No. 11 Oklahoma in Big 12 title hunt as it faces Baylor
A sixth consecutive Big 12 title seemed out of reach for Oklahoma after the Sooners dropped their first two Big 12 games, but suddenly became a reality after they rattled off five consecutive wins.
Now, after last week’s game against West Virginia was postponed to Dec. 12 due to COVID-19 issues with the team, the No. 11 Sooners (6-2, 5-2 Big 12) are back to being in the difficult position of waiting and watching heading into Saturday’s game against Baylor.
Oklahoma doesn’t quite control its own destiny to make the conference title game, but it is likely to be in with a 2-0 — or even a 1-0 — finish. But the Sooners must at least play one of their final two scheduled games to be eligible.
As important as the game results are to the Sooners are the results of the COVID tests leading up to the game.
“I think every single person in our program right now has anxiety when they take the test,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said of the thrice weekly tests. “I know we have a good plan in place if I were to test positive, but I absolutely have anxiety.”
The Sooners’ recent struggles with COVID led to another development — the potential for Bob Stoops to return to help coach.
Stoops, who coached the Sooners for 18 years and is the winningest coach in program history, was on the field for practice Tuesday and could potentially help throughout the rest of the week and Saturday’s game as some assistants could be held out due to testing or contact tracing.
“It’s kind of been in our hip pocket this whole time,” Riley said. “If we had any staff member who fell off, we have a Hall of Famer sitting on the bench. It’s a pretty good bench when you can call that guy up.”
Stoops retired before the 2017 season, handing the program over to Riley, who had been hired two years earlier as offensive coordinator. Since then, he’s served as a special assistant to Oklahoma’s athletic director, opening the door for him to help this season.
Oklahoma and Baylor played twice last season — both thrilling games pulled out by the Sooners.
In the regular-season matchup, Oklahoma overcame a 31-10 halftime deficit to win 34-31. In the Big 12 Championship Game, the Sooners needed overtime to win 30-23.
While the Sooners have rounded into form, Baylor has mostly struggled in Dave Aranda’s first season as head coach.
The Bears (2-5, 2-5) are coming off their biggest win of the season, though, a 32-31 come-from-behind victory over Kansas State in which Bears quarterback Charlie Brewer was spectacular. Brewer completed nearly 80 percent of his passes for 349 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 56 yards and two more scores.
“When you do it one time, you can do it another time,” Aranda said of the Bears’ momentum. “Just putting the game in their (the players’) hands and giving the best opportunity to be successful and let them rise up and make plays, get them to feel comfortable throughout the week in terms of giving the best look possible.”
–Field Level Media