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The Oklahoma Sooners secured their spot in the 2018 Big 12 Championship Game by going into Morgantown on Friday night and pulling out a 59-56 victory over the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Kyler Murray led the way for Oklahoma, throwing for 364 yards and three touchdowns while adding 114 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
West Virginia quarterback Will Grier had 539 passing yards and five total touchdowns in the losing effort.
Oklahoma Does Not Deserve CFP Berth Without Help
Over the next week, there’ll be plenty of debate as to which four teams the College Football Playoff committee will select to compete for a championship. While there are still games to be played, one thing is clear: Oklahoma should not be in the final four. At least not without some help the rest of the way.
There’s no denying that head coach Lincoln Riley’s squad has put together a compelling case. The Sooners went 11-1 during the regular season while averaging an impressive 50.3 points per game. Their lone loss came against archrival Texas on a neutral field on a field goal with nine seconds remaining.
However, Oklahoma has had a number of close calls this season.
The Sooners held only a seven-point lead against Iowa State for the majority of the fourth quarter of their Sept. 15 meeting with the Cyclones, needed overtime to beat Army, defeated Texas Tech (5-6) by only five points and were a missed two-point conversion away from losing to Oklahoma State (6-5) earlier this month.
The reason for those close calls? A porous defense that entered Friday ranked 87th overall in total defense and 86th in points allowed (30.7). The Sooners allowed 3-8 Kansas to put up 524 yards and 40 points last week, including 23 points in one quarter. It’s been nearly a month (Oct. 27) since they held an opponent to fewer than 40 points.
Not even two scoop-and-scores against the Mountaineers could erase doubt about the unit’s performance throughout the season.
Murray and the offense can keep the Sooners in games against tough competition. But unless there’s some chaos over the final week-plus of the season, it would be hard to make a legitimate case to include Oklahoma in the playoff.
Alabama (11-0) has dominated its competition so easily this season that it would likely take two losses to keep the defending champ out. Clemson (11-0) has largely cruised throughout the season, although the Tigers survived a pair of scares early on.
For Oklahoma to sneak into the playoff, either Notre Dame (11-0) or Michigan (10-1) would have to lose. Both the Fighting Irish (at USC) and the Wolverines (at Ohio State) hit the road for rivalry games on Saturday. Notre Dame’s schedule—outside of a season-opening win against Michigan—has come into question, and the Fighting Irish won’t have a conference championship on their resume, which means a loss could be a knockout blow.
Watching the electrifying Murray battle for a national championship would be incredible. But the Sooners defense figures to loom large in the committee’s mind.
Kyler Murray’s Late Surge Won’t Be Enough for Heisman
Replacing the reigning Heisman Trophy winner is no easy task, but Murray has done everything he can to help Sooners fans move on from Baker Mayfield.
However, his efforts won’t be enough to help the program capture back-to-back Heismans.
The junior star has been nothing short of spectacular in his first year starting under center for Oklahoma. He has completed 70.6 percent of his passes for 3,674 yards and 37 touchdowns, adding 853 yards and 11 scores on the ground as well. He averaged 339.4 passing yards, 85 rushing yards and 3.6 total touchdowns over his final five regular-season games, helping his team score 52.8 points per game during that span.
As ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit pointed out, Murray is in the midst of what could be a historic season:
Kirk Herbstreit @KirkHerbstreit
How bout the year Kyler Murray is having!!!!!
No FBS player has EVER averaged at least 300 Yards Passing and at least 60 Yards Rushing per game for an entire season (minimum 75 percent of team’s games played).
Kyler Murray is averaging 300.9 and 67.2!!!!!!
Murray has a chance to join former Clemson Tigers star Deshaun Watson as the only players in FBS history with 4,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a single season, according to Bleacher Report’s David Kenyon.
As a result, Oklahoma is now 11-1 and is about to play for a conference title.
In any other year, Murray may have had the Heisman Trophy wrapped up by this point. Unfortunately for him, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has been even better this season.
After entering the 2018 College Football Playoff championship game at halftime and rallying his team to victory, Tagovailoa earned the starting job during the offseason and has given Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban no reason to second-guess that decision. The sophomore passer has completed 69.2 percent of his passes for 31 touchdowns to just two interceptions, and he has four rushing touchdowns as well.
Murray has the overall edge from a numbers standpoint, but Tagovailoa has rarely played in the fourth quarters of games this season. The 11-0 Crimson Tide have been winning by an average of 35.6 points per game, and they’ve won each game by at least 22 points.
Tagovailoa’s numbers are not on the same level as Murray’s because his team hasn’t needed him to make many plays in the second halves of games. Regardless, he has been the best player in the country while playing for the best team.
Oklahoma (11-1) will take on the Texas Longhorns (9-3) for the Big 12 title on Dec. 1 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Longhorns defeated the Sooners in the Red River Showdown, 48-45, back on Oct. 6 in Dallas.
West Virginia (8-3) will now wait to see what bowl game it draws.