After an offseason spent wondering and speculating about whether or not we’d even have Big 12 football, the culmination of the 2020 conference season has arrived. League play for the past few months saw multiple teams jockey for the opportunity to face off in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, and this weekend the Big 12 will crown a football champion in its 25th year of existence.
One of the contestants, the Oklahoma Sooners, are of course accustomed to finding themselves in this position. The Sooners are going for their sixth straight title, and 14th overall. Their path to this game has been anything but smooth, however, as Oklahoma began Big 12 play at 0-2, and found themselves in the unfamiliar position of having to pull themselves up from the bottom of the conference’s standings. The Sooners did just that, ripping off 7 straight wins and climbing back to secure their spot.
To say this is a unique opportunity for Iowa State, on the other hand, would be an understatement. The Cyclones haven’t won a conference title in over a century, and this will be the first time that Iowa State will have ever played in a Big 12 Championship game. Iowa State had an inauspicious start to their 2020 campaign, losing to Louisiana 31-14 in their home opener. Since then, however, they’ve continued to improve as league play progressed, posting the best Big 12 record at 8-1, and the Cyclones go into Arlington playing some of the best football all season.
- When: Sat, Dec 19, 11:00 AM CT
- Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
- Forecast: Low 60s, Cloudy
- TV: ABC
- Betting Line: OU -5.5 O/U 58
No. 10 Oklahoma Sooners (7-2)
After sputtering a bit – by Oklahoma’s standards – on offense to start the season, the Sooners have looked as potent as they usually do these past few weeks. The quarterback is a key part of the offensive attack in Norman, and redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler has delivered on his promise as a recruit, albeit with a few hiccups. Rattler’s thrown 24 touchdowns this season, averaging 9.7 yards per attempt.
It’s the running game that really powers the Sooners’ passing attack though, and with the return of Rhamondre Stevenson to the lineup, the offense has picked up. Stevenson is averaging 5.9 yards per carry behind perhaps the best offensive line in the conference.
Defensively, the Sooners have been solid again under defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. They have the best rush defense in the Big 12, yielding only 92.4 yards per game in conference play. While the front seven are generally stout against the run, however, they have tended give up big plays in the passing game. The Sooners do lead the league in sacks, however, with 33 on the season.
Oklahoma Keys To The Game
Establish The Running Game – If Oklahoma struggles to run the ball consistently in this game, it will put them in down-and-distance situations that even this offense doesn’t want to face. They will have to be able to win up front and execute in the power running game.
Get To The Quarterback – A major question for Oklahoma in this game will be whether they get pressure on Brock Purdy and get him to the ground. Last time these two teams played, Oklahoma gave up a lot of big pass plays downfield because Purdy was able to escape the pass rush and make a big completion.
No. 6 Iowa State Cyclones (8-2)
Early on in 2020, Iowa State leaned heavily on running back Breece Hall, this year’s Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year. Behind an improved offensive line, Hall has averaged 135.7 yards per game this season, utilizing good vision and great burst. As of late, however, quarterback Brock Purdy has really come into form, finding receivers down field with more ease as the Cyclones have come down the final stretch of conference play.
With a talented group of tight ends, who have great hands and execute their blocking assignments well, the Cyclones averaged 36.2 points per game in conference play. Though unconventional in many respects for a Big 12 offense, Iowa State has one of the best units in the league.
Defensively, Iowa State has once again been one of the best, allowing only 20.2 points per game in Big 12 games, a number that is at the top of the conference. They are led by linebacker Mike Rose, this year’s Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. With a strong defensive line, Iowa State presents a challenge for any opposing offense.
Iowa State Keys To The Game
Avoid Negative Plays – Iowa State’s has done well this season in slowing things down, and they’ve played their best football offensively when not getting behind the chains. Avoiding third-and-long situations will be especially big for the Cyclones, who can move the ball against Oklahoma if they stay on schedule.
Get In The Backfield – How well Iowa State is actually able to get into the Oklahoma backfield will largely determine the extent to which the Cyclones are able to stem the offensive attack of the Sooners. If they can have success in getting penetration in the run game, and get hands on Rattler in the pocket, then Iowa State can contain Oklahoma.
A lot of people will want to pick Oklahoma, and that makes a lot of sense. For one, this is usually the exact type of game that the Sooners are at their best in, and we’ve never seen Iowa State in this situation before. Oklahoma, as a program, has won over half the titles in this history of this league, and with the way the Sooners have looked over the past few weeks, there are good reasons to think that Oklahoma will once again take home the title.
On the other hand, this is a different type of matchup than we’ve seen in the past few Big 12 championships. The Cyclones might be the most complete team in the conference, and their worst loss in conference play was on the road by two points. The odds are that someone other than Oklahoma will win the Big 12 title at some point, and today I will take a shot and say that Iowa State will be that team. Cyclones by a field goal.