NORMAN — Jalen Hurts has plenty of conference championship game experience.
Last season, the quarterback helped the Sooners make the College Football Playoff by guiding Alabama to a come-from-behind win over Georgia in the SEC championship game.
This weekend will be a stressful time for Oklahoma fans. All eyes will be on Friday night’s Pac-12 title game between Utah and Oregon and, if the Sooners beat Baylor in the Big 12 championship game, attention settles on the afternoon SEC game between Georgia and LSU.
While Sooner Nation will be cheering for the Ducks and Tigers, Hurts isn’t concerned with anything outside of Baylor.
“We can’t worry about (the CFP),” Hurts said on Monday. “We’ve got to worry about winning the day and dominating today, dominating tomorrow, getting better every day and putting ourselves in the best situation as far as going out there Saturday and playing our best ball.”
OU and Baylor will meet at 11 a.m. Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Both have shots at joining the four-team CFP field. New rankings will be released on Tuesday night.
With the Big 12 rematch set, there’s been recent chatter surrounding the OU-Baylor game on Nov. 16. The story will go down in Sooner lore after the team rallied from a 25-point deficit to win 34-31 in the road contest.
That’s in the past, OU coach Lincoln Riley said during his 30-minute news conference at Memorial Stadium.
Film study is important, even when a game was played only three weeks earlier. Will Oklahoma’s coaches guard against overanalyzing the first Baylor game?
That’s where Oklahoma’s experience of playing and winning the past two Big 12 title games could be an advantage.
“These games the last few years probably have helped us in that guys that have been in college, you don’t normally play the same opponent twice in the same year,” Riley said. “Felt very different for TCU a couple of years ago. Very, very different. Now it feels more regular. So I’m glad our team’s done well enough that it feels regular.
“I think it’s not a whole lot different than studying a team from the past. This or that. That’s kind of the back and forth you always go through as coaches. How much to analyze, how much to scheme, how much not to? That’s kind of the fun in it. But it is a little bit of a new dimension with the second game, and thankfully our staff has had a lot of good experience there.”
Baylor coach Matt Rhule was asked about playing the same school twice in a season. It was a regular occurrence when he was an NFL assistant coach with the New York Giants and when he coached Temple in American Athletic Conference championship games in 2015 and 2016, he faced teams from an opposite division that the Owls hadn’t played in those seasons.
Rhule, like Hurts, is focused on winning Saturday’s game and letting everything else fall into place.
“We have an opportunity to play this week and play against a great team in Oklahoma and, as I told our guys, let’s not make this about the Big 12 Championship, let’s not make this about the College Football Playoff, let’s not make this about a ranking, let’s not even make this about Oklahoma, they’re a great team, or a rematch, let’s just make it about us,” Rhule said on Monday. “Let’s try to go 1-0 this week just like we did all year and see what we do and so we’re going to go out there and play our best game against a great game in a cool atmosphere and see what happens and so I’m excited.”
Baylor will be the third consecutive different team that OU will face in the Big 12 championship game. The Sooners beat TCU in 2017 and Texas last season.
The Sooners will try to win their fifth consecutive Big 12 championship and boost their resume for a CFP bid. OU and Clemson (ACC) would become the first programs since Alabama (1971-75) to win five consecutive conference championships with Saturday triumphs.
Kenneth Murray doesn’t want the streak to end on his watch.
“It kind of gets to that point obviously when you’ve been around a lot of greatness and being able to go down to Dallas and win championships,” the junior linebacker said. “But for us this week I think the biggest thing is just focusing on us and just going down there and playing a complete game.”