Oklahoma has been the unquestioned top dog in the Big 12 since Lincoln Riley’s arrival as offensive coordinator in 2015.
During Riley’s tenure with the Sooners, which includes him moving up to head coach starting with the 2017 season, Oklahoma has won five consecutive Big 12 championships, with a chance to win a sixth Saturday when the No. 10 Sooners face No. 6 Iowa State in the conference title game in Arlington, Texas.
While the Sooners are the bluebloods, Iowa State is far from it. The Cyclones haven’t won a football conference title since 1912 and have never won one outright (they tied Nebraska that year).
But Riley, now in his fourth season as Oklahoma’s head coach, wants to be sure this game isn’t painted as David vs. Goliath.
“This isn’t some Rudy story,” Riley said. “This is not (that) they’re just finding a way with bad players. They have good players, and they have had good players.
“They combine good players, good scheme and good coaches, and you’re gonna, a lot of times, have a good result.”
When Matt Campbell arrived at Iowa State in 2016, the Cyclones hadn’t had a winning season in six year and hadn’t won at least eight games since they won nine in 2000.
Campbell said he doesn’t see Saturday’s game as an endpoint or pinnacle even though it’ll be the biggest game in Cyclones’ history.
“From my end, I never put a number on it or a finality to it,” Campbell said. “I think the reality was that where we were when we got here … is trying to hammer away at the things that we could control (and) hopefully allowing those things that we could control manifest into developing a consistent, competitive football program.”
The teams enter as two of the hottest in college football.
Iowa State (8-2, 8-1 Big 12) is riding a five-game winning streak, with quarterback Brock Purdy playing his best of late. Over the past 3 1/2 games since throwing three first-half interceptions against Baylor in early November, Purdy has been spectacular, throwing for 903 yards and 10 touchdowns without an interception.
Oklahoma (7-2, 6-2) has won six consecutive games since losing 37-30 at Iowa State on Oct. 3.
Quarterback Spencer Rattler has been a force for the Sooners’ improvement since an 0-2 start in Big 12 play threatened to end Oklahoma’s run of conference titles.
“He’s still being the aggressive player that we want him to be but certainly has done a good job here the last several games of not making very many mistakes or putting our team or our offense in bad situations,” Riley said.
While Rattler’s growth has been a boost, another has been the additions of running back Rhamondre Stevenson and defensive end Ronnie Perkins for the Sooners. Each served six-game suspensions because of a failed drug test last year. The suspensions ended in late October.
While Campbell praises Perkins in particular, he says the Sooners are a much different team elsewhere than they were more than two months ago.
“A very young team that was extremely talented that has grown into what you’ve seen from Oklahoma year after year,” Campbell said. “And that’s a dynamic football team.”
–Field Level Media