Everything you need to know about Auburn's Sugar Bowl opponent: Oklahoma
For the fourth year in a row, Auburn has qualified for a bowl game. And for the first time in 44 years, the Tigers will take on Oklahoma.
Auburn will face the Big 12 champion Sooners in the Sugar Bowl at the Superdome in New Orleans on Jan. 2. Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State, 38-20, on Saturday to win its second straight Big 12 title. Quarterback Baker Mayfield, who finished fourth in last year’s Heisman Trophy voting, threw for 288 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Cowboys.
Despite their storied histories, Auburn and Oklahoma have met only once before – coincidentally in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day 1972. In that matchup, the Sooners topped the Tigers, 40-22.
This year’s game is more than a month away, so you have plenty of time to get your popcorn ready. But in the meantime, as the Tigers get set for their sixth appearance in the Sugar Bowl, here’s everything you need to know about Oklahoma.
Sooners’ season in review
The Sooners (10-2) were the only unbeaten team in Big 12 play, finishing 9-0 in the conference. Its two defeats were to teams that were ranked at the time of those matchups – a season-opening 33-23 loss at Houston and a 45-24 home setback against Ohio State.
Since losing to the Buckeyes, Oklahoma has won nine straight games. The loss to the Buckeyes was the Sooners’ worst of the season, but that defeat has looked better and better with every Ohio State win that has followed it.
The Sooners’ biggest wins have come in their last three games. Before shutting down Oklahoma State, Oklahoma beat Baylor, 45-24, and followed that up with a 56-28 victory over West Virginia in Morgantown.
What Oklahoma does best
The Sooners’ strong suit is scoring. Oklahoma is averaging 44.7 points per game to lead the Big 12 and rank third in the FBS.
Bob Stoops’ bunch has scored at least 23 points in every game this season. And it can beat teams behind Mayfield and the passing game or by punishing them with running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon.
Mixon leads the Sooners with 1,183 yards on the ground while Perine has a team-best 11 rushing TDs. Oklahoma ranks third in the FBS in total yards per game (557.3) and yards per play (7.55).
Oklahoma’s best offensive player
The Sooners are loaded on offense, but Mayfield is their most important player on O.
Mayfield’s last two seasons have been eerily similar. While contending for the Heisman a year ago, the native of Austin, Texas completed 68.1 percent of his passes for 3,700 yards, 36 TDs and 7 interceptions.
This season, Mayfield has completed 71.2 percent of his throws for 3,669 yards, 38 scores and 8 picks. Even though Oklahoma fell short in its bid for a second straight berth in the College Football Playoff, Mayfield should probably be getting some more Heisman love.
Speaking of the Heisman, don’t be surprised if Sooners receiver Dede Westbrook gets a fair share of votes. The explosive Westbrook, Oklahoma’s best offensive player and arguably the best wideout in college football, ranks in the top five in the FBS in receiving yards (1,465) and TD catches (16).
Oklahoma’s best defensive players
On the other side of the ball, one of the Sooners’ best players has been Jordan Evans. The senior linebacker leads Oklahoma in tackles (89) and interceptions (4), including two pick-sixes.
Another player who definitely warrants Auburn’s attention is Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. The junior linebacker leads the Sooners with 10.5 tackles for loss and 9 sacks and has made 67 stops overall despite missing Oklahoma’s 56-3 victory over Kansas on Oct. 29 after suffering from dehydration the previous week.
Oklahoma’s bowl history
The Sooners, who are 28-20-1 all-time in bowl games, are probably happy to face a team other than Clemson this season. Two years ago, the Tigers throttled the Sooners, 40-6, in the Russell Athletic Bowl before beating Oklahoma, 37-17, in the 2015 Orange Bowl.
The Sooners’ 45-31 win over Alabama in the 2013 Sugar Bowl is their best bowl victory in the past decade. However, the Sooners are 5-9-1 in bowl games against current SEC squads, which means they are 23-11 in their other postseason matchups.
Their lone postseason tie was a 24-24 stalemate with Alabama in the 1970 Bluebonnet Bowl. In addition, Tim Tebow and Florida beat Oklahoma, 24-14, in the 2008 BCS National Championship Game.
Tennessee blanked Oklahoma, 17-0, in the 1938 Orange Bowl, the Sooners’ first bowl game in school history. After losing two more bowl games to current SEC squads, Oklahoma finally topped Tennessee, 26-24, in the 1967 Orange Bowl.
Meanwhile, Auburn – which is 23-15-2 all-time in bowls – is meeting a current Big 12 team in the postseason for only the fifth time. After losing to Texas Tech, 35-13, in the 1953 Gator Bowl, the Tigers beat Baylor, 33-13, the following year. Auburn then had that defeat to Oklahoma in the 1971 Sugar Bowl before beating Texas, 27-3, 20 years later in the Gator Bowl.
This is Auburn’s first appearance in the Sugar Bowl since 2004 – a 16-13 victory over Virginia Tech. The Tigers are 2-2-1 all-time in the Sugar Bowl while Oklahoma is 5-2.