704 total yards. 539 passing yards. 11.0 yards per pass. 33 first downs.
And those were not the team stats for the winning team. That was for the West Virginia Mountaineers, who lost at home to the Oklahoma Sooners 59-56 on Friday night in Morgantown in a classic Big 12 Conference shootout.
With the win, the Sooners are heading to the Big 12 Championship Game to face the Texas Longhorns.
Sure, there were questionable calls by the Big 12 refs (more on that in this week’s podcast, go subscribe on iTunes!), but in fairness, Oklahoma scored two defensive touchdowns due to careless mistakes by WVU quarterback Will Grier, who was playing his last game in front of the home crowd. With the loss, Oklahoma remains the only team that the Mountaineers have yet to beat since joining the Big 12 Conference in 2012.
Kyler Murray padded his Heisman stats, finishing 20 of 27 for 364 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, while rushing nine times for 114 yards and a touchdown. He becomes the first player in college football history to finish a season averaging 300 passing yards per game and 60 rushing yards per game. As a team, Oklahoma rushed for at least 290 yards for a sixth straight game, which coincided with its six-game winning streak.
But as impressive as the offense has been, the defense has been that bad. Last week, OU became the first team ever to allow 40+ points in three straight games and win them all. They’ve now done that for four straight weeks.
Yes, there were the two aforementioned defensive scores, but allowing over 700 total yards is not going to help you in the eyes of the College Football Playoff committee that has its hands full trying to figure out who the final team or two is that will be selected for the College Football Playoff.
OU is already behind the eight ball, because the ESPN talking heads have been discussing this issue for weeks: Can OU be allowed in the College Football Playoff with this defense? It’s a reality the Big 12 Conference has been dealing with for a very long time, dating back to the committee’s first year in the Baylor/TCU debate.
However for OU, the defense wasn’t all that good last season and it came within a score of beating Georgia, and frankly, should’ve beaten the Bulldogs in regulation had Lincoln Riley not clamped down on his play calling.
But, this defense has admittedly been historically bad, ranking 90th in the country in defensive efficiency. In a year where there is an independent in Notre Dame in danger of taking one of the four spots, it could be a tough sell for Oklahoma next Sunday.
So here is a dream scenario for the Sooners as we get ready for Rivalry Saturday in college football.
If Notre Dame loses to USC, then the Irish are out of the picture. It’s not likely with the Trojans sitting at 5-6 on the season, but that’s not the point of this exercise. It is a rivalry game after all. Also, an Ohio State win over Michigan would be a great boost for OU, as the Sooners are currently ranked ahead of the Buckeyes. It would put Ohio State into the Big Ten Championship Game playing a team with a lower ranking in Northwestern than Oklahoma would be playing in Texas.
In the SEC, the best-case scenario is for Alabama to beat Auburn and then beat Georgia in the SEC Championship game next week. The last thing any other fan base should want is Alabama losing to Georgia, which would likely force the committee, and it’s love obsessions with the SEC, to have another justification to put two SEC teams in the playoff.
But if everyone holds serve, OU is not going to gain any ground in the rankings, even if it beats Texas. The Sooners need help. Not just on defense, but from some teams around the rest of the country.
**Sign up here for our HCS weekly e-mails for a chance to win FREE Heartland College Sports and Big 12 team gear!!**