NORMAN, Okla. — On the field, Oklahoma and TCU play contentious football. They’ve met seven times since 2005. Six of the meetings were decided by a touchdown or less.
Since the Horned Frogs joined the Big 12 Conference at the beginning of the 2012 season, the Sooners have won four of five meetings. Every game was decided on the final possession.
The fifth-ranked Sooners (8-1, 5-1 Big 12) face the sixth-ranked Horned Frogs (8-1, 5-1) at 8 p.m. ET Saturday at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
It almost seems foolish to expect anything other than another razor-tight game to decide who leads the Big 12.
Think back to TCU’s last visit to Oklahoma in 2015. The Sooners were in the midst of a College Football Playoff run. TCU came out of the tunnel without star quarterback Trevone Boykin.
Oklahoma lost quarterback Baker Mayfield to a concussion for the entire second half. The Sooners hung on for dear life without their quarterback. Then-sophomore Steven Parker broke up a 2-point conversion pass with less than a minute left to preserve a 30-29 Oklahoma victory.
“That play is in the past now,” Parker said. “Of course, I’m always going to remember that and tell my kids. It was a great moment. Now it’s 2017 and we had a great year last year against them.”
Memorable plays occur when TCU, Oklahoma meet
TCU came out on top in one of those remarkable games: a 37-33 victory over the Sooners in 2014. Linebacker Paul Dawson returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown and stuffed Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine on a fourth-and-1 play with less than 3 minutes to go.
Last season, the Sooners got a breakout game from wide receiver Dede Westbrook, who caught 2 touchdown passes, helping the Sooners erase an early 14-point deficit and reverse its season with a 52-46 victory over the Horned Frogs.
“That’s still one of my better games,” Okoronkwo said. “It showed me what I could do. It showed me what my role could be in this defense.”
Mayfield makes his third start against the Horned Frogs on Saturday, but he’s loomed large in every game in the series since 2014.
He threw for 274 yards and 2 touchdowns and ran for 2 in last season’s meeting. In 2015, Mayfield threw 2 early touchdown passes before leaving the game.
Even out of uniform, Mayfield has impacted this growing rivalry. He listed TCU as one of the schools that snubbed him leading up to Oklahoma’s meeting with Clemson in the 2015 Orange Bowl, setting off a back-and-forth between him and TCU coach Gary Patterson.
In 2014, Mayfield’s knowledge of TCU offensive coordinator Sonny Cumbie’s offense came into play. Mayfield, who was ineligible that season due to NCAA transfer, tried to steal TCU’s signs from the Oklahoma sideline.
It didn’t work, and the Sooners suffered the first of five losses that season. TCU went on to finish 12-1 and shared the Big 12 title with Baylor.
Cut from the same cloth
Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley faces Patterson for the first time on Saturday as equals. Strategically, this is their third meeting. Patterson is the Big 12’s defensive mastermind. The Horned Frogs are No. 6 in the FBS in total defense and scoring defense. The Sooners are about 80 spots back in both categories.
Riley, who has created a reputation as an offensive innovator, admires what TCU has done. The 3-3-5 defensive scheme the Horned Frogs employ is unique.
“You just don’t see something like them every week, so that makes it a little more difficult to prepare for,” Riley said. “And yeah, their guys are brought up in the same system, all the way through. They do a lot of things I think that makes them good on defense for what we strive to do and try to do here. I know offensively what we try to do here: keep it the same and have a foundation that you build on, and is something you believe in.”
The overwhelming topic of this game will be the Sooners offense, which is the FBS leader in total yards, against the Horned Frogs defense. Team strength vs. team strength doesn’t often happen in the Big 12.
This could easily be the first of two meetings between the Sooners and Horned Frogs over the next four weeks. They’re the only 1-loss teams in the Big 12. The top two advance to the Big 12 title game on Dec. 2.
There’s a lot of games left to decide that. But history says it’ll be late Saturday night before the Sooners and Horned Frogs figure out who has the upper hand.