Big 12 Championship Game 2018: Oklahoma, Texas set for rare rematch with conference crown on the line
The Big 12 has its must-see television conference championship game in the form of Oklahoma-Texas, part two. The matchup was set on Friday with the No. 14 Longhorns getting an awkward, but nevertheless effective 24-17 win over Kansas. No. 6 Oklahoma then sealed its part of the deal in a wild, defense-optional 59-56 win over No. 13 West Virginia.
For the Big 12 front office, this is a dream scenario. Texas and Oklahoma already played in one wild 48-45 game in the Cotton Bowl with the Longhorns pulling out a last-second field goal after blowing a 21-point fourth-quarter lead. What the heck, might as well play another for even higher stakes.
Historically, getting Texas and Oklahoma twice in the same season is — as one would expect — rare. The last time it happened was in 1903 when the two sides tied the first game with Texas winning 11-5 in the second matchup. It also happened in 1901.
Whether Texas can make it 2 for 2 over the Sooners this time obviously remains to be seen, but regardless, this season is already a success for coach Tom Herman. The Longhorns are at 9-3 and will have a chance to get 10 wins for the first time since 2009 when it played Alabama in the BCS National Championship. Building a title-caliber program typically takes off around Year 3. Herman, through the Week 1 loss to Maryland followed by back-to-back losses to Oklahoma State and West Virginia, managed to take some serious steps forward in two seasons. The primary difference is that Texas is simply winning close games in a way it wasn’t a year ago. This season, Texas is 6-3 in games decided by a touchdown or less. Last season, it was 1-4.
Oklahoma, on the other hand, is trying to remain in the playoff race. The Sooners would need some help from other games around the landscape to be a surefire No. 4, but a second loss to the Horns would obviously eliminate them from the race altogether. And if Oklahoma is going to get that win, it’ll likely be on the shoulders of quarterback Kyler Murray. The Heisman candidate had 478 total yards and four touchdowns in the win over the Mountaineers, and there’s a real argument to be made that he’s every bit as valuable to his team’s success as Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa — if not a little more so. It’s not a foregone conclusion that Tagovailoa has the Heisman race wrapped up if Murray has a monster game in Arlington.
The revival of the Big 12 Championship Game may be a money grab first and foremost with the hopes of the 13th data point helping in the College Football Playoff race being little more than a pipe dream. Frankly, guaranteeing a rematch in the conference title game after playing a round-robin schedule has never made much sense. But if you’re going to field an extra game, you may as well play a rematch between two of your heavyweight programs.
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