You may have heard about a certain game being played in Norman, Oklahoma on Saturday night. The Oklahoma Sooners and the Ohio State Buckeyes will square off in a match-up of two of college football’s bluest of blue-blood programs. For the Sooners, this is a chance at redemption. Oklahoma needs this win to return to the College Football Playoff discussion. A loss will all but eliminate the Sooners. More importantly a loss could also be devastating for the Big 12 this season.
Once again, the Big 12 has a marquee game on the national stage. So far the conference, for the most part, has not fared well against other Power-5 and even sub Power-5 competition.
In week one, Oklahoma lost the season opener in embarrassing fashion to the Houston Cougars. While the Coogs are a well-coached team with true playoff hopes, that loss for the conference was not what the doctor ordered. K-State was outmatched by Stanford, TCU struggled against South Dakota St and Iowa State lost at home to Northern Iowa.
Week two brought more shame. Central Michigan marched into Stillwater and left with a huge win, albeit a controversial win. TCU again struggled with an unranked Arkansas team in Ft. Worth and ultimately lost in overtime. Texas Tech was sacrificed to the desert gods by giving up 68 points to an average Arizona State team.
So far, the biggest “wins” for the conference have been Texas over then 10th ranked Notre Dame, West Virginia taking down an average SEC opponent in Missouri, and Kansas State not getting completely destroyed by Christian McCaffrey and Stanford.
Needless to say, the Big 12 needs a huge victory. Saturday night is the conference’s last chance at showing the College Football Committee that they belong in the final four when it is all said and done. If the Sooners lose, Big 12 hopes rest on the shoulder of an 18-year old quarterback in Austin.
Make no mistake, the Sooners are up against a wall here. A wall, in Urban Meyer, who has not lost a true road game since becoming the head man for the Buckeyes. Surprisingly after only returning six starters total from last season, Ohio State is still a well-oiled machine with J.T. Barrett fully entrenched at the quarterback position. The Buckeye secondary has looked superb in two games so far — accounting for 21 of the 125 points that the Buckeyes have scored this season. The usual line in games like this is that the youthful, underclassmen-laden squad will not be ready for the bright lights in a hostile environment like Memorial Stadium. This Ohio State team is different.
For Oklahoma, they have their advantages. Meyer has expressed concern with quarterback Baker Mayfield’s ability to make big plays with both his arm and legs. The defensive front for the Sooners has also received high praise from the three-time national title-winning coach. If the Sooners are going to get back into the national picture, both Mayfield and the defensive front will have to dominate.
College football is a comedy sometimes. You get high praise in the offseason for having a schedule that features a Houston squad in Houston and an Ohio State game. It’s great for hype, recruiting and earning brownie points from the Committee…when you win. Oklahoma lost to Houston and the luster that followed them in the offseason has gone away, in many ways deservingly so.
Ohio State on the other hand has played Bowling Green and Tulsa. To their credit, they dominated the games while other highly ranked teams have struggled against much lesser squads. If the Sooners had played UTEP or Rice instead of Houston, this game has a much different outlook. The Sooners are more than likely favored and the country would be divided on who would win the game.
Again, this is a huge stage for the Big 12. If Oklahoma can win, which they are certainly capable, the backlash the conference has sadly earned over the first two weeks will go away for the time being. While Texas has impressed and exceeded expectations already, it is still difficult to see the Longhorns go through the rest of their schedule unscathed at this early point in the year.
The Big 12 fate, for the time being rests with the Sooners. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is up to you to decide. Regardless, Saturday will be a fun night for the conference and college football. It’s not every day you see two programs combine for 12 national titles play each other.