NORMAN — Now the Sooners have to wait.
Oklahoma kept alive its hopes of making the Big 12 Championship Game on Friday with a 69-45 victory over TCU. Still, the Sooners need help to get to Arlington.
An Oklahoma State loss to BYU on Saturday afternoon would be the cleanest path for the Sooners to make the conference title game, but there are other scenarios that could get them there, starting with a Texas loss to Texas Tech on Friday night.
Before we get to all that, though, let’s look at Friday’s win against TCU.
The Sellout Crowd crew weighs in on the Sooners’ victory.
Amid wonky atmosphere, Sooners do what’s needed
Jenni Carlson: Everything felt a little off Friday morning. Traffic was non-existent two hours before kickoff, a rarity before OU games. Tailgating was spotty. Activity was sparse around the stadium with students out for the holiday. Even the pre-game flyover was wonky; it came before the national anthem instead of at the end of it.
The weirdness carried over to the game.
The Sooners got out to a big lead, scoring touchdowns on six of their first-half possessions and leading 42-16 at halftime. But then, the Horned Frogs scored on all three of their third-quarter possessions and outscored the Sooners 22-10 in the frame to make things interesting.
Odd game all the way around.
But the most important thing was cut and dried: the Sooners needed to win to keep their Big 12 title game hopes alive. They did that, and now, they have to wait and see what’s next.
Good thing Gabriel played
Berry Tramel: Most of us arrived at the stadium Saturday not knowing whether Dillon Gabriel would play. Turns out he did, and turns out he most definitely was needed.
Could the Sooners have scored 69 points with Jackson Arnold at quarterback? Maybe. Probably. But not necessarily.
OU’s defense consistently collapsed, but still, the Horned Frogs were no match for the Gabriel offense. Gabriel threw three home run passes in the first 15½ minutes, then TCU’s defense finally adjusted, and tailback Gavin Sawchuk started running wild. The result was the highest-scoring Sooner game since that 59-56 shootout at West Virginia in 2018.
The result left OU feeling quite swell about its offense, which came at the expense of a TCU defense that coming into the game ranked sixth in Big 12 efficiency, but with plenty of questions about the Sooner defense, considering the Frog offense was a mediocre eighth in Big 12 efficiency.
Or does it even matter, since this was the regular-season finale, a Big 12 Championship game appearance isn’t likely and bowl games mostly are a mess in the modern era.
A win and a wait
Guerin Emig: OU looked like a team that deserved a shot in the Big 12 championship game for a half Friday. The Sooners scored touchdowns on six of their seven possessions before the break, using the pass early and the run late to take 42-16 command.
That the Sooners had to sweat out eventual victory is as much an indictment of their defense as a tribute to TCU’s fight. If it begs a question: Do the Sooners really deserve that conference title shot? There’s a pretty strong chance the answer is immaterial.
Texas is a 14-point favorite to defeat Texas Tech on Friday night in Austin. Win and the Longhorns are in as Big 12 regular-season champions.
Oklahoma State is a 17-point favorite to defeat BYU Saturday afternoon in Stillwater. If the Cowboys beat BYU on the heels of a Texas victory over Tech, they’ll play the Longhorns at AT&T Stadium next Saturday for their first Big 12 championship since 2011.
That leaves the Sooners content with Friday’s result and Brent Venables’ first 10-win season, but on edge over Texas’ and OSU’s games. It leaves them reconciling with needing all sorts of help to reach Arlington, and lamenting, very likely, their back-to-back losses to Kansas and OSU on Oct. 28 and Nov. 4.
Ultimately, if the Sooners wanted to play in Jerry World and take a second swing at either Texas or OSU, they squandered that opportunity in Lawrence and Stillwater, not because any Big 12 tiebreaker protocol worked against them.
Sooners close out Big 12 era with an offensive onslaught
Eli Lederman: The Sooners’ regular-season finale started with questions over who would start at quarterback. It ended with us wondering how many points OU might hang on TCU.
Who cares if the defense more closely resembled the 2022 defense after halftime?
Dillon Gabriel returned for his (likely) final game on Owen Field and torched the Horned Frogs secondary from the jump, opening with three passes over 50 yards on his first six completions to fuel the Sooners to all-time highs in a half against TCU in yards (375) and points (42).
Drake Stoops spent senior day matching his career-high reception count, and Nic Anderson and Jayden Gibson and Brenen Thompson all showed up downfield. And the ground game picked up once OU started handing off to its running backs with Gavin Sawchuk leading the charge in his fourth consecutive 100-plus yard outing.
The Sooners’ final Big 12 home game turned into an old-fashioned shootout. That’s fitting.
Defensive woes worsen
Todd Lisenbee: Jeff Lebby had the Sooner offense going deep early and often to race out to a big lead, and it’s a good thing he did. After a first half that saw Oklahoma open up a wide lead on the Horned Frogs, Oklahoma’s defense looked like me snoozing on the couch after Thanksgiving dinner.
This game highlighted so many things:
- OU’s offense is exceptional, especially when attacking defenses vertically.
- Gavin Sawchuk is the guy at running back.
- The defense has moments but is far from the finished product.
- Drake Stoops is a Sooner legend, and not just because of his last name.
- Tim Brando and Spencer Tillman are the worst broadcasting duo on television.
Now it’s wait and hope for Oklahoma. It wasn’t pretty, but as has been the case for most of the last decade, Oklahoma’s offense got the job done as the defense left much to be desired. If Oklahoma doesn’t make the title game, a game where defense was optional is a perfect way to end the Big 12 era in Norman.
One last Big 12 shootout
Ed Murray: TCU knew it was in trouble early in the second quarter. A fake punt from its own 30 failed and the Sooners wasted little time putting it in the end zone. OU scored a touchdown on 6 of 7 first-half possessions.
But when the Horned Frogs rallied to within two scores, it was OU’s turn to gamble. This one paid off on fourth and 1 from the OU 34. Dillon Gabriel ripped off a 40-yard run and capped the drive with his third TD toss, this one to Drake Stoops.
TCU gambled again in the fourth quarter, failing again on fourth down from its 31. Gavin Sawchuk’s third touchdown run sealed it.
A 10-win regular season, an undefeated home slate, and fantastic Norman finales for Gabriel and Stoops, two stars in this turnaround season. Truly, a shootout to remember.