Return of the Air Raid grants Bob, Baker and OU sweet revenge
Hellooooooo, Mr. Mayfield
Oklahoma had waited more than a year to finally see Baker Mayfield take the field. After a slow start, Mayfield got his groove, throwing for 388 yards on 23-of-33 passing in the 41-3 victory vs. Akron. It was also the debut of offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley and the promise of a dynamic Air Raid offense. "He's got a dynamic skill set, and there's still a lot of things you can do with a guy like that," Riley said. "He, like everybody, I could even see it with him early, had a lot of nerves. It was just about getting these guys all settled in. Once he was able to do that, I think everybody was able to see the kind of talent he has."
'A little Sooner magic'
Ranked No. 19 at the time, Oklahoma rallied from a 17-point deficit against No. 23 Tennessee to force overtime. Sterling Shepard won it on an 18-yard pass from Mayfield in double OT for a 31-24 victory that ultimately made the Sooners' berth in the playoff possible. Said Stoops after the game: "It's one of the more special wins, maybe my favorite of all of them. A little Sooner magic came back out. It reminded me of maybe like we're back at A&M back in 2000, where we made some plays to win the game that you feel pretty fortunate and blessed to make." The gutsy road win moved OU to 2-0.
Jim Brown-USA TODAY SportsJim Brown
Stunner at the Cotton Bowl
The Sooners still can't figure this one out. For one day in mid-October, the Oklahoma offense shut down and the defense couldn't take down a dominant Longhorns rushing attack, leading to a shocking 24-17 Texas victory. OU fans, seeing their team 4-1 and 1-1 in the Big 12, instantly flash-backed to last season's collapse. "I definitely don't think it was a lack of focus, and we definitely did not underestimate them at all," offensive linemen Ty Darlington said. "They were a much more talented and capable team than the record." Maybe. But since, OU is 7-0 and averaging 52 points, while Texas failed to make a bowl game.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY SportsMatthew Emmons
Back in the saddle in a big way
With their pride -- and the season on the line -- the Sooners headed to Kansas State with a nasty disposition and a chip on their shoulder. They wasted no time showing their dominance and absolutely bulldozed the Wildcats, taking a 35-0 lead into halftime before finishing off a 55-0 rout. "We had a great intensity coming into the game, and guys were fired up in the locker room," Shepard said. "Everybody wanted to show what type of team we were because of last week's loss, so we did a great job with intensity and executing our jobs." At 5-1, and 2-1 in the Big 12, the season was back on.
Scott Sewell-USA TODAY SportsScott Sewell
Baker rudely welcomes Kliff and friends to his new house
Whatever bad blood occured between Mayfield and Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury a couple years ago finished with the former Red Raiders quarterback rolling his former team to the tune of 63-27 in what had to be a terribly satisfying afternoon. Mayfield didn't have to do too much with Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon combining for 355 rushing yards. Mayfield transferred from Tech after the 2013 season, sat out last year and faced his old team for the first time: "Obviously football's an emotional game, and I used to attend there, it's just a fact. So there was little bit coming into it, but I had to look at it like a normal game."
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY SportsMark D. Smith
Storming into November on a mission
The No. 14 Sooners weren't caught looking ahead to a brutal November, the decisive stretch of the schedule -- a sink or swim month against contenders Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State. OU closed out October by stomping hapless Kansas, 62-7. Baker Mayfield completed 27-of-32 passes for 383 yards and four touchdowns. "We know what's coming," Mayfield said. "That's why we're preparing. We knew from the beginning our hardest three games were at the end of the year."
John Rieger-USA TODAY SportsJohn Rieger
The final tuneup for the defining run
At 7-1, the CFP committee wasn't all that sold on OU as a serious playoff contender, placing it at No. 15 in the first rankings. Heading into a brutal November, the Sooners had to be sure not to overlook Iowa State, which was coming off a 24-0 blanking of Texas. No such problems for the Sooners, who quickly put away the Cyclones with 21 first-quarter points in the 52-16 victory. Next up: Baylor.
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY SportsMark D. Smith
Sooners end Bears' Big 12 reign
A season-ending injury to starter Seth Russell forced No. 4 Baylor to start second-string freshman QB Jarrett Stidham. The Sooners' defense make it tough on him early, forcing him to struggle through a bruised back, and then held on late for a huge victory over the Bears, the two-time defending Big 12 champs. Now OU's playoff path was set: win out and let the committee grapple with its fate. "Go into their backyard on a night like tonight and play this way, you know, we're one of those teams that has a chance," Bob Stoops said. "Again, you come into an undefeated team ranked that high, waiting on you, and win by 10. It's got to be a positive."
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY SportsJoe Camporeale
Way too close for comfort, but it'll do
No. 7 Oklahoma didn't have to face Heisman candidate quarterback Trevone Boykin, but TCU still rallied from a big hole to get to 30-29 in the final minute. Gary Patterson rolled the dice with a two-point conversion attempt that Steven Parker batted down and the Sooners, now 10-1, breathed a sigh of relief. It didn't help that Mayfield was lost for the second half with a concussion, fueling concerns that he might not be ready to face Oklahoma State the next week. "At halftime, they approached him again to go over some things and Baker admitted to having a headache, and that's when our doctors said we're not going to have him play," Stoops said.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY SportsKevin Jairaj
A Big 12 championship and a playoff statement
The close call against TCU actually pushed OU from No. 7 to No. 3. Now the Sooners knew it needed an emphatic victory over its in-state rival to keep the committee in its corner. OU went to Stillwater and dominated the Cowboys. Mayfield was cleared to play after the previous week's concussion and was fearless in his attack, carving up the Oklahoma State defense, and the Big 12 championship celebration was on. One week and one day later, the CFP committee tabbed the 11-1 Sooners No. 4. Next stop, the national semifinal against No. 1 Clemson at the Orange Bowl.