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Oklahoma Sooners Football vs. Iowa State: Big 12 Championship Game preview, storylines & predictions

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The two best teams in the Big 12 will battle for the conference crown in what should be an epic rematch.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 07 Big 12 Championship Game Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The more things change, the more things remain the same. Despite an inauspicious 1-2 start to the 2020 campaign, the No. 10 Oklahoma Sooners (7-2, 6-2) have once again done what they (almost) always do — reach the Big 12 Championship Game. This time, the No. 6 Iowa State Cyclones (8-2, 8-1) will line up against OU as these two title contenders get set to tangle for the second time this season. It’s a battle for the conference crown, and it’s about to begin.

Date, Time & TV: Saturday, Dec. 19 at 11 a.m. CT on ABC

Location: AT&T Stadium — Arlington, Texas

Streaming: WatchESPN

Line: Oklahoma -6 (as of Friday at 4 p.m. CT)

O/U: 58

Links of the week:

Major Storylines

Let it snub, let it snub, let it snub!

Earlier this week, the Big 12 announced its selections for its First and Second All-Conference Teams, and not one Sooner defender was named to the All-Big 12 First Team despite the championship level defense Oklahoma has played this season. In turn, a number of OU players took to social media to voice their disagreement with the glaring omissions, including junior DE Ronnie Perkins.

An argument for Perkins not making the All-Big 12 First Team could be made simply because he missed the first five games of the season, but for his teammates like Nik Bonitto or Isaiah Thomas, they each have a legitimate gripe for not being recognized among the very best the league has to offer. Not only are those players having phenomenal years as individuals, the defense around them is performing at or near the top of virtually every major statistical category (first in total sacks, second in third down percentage, second in total defense, third in points per game, third in interceptions). If that doesn’t warrant at least one first teamer, I honestly don’t know what would.

Spencer Rattler was also slighted, as he was recognized with a laughable honorable mention behind ISU’s Brock Purdy and Texas’ Sam Ehlinger for the All-Big 12 First and Second Teams. All disrespect aside, one thing is for certain, this team has more motivation to make a statement in this game than it did a few days ago, and that’s not something Iowa State would have ever asked for.

Will Trejan Bridges have an impact in this game?

First of all, Trejan Bridges is back! It only took a 10-games out of a six-game suspension over one full calendar year for the NCAA to allow the talented Oklahoma wideout to return to the field of play.

Now that Bridges is back, will he actually see live reps this Saturday? If so, how much of an impact could he potentially make? My guess is if he does play (and he’ll likely see the field), he’s not going to suddenly break out for 100-plus receiving yards and multiple touchdowns. A couple catches to move the chains will likely be the extent of his contributions this weekend, but I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

Can OU’s secondary slow down ISU’s passing attack?

In the first meeting between these two Big 12 Championship participants this season, much was made about the size difference between the Cyclone pass catchers and the Sooner defensive backs. In fact, five of ISU’s top six receivers this season are listed at 6’3 or taller. As the game played out, that height difference proved to be a significant factor in the outcome of the contest.

Now, the players in OU’s secondary aren’t going to suddenly sprout five inches overnight, so they’ll have to make sure Iowa State’s tall receivers have to at least meet some resistance when their numbers are called. The Sooners cannot allow the Cyclones’ big weapons to also be big, wide-open weapons. With how talented Matt Campbell’s offense is, they’re inevitably going to eat eventually. However, Alex Grinch’s defense needs to make sure the lid on the back end is at least partially closed and doesn’t come flying off more than a few times.

Will Breece Hall continue to spam the B-button with impunity?

According to my calculations, Iowa State RB Breece Hall successfully spun out of a would-be tackle at least 237 times against Oklahoma in their last meeting. Obviously I’m exaggerating here, but it certainly felt like the Sooner defenders were stuck on spin cycle whenever they tried to bring the nation’s leading rusher to the ground.

Something to watch as this rematch unfolds is Hall’s production. The future NFL-back has eclipsed 100 rushing yards in eight of his 10 contests played this season. In the two games he did not break the century mark, he still ran for more than 90. OU, on the other hand, has built its defense around shutting down opposing run games. Not only do they lead the Big 12 in run defense (88.1 yards allowed per game), they rank fourth in the nation in said stat. If the Sooners can keep Hall under 90, they’ll likely claim their sixth straight conference title.

Is this the year someone not named Oklahoma wins the Big 12?

Speaking of the conference title, yes, Oklahoma has won in fact claimed the last five Big 12 crowns. In the league’s 24-year history coming into this season, OU has stood on top 13 times. Basically, more often than not, the championship trophy has found its way to Norman.

In a year where the Sooners were certainly at their most vulnerable over this current stretch of dominance, Lincoln Riley’s group somehow managed to find a way to position itself for yet another conference championship. At the same time, this Iowa State squad is absolutely capable of ending Oklahoma’s streak, but if it doesn’t happen this year, when will it? Whether you’re a fan of parity or dynasties in college football, this matchup should pique your interest.

Prediction

With all the commotion stirring up the Oklahoma locker room this week, I expect the Sooners to hold true to their usual fast starting ways. Spencer Rattler is as competitive as they come, and his teammates will feed off of his energy. On defense, I fear for whoever has to block Ronnie Perkins, because that man will be on a mission like we’ve never seen before. If you thought he was cooking against Texas in 2019 after the Longhorns offered up some delicious bulletin board material, stay tuned. Brock Purdy is a very good QB, and will make some plays both with his arm and his legs, but he’ll be under more pressure in this game than he has been all season. Also, Purdy’s backfield teammate, Breece Hall, will break off a long run at some point, but overall, OU will limit the damage the Cyclones inflict on the ground, forcing ISU to attack aerially more times than it wants to. The game will be relatively close in the third quarter, but down the stretch, Lincoln Riley’s team will pull away.

Oklahoma 38, Iowa State 21

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