This Saturday the Oklahoma Sooners will square off against the Iowa State Cyclones in Arlington, Texas in the 2020 Big 12 Championship.
For OU, it’s old hat. They have been here the past three years and won them all.
Baylor…maybe next time.
And this year, it will be Iowa State’s turn to take a swing at the mighty Sooners.
But one difference between this match up and the previous three Big 12 Championship games is how similar the season has been for both Iowa State and Oklahoma. Both these teams have grown up in various areas. For Oklahoma, the defensive play has grown leaps and bounds since they lost in Ames. Meantime, Iowa State’s offensive line and overall offensive execution has improved drastically as well.
But there are some major questions as well: Which team is more mentally prepared for the moment and the pressure? Which coordinator will feel the opposing team’s pressure first but stays true to their game plan? Which QB will show up in Arlington? The cool and icy Brock Purdy from the last four games or the first half of Baylor Brock Purdy? The Oklahoma State version of Spencer Rattler or the Kansas State version?
No one can answer all those questions until Saturday, but this game is about bending, not breaking. It comes down to which team handles the pressure of this game and this moment better. Which team bends but refuses to break from what got them here in the first place.
I wrote an article on earlier in the year predicting the scenario almost perfectly as to why Iowa State was the “dark horse” in the Big 12 Conference.
And so to try and end the season the way I started it with a bold, but accurate prediction, on Saturday I believe these teams are so evenly matched that this game will be a blowout in either direction.
Yes, it’s counterintuitive. It’s also 2020.
The pressure of this game will crack one team wide open. While OU has been here before, there are so many new faces who are “first-timers” in this moment. And for Iowa State, forget it. Their last conference title in football came 108 years ago.
So who gets behind early and feels they have to throw haymakers to catch up? Who throws the playbook away and starts running higher-risk plays to try and regain ground lost?
I know this sounds crazy since these teams have played each other tight for the past four years (they’ve split the last four meetings with ISU owning a +3 scoring advantage of 143-140). Home and away, they both have victories against the other. But on Saturday I predict one team bends and the other will break.
The thing about pressure is that it only needs time to make cracks, and those cracks, if you put more weight and pressure on them tend to cave in at just the right moment.
The big question (as if I haven’t asked you enough of them in this column) is: which team puts more pressure on the other in one of those “big” moments? Which defensive coordinator calls up the blitz to get to the opposing quarterback with under five minutes to play in a one-score game? Does the quarterback make a brilliant play to find a receiver in man coverage? Does the defense get to the QB? We’ll be waiting for that moment early afternoon on Saturday from Jerry World in Arlington, Texas. And depending on that moment’s outcome, Oklahoma will be crowd Big 12 champs for the sixth season in a row or Iowa State will get to hoist a conference championship in football for the first time in 108 years.
**Want to win a $25 gift card? Go sign up here and join our conversation! The best poster each week wins a gift card to your favorite establishment!**