The Big 12 conference has been perhaps the most competitive Power 5 conference all season long. From the Kansas Jayhawks’ flashes under first-year head coach Les Miles to the resurgence of the Baylor Bears under Matt Rhule to the continued dominance of Oklahoma under Lincoln Riley, the Big 12 has featured compelling storylines all season long. Closing out the intriguing season in the 2019 Big 12 Championship game will be #6 Oklahoma and #7 Baylor, playing for the conference title and, most likely, a berth in the College Football Playoff. The championship contest features two extremely well-coached sides and several top-tier NFL prospects.
Matt Rhule has done a fantastic job of rebuilding the Baylor Bears. After the disturbing story that occurred under former coach Art Briles, Baylor was at an all-time low. Matt Rhule came in and vowed to change the culture. Two years ago, Baylor finished at 1-11. This year, they are 11-1. Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Snow was recently named a Broyles Award finalist, given to the best assistant coach in college football.
Snow will be relying on his devastating defensive front in this game to try and shut down the Oklahoma offense.
Leading the way up front for Baylor is junior defensive end James Lynch and senior nose tackle Bravvion Roy. Lynch is currently 14th in sacks on the season with 10.5, but those numbers don’t do his pass-rushing ability justice. Per Pro Football Focus, James Lynch has 68 total pressures on the season, which ranks first in the country and is 17 more than Iowa’s AJ Epenesa. He’s a menace for opposing offensive linemen to deal with due to his explosive quickness and power. If he declares for the draft, I wouldn’t be shocked if he ends up in the first three rounds.
Bravvion Roy is one of the best nose tackles in the country. Roy has incredible power at the point of attack and has excellent movement skills and athletic ability. Frank Okam, his defensive line coach, has said Roy runs a “sub-5.0, maybe even a 4.9” 40-yard dash at 330 pounds. Roy is a workout freak and should dominate the NFL Combine. These two have played at an elite level all season long. If Baylor wants to shut down Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game, they will do so because of their outstanding defensive line play.
When Baylor is on offense, they will be relying on senior playmaker WR Denzel Mims. I’ve broken down Mims earlier this season, but I’ll say again that Mims remains criminally underrated. He caught two touchdowns against the Sooners the last time these two teams met and is an electric deep-threat receiver. He’s already accepted his Senior Bowl invite and will need to put forth another outstanding game for Baylor if they want to beat Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship.
Oklahoma comes into the game as the favorite over Baylor with a dynamic offense and a vastly-improved defense. Lincoln Riley is one of the best head coaches in college football and has the Sooners playing at a high level despite massive turnover on offense in the offseason. Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch was wrongfully snubbed for the Broyles Award. His turnaround of the Sooners’ defense is the reason why Oklahoma is playing in the Big 12 Championship.
When you’re a blue-blood program like Oklahoma, you have talented NFL-caliber prospects all over the field. This season, the Sooners are the most balanced they have been in a long time in terms of offensive and defensive NFL prospects.
On offense, junior wide receiver Ceedee Lamb missed the first game between these two teams but will play in this game. He adds a new level of threat to the Sooners’ offense, as he is one of the best wide receivers in the country and is the most talented player on the Sooners’ roster. He has a case to be the first wide receiver drafted in the 2020 NFL Draft, showcasing his elite combination of size, speed, and route-running ability. In last year’s Big 12 title game, Ceedee Lamb recorded 167 receiving yards and one touchdown on six receptions. He’ll need to have another big game for the Sooners this week.
On defense, Oklahoma has plenty of talent as well. Senior cornerback Parnell Motley is coming off of his best performance of his career, posting six tackles, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and one (and a chance at two) interceptions. He’ll face the tall task of trying to shut down Denzel Mims.
Senior defensive tackle Neville Gallimore is one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the country and generates double and triple teams every game. His presence up front helps the Sooners out on defense, and they will need him to control the line of scrimmage against Baylor’s dynamic defense. Gallimore is viewed as a top-50 prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft by many and has already accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl.
Junior linebacker Kenneth Murray, the heart and soul of the Oklahoma defense, will have to be the Sooners’ best player on his side of the ball (as he has been most of the season). Murray is an instinctive linebacker who flies hot in pursuit to all levels of the field and is the leader of the Sooner defense. Many people have put Murray in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, and a great championship game can verify that hype.
The current line is Oklahoma -8 in the Big 12 Championship. Oklahoma’s best games on both sides of the ball the last two seasons have come in the Big 12 title game. The Sooners won the first game at Baylor without star wide receiver Ceedee Lamb and have given me no reason to doubt them winning this a second time.
Prediction: Oklahoma over Baylor 41-28