Jake TrotterESPN Staff WriterClose
- Covers the Big 12
- Joined ESPN.com in 2011
- Graduate of Washington & Lee University
ARLINGTON, Texas — Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley said his team is “playoff-worthy,” and if the College Football Playoff selection committee includes the Sooners on Sunday, he has confidence that they can win the national championship.
“I get that there are other great teams out there, but I feel very confident this team can go forward and continue to win,” Riley said after the Sooners beat Texas 39-27 to win the Big 12 championship on Saturday. “I think our best ball is ahead of us. We’ve got some great players behind us I think that a lot of people don’t want to play.
“We’ll let the committee do their job. They’ve got a lot of good things to look at from this team today. I’m sure they were tuned in watching this. And if they did, I think they saw one of the best teams in the country.”
Oklahoma, which became the first school to win four consecutive Big 12 titles, avenged its only defeat of the season, a 48-45 loss to Texas in October.
Despite boasting the nation’s top scoring offense fueled by Heisman hopeful quarterback Kyler Murray, the No. 5 Sooners have been maligned in playoff conversations because of a struggling defense that surrendered at least 40 points in four consecutive games entering Saturday. Before that, Riley fired defensive coordinator Mike Stoops the day after the first Texas meeting.
But in the rematch against the Longhorns, Oklahoma delivered one of its best defensive performances of the season, holding Texas to just 88 rushing yards and almost five points below its scoring average.
“We have the best college football player in the country and the best offense in the country,” Oklahoma linebacker Curtis Bolton said after the game. “I don’t think you can leave us out after what you’ve seen.”
Kyler Murray throws for 379 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Sooners get revenge vs. Texas and win the Big 12 title.
The Oklahoma defense came up with perhaps the play of the game, as cornerback Tre Brown sacked Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger in the end zone off a blitz for a safety midway through the fourth quarter, giving the Sooners a 32-27 lead with 8:27 to play.
Last weekend, despite giving up 56 points in a win at West Virginia, Oklahoma also scored a pair of defensive touchdowns off fumble recoveries.
“I feel like we can score points on people, I feel like that we can stop people, and I feel like we’re gaining traction defensively,” Riley said. “I feel like we’ve had some of our best performances here the last couple weeks in huge games, huge moments against dynamic offenses.
“I don’t think we’ve played our best yet this year. And I think we’re going to get there.”
The Sooners advanced to the playoff last season but fell short to Georgia 54-48 in double overtime in the semifinal at the Rose Bowl. Riley said this year’s team is equipped to go even further, if given the opportunity.
“I know how close we were to it last year to being in the last [game],” Riley said. “And I have every bit as much confidence in this team, this offense, this defense, this special teams as I did sitting in this stage last year at this time. I have zero doubt.”
Riley also has little doubt that he has the best player in the country in Murray, who was 25-of-34 for 379 yards and three TDs against Texas.
“He’s done things in college football that have never happened before, but I think the biggest thing for me is he had to do it in big moments,” Riley said of Murray, who was voted by Big 12 coaches as the conference’s top offensive player. “He had to do it with all the talk about Baker [Mayfield] and replacing him, and ‘there is no chance you’re going to be this good.’
“He’s had to continually make big plays in big games throughout the entire year and he’s done that. He’s been the most dynamic player in the country. … There’s a lot of other great ones out there. I get this, but our guy right here is pretty special.”
Murray, who said he still plans on quitting football after this season to focus on his baseball career with the Oakland Athletics, remains on pace to shatter the FBS season passing efficiency record, set last season by Mayfield, who won the Heisman.
“The man is great. There’s nothing he cannot do,” receiver CeeDee Lamb said of Murray’s Heisman hopes. “He can scramble. He can throw the ball on the run. He’s so great in so many categories that I don’t see why not.”
Added linebacker Caleb Kelly: “It’s how he plays, how he wins. You should see. You know where the Heisman should be, and it should be with Kyler.”
ESPN’s Sam Khan Jr. contributed to this report.