated, regardless of the outcome of their game. Baylor will have improved odds if Oregon defeats Utah.
Big-12 Championship: Oklahoma’s Draft Implications
While some of the other conference title games might have bigger names, this contest still has several high-profile prospects.
Oklahoma receiver CeeDee Lamb is in the top-2 at his position and should be selected within the first 15 picks of the 2020 NFL Draft. A big performance here and in their bowl game could only improve his standing.
Center Creed Humphrey is considered the second-best at his position by most, and he’s a borderline first-rounder. The redshirt sophomore has been steady all season and has great length for the position. He’s been a huge factor in Oklahoma’s dominant run game and could play his way into the first round.
Jalen Hurts is also a potential first round pick. The former Alabama quarterback has excelled under OU’s Lincoln Riley and his Joe Burrow’s top competition for the Heisman. He’s an efficient passer and playmaker who’s eclipsed 3,000-yards passing and 1,000-yards rushing. He’s accounted for 49 touchdowns this season. A great performance in the Big-12 title game and the proceeding bowl could vault him into the first round.
Oklahoma also boasts potential second-day selections in linebacker Kenneth Murray and defensive tackle Neville Gallimore. Murray has registered 85 total tackles this season and 318 in his three-year career. Gallimore is a solid presence upfront. He’s picked up 143 total tackles, eight sacks and five forced fumbles in his time as a Sooner.
Big-12 Championship: Baylor’s Draft Implications
Baylor doesn’t sport the marquee prospects but they have several potential NFL players.
Defensive lineman James Lynch is one of the top 5-technique tackles in the draft. He’s a potential second-day pick, perhaps in the third round.
Receiver Denzel Mims is also a solid NFL prospect for Baylor. The 6’3″ senior has hauled in 61 passes for 945 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. In his career, Mims has 181 receptions and 27 touchdowns. He’s likely a third-day pick, maybe the fifth round, but he could certainly improve his stock with a great game against a great defense.
Beyond those two, Baylor could also see defensive tackle Bravvion Roy and linebacker Blake Lynch selected in the late rounds. Roy is a space-eater with 51 total tackles and 4.5 sacks this season. And Lynch is a versatile player who’s made starts at five different positions in his career, including cornerback, linebacker, and safety, as well as on offense.
Big-12 Championship: Prediction, Oklahoma 27, Baylor 24
These two teams thrilled the country in November, and I think they’ll do it again in December. Baylor has a good, ball-hawking defense that has shown it can turn Hurts over, so that will keep the game close. But Oklahoma’s power running game will likely prove too much for the Bears to overcome.