A stunner in Norman, Okla., has shifted the Big 12 power structure, and signals why the Big 12 championship game could be a good thing for the conference.
When Baker Mayfield’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete in the final moments, third-ranked Oklahoma fell to Iowa State 38-31 on Saturday. The Cyclones had beaten a top-three opponent for the first time in their history and ended an 18-game losing streak to the Sooners.
Oklahoma, the league’s preseason favorite and pointed in the right direction for the College Football Playoff after a victory at Ohio State last month, now has an ugly blemish on its record.
But teams can rebound from those and stand under the confetti at the final game. Look no farther than last season when Clemson dropped a home game to Pittsburgh and went on to capture the national championship.
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Check out the first two years of the CFP. In 2014, Ohio State lost at home to Virginia Tech, and the next year Alabama fell at home to Mississippi. The Buckeyes and Crimson Tide went on to national titles.
All reached the CFP semifinals by capturing their conference championship game.
Oklahoma likely can afford Saturday’s loss if it wins out and takes the first Big 12 title game since 2010, set for Dec. 2 at Arlington, Tex.
But Oklahoma’s schedule isn’t easy. The showdown with Texas awaits next weekend, followed by a trip to Kansas State. The Sooners play at Oklahoma State and home against TCU on successive weekends later in the season.
TCU will leap Oklahoma in the polls and has become the Big 12 favorite after Saturday’s home victory over West Virginia. TCU, the league’s lone unbeaten team, won impressively two weeks ago at Oklahoma State. That was the biggest eye-opener in conference play, until Saturday.
The biggest victory in Iowa State history? Perhaps. The most unlikely? Yes. Quarterback Kyle Kempt is a walk-on who opened the year third on the depth chart. He’s a redshirt senior who hadn’t taken a snap in a college game — he had been at Oregon State and Hutchinson Community College previous to Ames, Iowa — until this season, and Saturday marked his first start.
Kempt played because regular Jacob Park took a health-related leave of absence this week. Kempt completed 18 of 24 for 343 yards and three touchdowns. He brought the Cyclones back from a 14-point deficit.
It’s the stuff of legend for Iowa State and second-year coach Matt Campbell, and it doesn’t have to end Oklahoma’s national championship aspiration.