First & 20: Let the Bedlam begin — at least for now

Anthony Gimino

November 16, 2015 at 11:22 am.

Nov 14, 2015; Waco, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) and running back Joe Mixon (25) celebrate during the second half against the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 14, 2015; Waco, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) and running back Joe Mixon (25) celebrate during the second half against the Baylor Bears at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

We thought we were supposed to be watching the state of Texas. But Oklahoma happened.

Man, the whole dang state of Oklahoma happened.

The Cowboys and Sooners have pushed aside college football’s long march toward a TCU-Baylor showdown on the final weekend of the regular season, replacing it with Bedlam.

For now at least.

Oklahoma State derailed TCU two Saturdays ago, and then Oklahoma took another step toward reclaiming its place among the national elite with a 44-34 win over Baylor this weekend.

“You go into the No. 6 team’s backyard on a night like this and play this way,” said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, “it just tells you that we’re one of those teams that has a chance at everything.”

Both Oklahoma schools faded last season. Oklahoma State was 5-6 before being saved by Tyreek Hill’s late 92-yard punt return for a touchdown to set up an overtime win over the Sooners and push the Cowboys into a bowl.

That game was part of the reason why the Sooners plummeted to 8-5, the wheels off the wagon. Stoops’ ensuing program assessment and staff shakeup was so complete that when it was over, only one assistant coach had retained the same role.

The key hire was Lincoln Riley, arriving from East Carolina to install a version of the Air Raid attack. The corresponding personnel move was to give Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield, a former walk-on with the pass-happy Red Raiders, the keys to the offense.

Mayfield passed for 270 yards vs. Baylor, ran for 76, and accounted for four touchdowns. Hello, Heisman candidate.

“There’s something special about him,” Stoops said.

It is hard to believe this is the same Oklahoma team that lost earlier this season to Texas. Funny thing, this college football. Remember, Alabama botched its way to a home loss against Ole Miss earlier this season, too.

You definitely would not want to be playing Alabama right now. Same for Oklahoma.

The Sooners are 9-1 overall and 6-1 in the Big 12. Oklahoma State has, perhaps somehow more quietly, gone 10-0 and 7-0. Like the College Football Playoff selection committee, sometimes we just have to apply the eye test, and that exam says we’d take Oklahoma straight-up.

To their credit, though, the Cowboys keep finding a way, winning four conference games by a touchdown or less, including Saturday’s 35-31 decision at Iowa State.

The road to the Big 12 title goes through Stillwater.

No doubt, Oklahoma State gets into college football’s final four if it beats Baylor and Oklahoma in the next two weeks. Oklahoma is the league’s best shot at having a one-loss team advance to the playoff. It has to beat TCU and then take Bedlam on Nov. 28.

Sorry, state of Texas. Oklahoma-Oklahoma State looks like winner-take-all.

10 things we think we learned in Week 11

1. The Pac-12 is done. No. 7 Stanford lost to Oregon (where would the Ducks be if quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. had been healthy all season?), and No. 10 Utah fell in double overtime at Arizona, eliminating the Pac-12’s only shots at the College Football Playoff. Every team in the league has at least two losses.

2. Notre Dame won and lost. The Irish took care of their own business, beating Wake Forest 28-7, but Stanford’s loss to Oregon is problematic. Notre Dame needed the Cardinal to be as strong as possible for the strength of schedule boost when the teams play in Palo Alto on Nov. 28.

3. We want Navy QB Keenan Reynolds to get a Heisman invite. The senior set ran for four scores against SMU, setting the major college record for career rushing touchdowns with 81, surpassing former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, who had 77. Reynolds, a triple-option whiz, has expertly directed the Midshipmen to an 8-1 record and they will get a chance to play at unbeaten Houston in a couple of weeks to determine the winner of the American Athletic Conference West Division.

4. The season begins for Ohio State. J.T. Barrett is back in place at quarterback following a one-game suspension, and it’s time for the Buckeyes to step on the accelerator. To win back-to-back national titles, Ohio State will have to beat Michigan State, Michigan, very possibly an unbeaten Iowa team in the Big Ten title game, and then two more games in the playoff. Giddy-up.

5. The injuries just won’t stop. The outlook for two of the biggest games for this coming weekend will be muddled by quarterback questions. TCU’s Trevone Boykin (ankle) and Michigan State’s Connor Cook (shoulder) each had to leave games Saturday. Another star quarterback, Houston’s Greg Ward Jr., left Saturday because of an ankle injury and is questionable to play against UConn this week.

6. Leonard Fournette will have to wait to win the Heisman. The LSU sophomore still has a healthy lead in the national rushing race, averaging 172.9 yards per game, but the Tigers have lost two games in a row, including a 31-14 loss to Arkansas on Saturday.

