Oklahoma's College Football Playoff hopes may be toast. And it's not the defense's fault.
The Sooners' offense couldn't do anything against a staunch Baylor defense in a 27-14 loss on Saturday. The defeat will assuredly drop OU out of playoff contention and maybe even drop the Sooners out of the top 10 in Tuesday's rankings.
No. 8 Oklahoma (9-1) struck first to take a 7-0 lead but was held scoreless after that. OU's struggles got so bad that Spencer Rattler even replaced Caleb Williams in the second half. The freshman Williams came in for Rattler in Oklahoma's comeback victory over Texas and has been the starter ever since. But after throwing two interceptions against the Bears on Saturday, Williams found himself on the sideline again while Rattler was on the field.
The QB switch didn't provide a spark. Baylor's defense continued to keep OU's offense in check — a huge statement by Dave Aranda's team and his defensive scheme. The former LSU defensive coordinator's unit slowed down Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff in 2019 and Baylor held OU to a season-low 27 points in 2020.
Williams left the game after his right hand got stepped on but he returned with four minutes remaining after No. 13 Baylor (8-2) had gone up by 17 points to put the game out of reach.
Oklahoma's offense accounted for just 260 total yards. Williams and Rattler threw for just 182 yards and OU rushed for fewer than 100 yards.
Baylor did most of its damage on the ground. While Oklahoma kept Baylor's passing game in check, the Bears averaged over six yards a carry. Abram Smith rushed for 148 yards and QB Gerry Bohanan accounted for all three of Baylor's TDs with one passing and two rushing.
Baylor fans storm the field too early, Bears add to final margin
The victory is Baylor's first over a top-10 opponent in six years and led to a funny scene at the end of the game. Baylor snapped the ball on second down with 43 seconds to go and kneeled on the ball. With a 40-second play clock, Baylor had to run one more play to officially end the game but Baylor's students didn't realize that.
Baylor called timeout with three seconds left and then the students flooded the field. Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley sent his players to the locker room as the students got herded off the field. Riley was livid with officials and appeared to tell them that his team wouldn't be back on the field for the final play.
After minutes of deliberation, Oklahoma's defense came back out onto the field for the final play and the students got the chance to storm the field again. And Baylor kicked a field goal to make the final margin 13 instead of 10.
Aranda told Fox after the game that he kicked the field goal for tiebreaker purposes. Scoring differential is a tiebreaker in the Big 12 if three or more teams are tied in the standings.
Riley wasn't too thrilled with Aranda's decision.
Lincoln Riley said he was upset that Baylor wasn’t assessed a 15-yard penalty for the field rushing. He also said he understands why Dave Aranda kicked the FG, but said he wouldn’t have done it and that it goes against a “code of sportsmanship"
— Jason Kersey (@jasonkersey) November 13, 2021
Big 12 race is wide open
It might have been petty for Aranda to kick the field goal after the delay. But you can also understand why he did it. The race for the two championship game spots in the Big 12 is wide open.
Baylor is currently third in the conference at 5-2 while Oklahoma is a game ahead at 6-1. Oklahoma State will likely be 6-1 with the Sooners after a game against Kansas later on Saturday. And Iowa State can move to 5-2 in the conference with a win over Texas Tech on Saturday.
Oklahoma has games remaining against Iowa State and Oklahoma State. It’s possible that all four teams will finish the season with two losses. Or there could be a three-way tie among teams with two losses.
With wins over Iowa State and Oklahoma, Baylor’s in a good spot as long as it doesn’t have to worry about a head-to-head tiebreaker with Oklahoma State. The Cowboys beat the Bears 24-14 in Week 5. There's a slight chance that scoring differential will actually come into play, but those three points could end up mattering.
Oklahoma faces an uphill battle — to put it nicely — to make the playoff after this loss because of the way the committee hasn't trusted the Sooners so far. If Oklahoma wins out and makes the playoff, it will make the playoff as a one-loss team for the fifth time.
But it's important to note that Oklahoma had its only loss of the regular season before the first playoff rankings of the season in all four of those years. And three of those teams opened higher in the rankings than this undefeated Oklahoma did at No. 8. Only the 2019 team opened lower (No. 9) than this team did. And none of them dropped in the rankings the rest of the way like this team will on Tuesday.