Oklahoma football: Is TCU game a preview of Big 12 Championship?

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 01: Baker Mayfield
FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 01: Baker Mayfield /

First it was Week 2 against Ohio State, then it was Texas, then Oklahoma State, and this week the biggest game of the Oklahoma football season is the next one, against TCU on Saturday.

In reality, every game is big when you are in the hunt for a potential national championship. For the second weekend in a row, the Sooners will be involved on one of the marquee games of the week in college football.

The balance that TCU, the No. 8 team in the first College Football Playoff rankings, possesses on both offense and defense poses the biggest challenge Oklahoma has faced all season.

Both teams come into Saturday’s game at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium with identical season records of 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the Big 12 and tied for the top spot in the conference standings. Another thing the Sooners and Horned Frogs have in common is that their one loss was to the same team: Iowa State.

With just three games remaining in the regular season for both teams, there is a very good chance that these same two teams will be facing each other in a rematch on Dec. 2 in Arlington, Texas, for the Big 12 championship.

Oklahoma and TCU will both be favored in their final two game (OU at Kansas and at home against West Virginia; TCU at Texas Tech and at home against Baylor), so the winner of Saturday’s showdown will virtually clinch one of the two spots in the Big 12 title game.

The Sooners are 11-5 all-time against TCU, but four of the Horned Frogs five victories have come in games played in Norman. As members of the Big 12, Oklahoma owns a 4-1 record against TCU.

Oklahoma Sooners Football
Oklahoma Sooners Football /

Oklahoma Sooners Football

This year’s game will feature a classic matchup between the country’s top-rated Offense against one of the country’s best defensive teams.

Oklahoma leads the nation and the Big 12 in scoring offense (44.1), total offense, (608.2 yards per game) passing efficiency (186.4) and completion percentage (69.5). TCU, on the other hand, ranks eighth among FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) teams in total defense (284.1 yards allowed per game) and, importantly, No. 1 in the nation in rushing defense (69.7 yards allowed per game).

The most points scored on TCU all season was 36 by SMU in a 56-36 Horned Frog victory in Week 3 of the season. Oklahoma State scored 31 in a 44-31 loss. In its last four games against Big 12 opponents (Kansas State, Kansas, Iowa State and Texas), TCU has given up a total of 27 points, or an average of 7.75 per game.

Over than same four-game span, the Sooners have allowed an average of 33.5 points a game, including 52 points last week by Oklahoma State in a losing cause. That is just under TCU’s 35.8 scoring average through nine games.

Which brings us to the second biggest challenge for fifth-franked Oklahoma as they get set to go head to head against the Big 12 co-leader this weekend: The ability to get defensive stops against a very good, but not great TCU offense and get Baker Mayfield and the explosive Oklahoma offense back on the field. TCU leads the Big 12 and is seventh nationally in third-down conversions and, conversely, the Horned Frogs are No. 7 in the nation in stopping their opponents on third down. Oklahoma is 84th in the country in opponents’ third-down conversion rate.

No question this is a huge game with both national title and Big 12 championship implications. It will be the severest test of the season for both the Oklahoma offense and the TCU defense. The Sooners have not faced a defense as good as TCU’s all season. Likewise, the Horned Frog defense has not been challenged by an offense as good as Oklahoma’s (with all due respect to Oklahoma State).

The outcome of the game will lie somewhere in the middle.

Regardless of the outcome, the winner of the probable rematch in the early hours on Dec. 2 will be crowned conference champion and potentially a participant in college football’s version of the Final Four.