7. USC is back in the driver’s seat. The Trojans escaped Colorado on Friday night, and then gleefully watched Utah and UCLA lose Saturday night. The combined results moved USC into a tie with Utah at 5-2 in the Pac-12 South, and the Trojans of interim head coach Clay Helton hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with two games to play.

8. Miami broke Duke. The Blue Devils haven’t been the same since being on the wrong end of Miami’s mis-officiated eight-lateral kick return for a touchdown. Duke, which had been 6-1, has been crushed by North Carolina and Pitt in the past two weeks by a combined 97-44.

9. Gary Pinkel deserved a nice moment. The Missouri coach, after the on-campus controversy and announcing his retirement last week to better deal with lymphoma, danced a jig with his players on the field and then was overcome with emotion in the locker room after a 20-16 home win over BYU.

10. It’s a party in Albuquerque. The bigger news was that Albuquerque’s Holly Holm stunned UFC champ Ronda Rousey on Saturday night, but an equally amazing upset happened when New Mexico got bowl-eligible for the first time since 2007 by winning 31-24 at Boise State after entering as a 30-point underdog. The Lobos, with games left against Colorado State and Air Force, control their destiny in the West division of the Mountain West, despite being picked last.

5 top Heisman candidates

1. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama. Even more solidified as the front-runner after rushing 22 times for 204 yards against Mississippi State, including touchdown sprints of 74 and 65 yards. Freak. Just. A. Freak.

2. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson. While his teammates perhaps auto-piloted their way through a 37-27 win at Syracuse, Watson completed 34 of 47 passes for 360 yards and ran for 105 yards. He accounted for three TDs.

3. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State. He dominated the second half against Illinois, rushing 27 times for 181 yards and two touchdowns. Michigan State and Michigan are next.

4. QB Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. His passing efficiency rating of 186.8 is second in the nation to Baylor’s injured Seth Russell, who will eventually fail to qualify for the national rankings because of a lack of games played.

5. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State. When it comes right down to it, we’re not sure he’s not the best back in America.

5 best Week 12 games

1. Michigan State at Ohio State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET). The College Football Playoff selection committee insists Ohio State’s best football is ahead of it. It’s time for the Buckeyes to put up.

2. Baylor at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET). There’s still a path for Baylor to reach the playoffs. It’s a faint path. The Bears need help. But they can also help themselves.

3. TCU at Oklahoma (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET). The Horned Frogs appear to be a shell of themselves, especially if QB Trevone Boykin can’t go, or is limited. Either way, there can be no let-up in the Sooners.

4. USC at Oregon (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET). This looked like the Pac-12 Game of the Year in the preseason, then it didn’t … and now it just looks like a whole lot of fun. The two teams in the league with the most NFL talent meet in rowdy Autzen Stadium, and there is still plenty at stake in the division races.

5. North Carolina at Virginia Tech (Saturday, noon ET). Frank Beamer will take an emotional final bow at Lane Stadium against one of the hottest teams in the country. Film Room Review

Analyst Rob Rang’s five prospect takeaways for this week. Players listed including position, school, year (Height, weight and current overall rating and by position).

5. OT Jason Spriggs, Indiana, 6-6, 305, Sr. (#47 Overall, #6 OT): His steady run blocking and pass protection nearly pushed the Hoosiers past Michigan. Spriggs has the size and well-distributed musculature NFL scouts are looking for, as well as impressive initial quickness, lateral agility and balance.

4. TE Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech, 605, 249, rSo. (#2 TE in Class of 2018): Hodges, technically eligible for the 2016 NFL Draft as a redshirt sophomore, boasts an exciting combination of size, speed and power which helped him stand out regardless of whether the Hokies lined up as a traditional in-line tight end or split him out wide against Georgia Tech.

3. WR Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma, 5-10, 193, Sr. (#111/#14): The diminutive Shepard turned in a gutty performance in catching 14 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns against Oklahoma St. Shepard is a nightmare to cover because he possesses the straight-line speed to beat defenders over the top, as well as the quickness and balance to change directions in a flash.

2. CB D.J. White, Georgia Tech, 5-11, 188, Sr. (#136/#16): White broke up two passes and made several quick, sure tackles against Virginia Tech. White has light feet, good balance and the fluid hips to change directions easily, showing off the natural coverage skills scouts covet. He showed impressive hand-eye coordination and mental toughness Thursday night, as well.

1. DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State, 6-5, 275, Jr. (#1/#1): In tying his season high with seven tackles and three tackles for loss, Bosa alternated between left and right end and even lined up as a stand-up rush linebacker over center. He was often double- and triple-teamed, creating opportunities for teammates. Bosa was dominating yet again despite not putting up monster stats.