Kyler Mur­ray de­liv­ers big pay­back, seals Big 12 ti­tle

Star-Telegram (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY MAC ENGEL ten­[email protected]­gram.com

The good peo­ple of Ok­la­homa won’t like this but the best thing for the Soon­ers, and the en­tire Big 12, is to miss the Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off.

No mat­ter how much the Pac-12 stinks to foot­ball heaven, the Big 12 needs a stern les­son that de­fense must be a pri­or­ity. The only thing that will do it is to miss the play­offs for the third time in five years.

Un­til this league learns les­son that de­fense wins it all, it will con­tinue to live at the edge of the dis­cus­sion of the na­tional ti­tle rather than ac­tu­ally win­ning one.

Just reach­ing the play­offs can­not be the pri­or­ity for a Power 5 league.

Iron­i­cally, the Soon­ers’ de­fense was the dif­fer­ence in their 39-27 win over Texas in the Big 12 ti­tle game on Satur­day, but do not be se­duced by a well-timed safety.

No Big 12 team has demon­strated it has the de­fense to man up with the elite teams in the na­tion.

So go ahead and put in Al­abama, Ge­or­gia, Clem­son and Notre Dame into the BcS Plus 2. If you want to throw out Ge­or­gia, fine. As much as it makes me sports sick, put in Ohio State.

The Soon­ers’ over­all record of 12-1 should make them a lock to reach the Fi­nal Four, but by now we know the se­lec­tion com­mit­tee uses what­ever num­bers to jus­tify a choice in what is not an ex­er­cise in an­a­lyt­ics, but rather an ex­pen­sive eye­ball test.

“That is a heck of a foot­ball team and they have an un­be­liev­able of­fense,” Texas coach Tom Her­man said of OU.

No ar­gu­ment on the of­fense.

That Kyler Mur­ray has been equal to Baker May­field’s per­for­mance in 2017 is one of the least ap­pre­ci­ated de­tails in this 2018 col­lege foot­ball season. Hope­fully Mur­ray re­turns to Nor­man for one more year rather than pur­sues base­ball.

What Ri­ley has de­vised and cre­ated in re­plac­ing Bob Stoops in Nor­man is re­mark­able, and fun to watch.

It is also not enough to win the na­tional ti­tle.

The Soon­ers are the only team from the Big 12 to ever reach the CFP, and they are 0-2 in both games. In those play­offs, their de­fense sur­ren­dered 37 points to Clem­son in ‘15, and 54 to Ge­or­gia in dou­ble OT last year.

I asked Ri­ley if he thought his team is play­ing de­fense well enough to win a na­tional ti­tle. “Yes. Yes I do,” he said. Why?

“Based on we beat every­body on our sched­ule,” he said.

The sched­ule right now in­cludes wins over three ranked teams: Iowa State, West Vir­ginia and Texas. Its non-con­fer­ence win against UCLA means lit­tle be­cause the Bru­ins un­der Chip Kelly in Year 1 were bad; the Soon­ers’ OT win over Army team that fin­ished 9-2 looks more im­pres­sive.

“You have to win by one point in th­ese games the last time I checked,” Ri­ley said.

Right again. Col­lege foot­ball has not fig­ured out a way for a team to win with­out scor­ing one more point than its op­po­nent. How­ever, Notre Dame and Texas should be op­ti­mistic that such a plan will be in place by 2025.

“I feel like we can score points on peo­ple. I feel like we can stop peo­ple,” Ri­ley said. “And I feel like, we are gain­ing trac­tion de­fen­sively. I feel like the last cou­ple of weeks we’ve had huge, huge gains and huge mo­ments against dy­namic of­fenses.”

Be­fore Satur­day, the Soon­ers had al­lowed at least 30 points in six of their pre­vi­ous eight games. In four straight games, they al­lowed at least 40 points, which in­cludes Kansas. In Nor­man.

“I don’t think we have played our best yet and I think we’re go­ing to get there,” Ri­ley said. “I know how close we were to it last year to be­ing in the (na­tional ti­tle game). And I have ev­ery bit of con­fi­dence in this team, this of­fense, this de­fense and this spe­cial teams as I did sit­ting on this stage last year at this time. I know we can.”

For the umpteenth year, the Ok­la­homa Soon­ers are the class of the Big 12 and are the best the league can of­fer the na­tion. Not only did they earn the right to flash “Horns Down” un­pe­nal­ized all over the field on Satur­day, they are the best op­tion for the CFP se­lec­tion com­mit­tee from the Big 12.

Texas beat them once, while Texas Tech, Ok­la­homa State, Iowa State and West Vir­ginia gave the Boomer a good scare.

UT had the Soon­ers nearly beat again on Satur­day, un­til de­fen­sive back Tre Brown ex­e­cuted a bril­liant blitz to sack Longhorns quar­ter­back Sam Eh­linger in the end­zone for a safety with 8:27 re­main­ing in the game.

Eh­linger never saw him com­ing. The play broke a 27-all tie and set up the Soon­ers for their game­clinch­ing touch­down on their next drive.

The Soon­ers are again the best of the league, and may yet land an­other play­off berth against op­po­nents they sim­ply are not good enough to stop.

We’ve seen those matchups and we know how they fin­ish.

The best thing for the Soon­ers, and the league, is to miss the play­offs so maybe then they will con­cen­trate on the lit­tle de­tail that will win them the na­tional ti­tle... de­fense.

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