INDIANAPOLIS — Oklahoma’s rout of Texas Christian for the second time this year ensures not only that the Big 12, staging the first conference championship game in its 10-team format, would land in the College Football Playoff for the second time in four seasons, but that its entrant again would be the Sooners.
Ranked No. 3 by the playoff selection committee entering the game, Oklahoma (12-1) has now twice beaten a solid T.C.U. team (10-3) that had been ranked 11th, and this season the Sooners have also defeated No. 8 Ohio State (10-2, and playing Wisconsin for the Big Ten championship Saturday night) and No. 19 Oklahoma State (9-3). Oklahoma’s sole loss came to Iowa State (7-5) by 7 points.
While Oklahoma’s win most obviously wiped out T.C.U.’s chance at the playoff, for practical purposes it also pushed out No. 10 Southern California (11-2) despite the Trojans’ triumph over No. 12 Stanford (9-4) in the Pacific-12 championship game Friday night. U.S.C.’s 31-28 win was no blowout, and ahead of it in the rankings entering Saturday were all six teams in the major-conference title games still to be played, plus No. 5 Alabama (11-1). The Trojans are almost certainly headed to the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 30 in Glendale, Ariz.
Oklahoma’s victory accomplished one other thing: It cemented further — not that it needed it — the front-runner status of its senior quarterback, Baker Mayfield, for the Heisman Trophy. Mayfield, a previous finalist, had stood out in a field otherwise occupied by running backs who did not quite break out. He entered Saturday with the Football Bowl Subdivision’s highest completion percentage and yards per attempt and a blistering touchdown-to-interception ratio of 37 to 5. On Saturday, against T.C.U.’s eighth-ranked scoring defense, he threw for four touchdowns and 243 yards.
Oklahoma (and Mayfield) have now won the Big 12 for three consecutive years.
In Saturday’s other pivotal games: Auburn and Georgia kicked off for the Southeastern Conference championship in the afternoon; Miami and Clemson were to meet later for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship; and Ohio State and Wisconsin were to play later for the Big Ten title.