A year ago, Oklahoma could do nothing more than watch Ohio State celebrate a playoff statement win on their home field. The loss essentially knocked Oklahoma out of the College Football Playoff race before the green light ever got a chance to go on, and even though the Sooners ran through the Big 12 without a loss, the damage had been done after the Buckeyes dropped Oklahoma to 1-2 (Oklahoma had already lost to Houston). It had been a year, and a lot had changed with the program.
One thing that had not changed, was the determination of Sooners starting quarterback Baker Mayfield. He’s been waiting for this particular game for a year now.
And after shredding the Buckeyes defense for 386 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-16 victory in Ohio Stadium, Mayfield went the extra distance to mark his territory. He did so by planting the Oklahoma flag at midfield smack dab in the middle of the “O” logo, a move that is equally a display of pride and joy and poor sportsmanship. But for Mayfield, the score has been settled.
Mayfield’s flag-planting shenanigans will rub Ohio State the wrong way, and Mayfield may be criticized for the act as well, but this was a loud statement for the Sooners and Mayfield. A year after being dropped out of the playoff conversation before hitting October, Oklahoma is poised to make a case for the top spot in the polls on Sunday.
Based purely off of résumé at this point, Oklahoma scoring a double-digit victory on the road against Ohio State — and Mayfield piling up the stats — is arguably more impressive than Alabama’s start to the year, even with a win against Florida State. But it’s far too early to think about the rankings. There is still business to attend to, but the road looks to be pretty clear for the Sooners to remain in a solid position once the College Football Playoff rankings come into the picture.
As good as Oklahoma played Saturday night, there were still areas they can work on to become even stronger. Oklahoma had two turnovers, converted four of 11 third down attempts, and went 1-for-3 on fourth down. What truly stood out was how well the Sooners played on defense. Maybe Ohio State’s offense has some hiccups of their own as former Oklahoma offensive cooridnator Kevin Wilson gets his feet wet in the same role in Columbus, but Oklahoma held Ohio State to just 16 points and 350 yards of offense. It was a friendly reminder than when needed, you can find a good defense in the Big 12.
If you had any concerns about Oklahoma this year, their Week 2 performance may have calmed you down. Lincoln Riley won a big game on the road against a battle-tested head coach. The Sooners showed they can play defense, and they have an offensive line that can withstand the pressure of one of the top defensive line sin the nation. And they have a quarterback who won’t back down from a challenge.
All of a sudden, Oklahoma doesn’t just look like a strong Big 12 contender, but the win in Ohio Stadium begins to start a serious push for the College Football Playoff with 10 regular season games to go. It’s still a long ride back to the playoff, but the Sooners proved more than capable of carrying the banner for the Big 12 on a day of ups and downs for the entire conference.
And after carrying that Big 12 banner, they might just plant it at midfield.
[Photo & Video Credit: ABC/ESPN]