No. 14 Oklahoma carries Big 12 title game aspirations into clash with BYU

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PROVO, Utah (AP) — Oklahoma has earned a second chance at potentially playing for another Big 12 Championship.

The no. 14 Sooners (8-2, 5-2 Big 12, no. 14 in CFP) seemingly faded from contention for a Big 12 title game slot following back-to-back losses to Kansas and Oklahoma State. But a resounding victory over West Virginia last weekend, coupled with defeats for the Jayhawks and the Cowboys, created a brand-new jumble in the conference standings. Oklahoma now sits in a four-way tie with Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and Kansas State for second place behind Texas.

It adds stakes to an otherwise unremarkable road trip to BYU.

“We put ourselves in a tough position,” Oklahoma coach Brent Venables said. “That’s what I know. We don’t control our own destiny. But let’s focus on the finish. Let’s focus on this week. Let’s focus on the details and the DNA of this opponent.”

The Sooners head west with an offense operating at peak efficiency again. Dillon Gabriel became the first Oklahoma player to account for eight touchdowns in a single game when he threw for five touchdowns and ran for three scores against West Virginia. Gabriel helped Oklahoma roll up 644 total yards and average 8.3 yards per play in the 59-20 win over the Mountaineers.

Oklahoma tallied nine passing plays and five running plays covering at least 20 yards. Both were season highs for the Sooners.

“We came out with the right mindset: start fast and then play really physical,” Gabriel said. “I think those two things set the tone for everything we did that day.”

BYU (5-5, 2-5) is in a desperate spot on both sides of the ball. The Cougars’ hopes for reaching a bowl game to cap their first Big 12 season are fading amid a three-game losing streak.

Everything went wrong in a 45-13 loss to Iowa State last week. BYU did not convert a third down over the final three quarters and finished with fewer than 200 passing yards for the fourth time in five games.

The Cougars totaled 26 points over their last three games while surrendering 39.0 points and 454.7 yards per contest. Still, BYU has not given up on its postseason goal amid continued struggles.

“Love the fight in the players,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “They work hard, and they don’t quit. The culture on the team is still thriving. I believe the culture is still thriving because guys aren’t pointing fingers. Guys are still unified.”

FLYING HIGH

Drake Stoops has made the most of being Gabriel’s favorite target this season.

Stoops leads the Big 12 with a career-high 62 receptions and nine receiving touchdowns. The sixth-year receiver has piled up a career-high 692 receiving yards, the fifth highest total in the Big 12. He had 393 yards and three touchdowns on 39 catches a year ago.

Stoops is coming off back-to-back games where he reset his career high in receiving yards. He totaled 134 yards and a touchdown on 12 catches against Oklahoma State and followed up with 164 yards and three touchdowns on 10 catches against West Virginia. The 164 yards against the Mountaineers were the most for a Sooner receiver in four seasons.

“His ability to run after the catch is different,” Venables said. “He bounces off of guys. He breaks a lot of tackles. … Can make guys miss in a phone booth.”

QUARTERBACK CONUNDRUM

Kedon Slovis has missed BYU’s last two games while dealing with shoulder and elbow injuries. Sitake confirmed this week he will start Slovis against Oklahoma – if the senior quarterback is healthy enough to play.

“He practiced last week. Still banged up, not 100% yet,” Sitake said. “I’m not in Kedon’s body, but I can tell you if he’s ready to go and he’s full strength, then he’s our guy usually.”

Jake Retzlaff has struggled while filling in for Slovis over the past two games. Retzlaff threw for just 104 yards and tossed a pair of interceptions against Iowa State. The junior completed just 37% of his pass attempts against the Cyclones.

Slovis has thrown for 1,716 yards and 12 touchdowns in eight starts for the Cougars.

TAKEAWAY SUCCESS

Oklahoma has enjoyed considerable success cashing in on takeaways while limiting the damage from its own turnovers. The Sooners rank third in the FBS with 2.1 takeaways per game and are fourth nationally with 83 points off turnovers. Opponents have generated three points off six turnovers in Oklahoma’s eight wins.

EARLY RISERS

Saturday’s game will mark the first 10 a.m. kickoff at LaVell Edwards Stadium in two decades. BYU’s last 10 a.m. kickoff for a home game came on Nov. 13, 2004, against New Mexico. The Cougars lost that game 21-14.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll