Less than a month after meeting during the regular season, the no. 7 Baylor Bears and no. 6 Oklahoma Sooners will meet again in the Big 12 Championship Game. Kickoff is set for noon EST on Saturday, December 7 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The game will be nationally televised on ABC.
Current betting odds list Oklahoma as 8-point favorites over Baylor. There is also an over/under of 62 points. Be sure to check out all of the college football betting odds for Championship Saturday.
This has been nothing short of a dream season for Baylor. Two years ago, the Bears were 1-11 in Matt Rhule’s first season in Waco following the disastrous conclusion to the Art Briles era. Rhule has done a phenomenal job of turning things around, going from 1-11 to 11-1 in just two seasons. Needless to say, the Bears have already surpassed all preseason expectations and are playing with house money at this point.
However, their work isn’t done just yet. Baylor has an opportunity to win the Big 12 title for the first time since sharing it in 2014. The Bears even have a chance to sneak into the College Football Playoff if they can avenge their only loss of the season. Finishing in the top-4 will require a win over Oklahoma and losses by both Utah and Georgia this weekend, so they’ll need some outside help. But it’s not impossible for Baylor to keep their dream season alive.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma is not only seeking a fourth consecutive Big 12 title but also a third straight trip to the CFP. The Sooners weren’t quite themselves during the second half of the season, as they lost to Kansas State and then survived a string of close games. But Oklahoma knocked off rival Oklahoma State by a wide margin last week, which should help boost their confidence heading into the conference title game.
With a win, the Sooners will have a compelling case for a spot in the top-4, especially with Alabama losing last week. As is the case with Baylor, Oklahoma’s chances of reaching the CFP could come down to whether Utan and Georgia win their conference championships. Of course, none of that will matter if the Sooners don’t take care of their own business and win another Big 12 championship.
As mentioned, Oklahoma and Baylor met in Waco on November 16 in an unforgettable game. The Bears looked poised to pull off the upset after taking a 31-10 halftime lead. However, Baylor was held scoreless in the second half with Oklahoma surviving a few turnovers to score the final 24 points of the game and escape with a 34-31 win. With the win, the Sooners now have five straight victories over Baylor, as well as a 26-3 lead over the Bears in the all-time series.
I’ll admit that I was growing a little skeptical of Oklahoma in recent weeks. But their win over Oklahoma State last week has put me at ease heading into the Big 12 title game. The OU defense put together a solid performance and the Sooners were finally able to run the ball without relying solely on Jalen Hurts. The second half of the game between Oklahoma and Baylor last month showed that the Sooners are undoubtedly the better team of the two. I think Oklahoma can put together a full 60 minutes this time around and have no problem covering eight points.
It’s important to keep in mind that two of Baylor’s touchdowns against Oklahoma in the first meeting came off turnovers that gave them a short field. That’s not something the Bears can count on happening again. In the end, Oklahoma out-gained Baylor by over 200 yards. The Bears were also stuffed on the ground and didn’t even attempt to run the ball that much with quarterback Charlie Brewer having 17 of the team’s 23 carries in that game.
As much as I like Brewer, he’s not going to out-duel Hurts and the Sooners on his own. Wide receiver Denzel Mims remains a huge threat against an OU secondary that can be vulnerable at times. But the Bears made no attempt to get their running backs going in the first meeting. Even if they make more of an effort to get JaMycal Hasty and John Lovett the ball, I’m not sure how much success they’ll have against a front-7 that’s the strength of the Oklahoma defense.
On the other side of the ball, there should be no doubt that Hurts is the best player on the field. He was a one-man wrecking crew in the second half of the first meeting, finishing the game with 114 rushing yards and four passing touchdowns. It’s also worth noting that Oklahoma’s leading receiver CeeDee Lamb didn’t play in that game. Lamb is back on the field while running back Kennedy Brooks had an outstanding November in which he averaged over 130 rushing yards per game. Those two should help provide Hurts with the support he didn’t have while he was leading the comeback over Baylor last month.
In fairness, I like Baylor a lot and admire the season they’ve had. But there’s no doubt in my mind that Oklahoma is the better team. The Bears had their chance to knock off Oklahoma last month and let it slip through their fingers. They won’t be so lucky this time around; I think Oklahoma plays at a high level for four quarters and beats Baylor by double digits in a relatively easy win.