Big 12 Championship Game: Will the reincarnated game ruin OU's playoff hopes?

Baker Mayfield is looking for his third Big 12 title, but first with Lincoln Riley as head coach. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Big 12 Championship
No. 3 Oklahoma (11-1, 8-1) vs. No. 11 TCU (10-2, 7-2)
Saturday, 12:30 p.m. (Arlington, Texas)

HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE:

Oklahoma: The lone blemish on Oklahoma’s schedule was a 38-31 home loss to Iowa State in early October. It was shocking at the time, but the Cyclones did the same thing to TCU a few weeks later, making it a less and less shocking outcome as the season progressed. A win over Ohio State in Columbus was an early highlight. And after the ISU loss, OU had a few other close calls before cruising to an 11-1 finish. The offense is the story, averaging 45.3 points per game.

TCU: TCU jumped out to a 7-0 start and a No. 4 ranking, including a September upset over then-No. 6 Oklahoma State, before following in Oklahoma’s footsteps with an upset loss to Iowa State. The Horned Frogs lost to the Sooners 38-20 on Nov. 11, but won their last two to finish the regular season 10-2 and earn a spot in the Big 12 title game. The strength of TCU is its defense, which allowed just 15.7 points per game.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: After finishing as the runner-up to Lamar Jackson last year, Mayfield is the heavy favorite to win the Heisman this time around. For the season, Mayfield has thrown for 4,097 yards and 37 touchdowns with just five interceptions. His completion percentage (71.4) and his quarterback rating (203.3) are No. 1 nationally. He has thrown at least three touchdown passes in five straight games.

FILE – In this Nov. 4, 2017 file photo, TCU quarterback Kenny Hill (7) throws against Texas during the first half of an NCAA college football in Fort Worth, Texas. TCU will be without senior quarterback Kenny Hill and safety Niko Small because of unspecified injuries, when they face Texas Tech. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Kenny Hill, QB, TCU: If TCU is going to keep up with the Sooners offensively, Kenny Hill needs to play one of the best games of his career. It won’t be easy. Hill returned from a concussion to throw for 325 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Baylor. He’ll need a similar effort against OU. Above all, Hill needs to avoid turnovers, which plagued him early in his career. This year’s he’s thrown only five interceptions and is more of a running threat than Mayfield.

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: Every chance you get to watch Baker Mayfield is worth taking. Mayfield could put the capper on his Heisman Trophy quest and clinch another conference championship for the Sooners in the process. Mayfield put up 333 yards and three TDs the last time he faced the TCU defense, but that was on his home field. On a neutral field (that’s only 20 minutes from TCU’s campus), TCU could make this a much more competitive game.

WHAT’S ON THE LINE: A win would give Oklahoma its third Big 12 title in a row and clinch a spot in the College Football Playoff. If the Big 12 hadn’t brought back the title game, those tasks would already be completed. TCU is on the outside looking in for the CFP, but can win its second Big 12 title by pulling off the upset. A TCU win would pretty much seal another season without the Big 12 in the playoff, while opening up a bevy of scenarios for the rest of the field.

PREDICTIONS

Sam Cooper: Oklahoma 38, TCU 28

Nick Bromberg: Oklahoma 41, TCU 32

Cody Brunner: Oklahoma 35, TCU 28

Other conference title game previews: AAC, Group of Five, Pac-12

Coming Friday: ACC, Big Ten, SEC