Third-ranked Oklahoma streaking into Big 12 opener at Baylor
WACO, Texas (AP) While Baker Mayfield never really sensed that Oklahoma’s series against Baylor was becoming a rivalry, the quarterback knew it had become quite a challenge.
Mayfield has since helped third-ranked Sooners restore their dominance against the Bears – and in the Big 12.
Two-time defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma (3-0), which has won 16 straight league games, plays Saturday night at Baylor (0-3) in the conference opener for both teams.
”I wouldn’t say it’s more exciting because we had a good game two years ago,” Mayfield said. ”I would say for us it’s about being the first Big 12 game of us making a run at this thing.”
Two years ago, the Bears were undefeated and the nation’s fourth-ranked team when Mayfield and the Sooners arrived for a mid-November game. Baylor had won three of four against Oklahoma, including consecutive lopsided victories, after losing the first 20 games in the series.
”It was an emotional game for us. Thinking about the two years before that and how Baylor played against us,” Mayfield said. ”It was big because Baylor was ranked so high. … We had the playoff focus at the time and so we knew we had to win out after that Texas loss.”
Oklahoma won 44-34 then, handing the Bears their first loss in the new campus stadium that opened in 2014 on the banks of the Brazos River. The Sooners, who went into that game 15th in the College Football Playoff rankings, went on to the Big 12 title and a spot in the four-team playoff.
Now the Sooners’ 13-game winning streak is the longest the country. It includes a 45-24 home win over Baylor last November, and that big victory at then-No. 2 Ohio State two weeks ago to avenge their last loss.
”I think we are trending in the right direction,” said first-year head coach Lincoln Riley, OU’s offensive coordinator the past two years under Bob Stoops.
The Bears are trying to avoid their first 0-4 start since 1999. After losses to Liberty and UTSA – teams that had never won against a Power Five opponent – they now have Oklahoma and trips to Kansas State and sixth-ranked Oklahoma State to start Big 12 play.
”Now we’re sitting here at 0-3, but we’re still 0-0 in conference, so go try to win conference games,” first-year Baylor coach Matt Rhule said. ”That mindset of conference, to me, is that preseason is gone and over with.”
Some other things to know when the Sooners and Bears play:
BACK ON THE EAST COAST
Riley’s last two seasons on East Carolina’s staff (2013-14) overlapped Rhule’s first two seasons as head coach at Temple, which went from two wins his first year to consecutive 10-win seasons and an American Athletic Conference title.
”The transformation there was really incredible,” Riley said. ”He’s a really, really good football coach.” Riley said he could see the potential and growth in the Bears when watching film.
Oklahoma has won its last 12 true road games, the longest active streak – Alabama and Clemson have both won 11 in a row. … The 16-game Big 12 winning streak is one short of the school record set from 2003-05. … Saturday will mark 371 days since Oklahoma’s last loss, and 714 days since the last Big 12 loss to Texas in October 2015.
Terence Williams, a 1,000-yard runner with 11 TDs last season, had a hard time watching while still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and missing Baylor’s first three games. The junior is set for his season debut Saturday.
”I’m an angry watcher. It’s all inside, I keep it inside,” Williams said. ”I have to make up for these games I’ve missed.”
The Baylor secondary will have some extra help. Senior safety Taion Sells has completed a three-game suspension for an unspecified offseason incident, and will play for the first time Saturday, as will cornerback Grayland Arnold after a broken left arm during a preseason scrimmage. Jordan Tolbert, another cornerback, is also expected back from an injury.
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