In early October, Iowa State pulled off a 37-30 upset of Oklahoma, handing the Sooners a second consecutive Big 12 loss for the first time in more than 20 years in the process. The outcome threw the Big 12 race into chaos. Could this be the year that No. 10 Oklahoma takes a step back, paving the way for another program to steal the spotlight?
Yes and no. Oklahoma rebounded the following week against Texas and hasn't looked back. Winners of six straight, the Sooners have looked more like the Big 12 favorites we've come to know over the years under coach Lincoln Riley. The biggest story has been the improvement of the defense under Alex Grinch. This has been a top-10 defense since November and the defensive front is playing lights out. Imagining Oklahoma with a legit defense is a terrifying thing and this team has been scary lately.
At the same time, No. 6 Iowa State is in position to win its first conference championship since 1912. The Cyclones knocked off Oklahoma early in the year when the Sooners were more vulnerable and beat Texas in Austin over Thanksgiving weekend, putting them at 2-1 against the Big 12's other top teams. Matt Campbell's team had a window in 2020 to make a title run and it's capitalized on it.
There's nothing stale about this rematch. Oklahoma and Iowa State are playing great football right now, and the Cyclones in particular are peaking at the right time. That said, it's the Sooners with a double-digit lead through three quarters.
Here's how to watch Saturday's game along with the storylines to follow in the second half.
Oklahoma: This is the Sooners' fourth straight Big 12 title game, but for the first time since the game returned in 2017, it might be their defense leading the way. The tandem of Isaiah Thomas and Ronnie Perkins has made the D-line one of the best in the Big 12. They, along with the linebacker corps, are going to be instrumental in slowing down running back Breece Hall, who's having an All-American season and will likely garner some Heisman votes as well. Hall has rushed for at least 91 yards and a touchdown in every game so reducing his impact is a key point for Oklahoma.
Iowa State: For all the chatter about Hall -- and it is more than deserving -- quarterback Brock Purdy is finally having the season many thought he would. In his last three games, Purdy has completed 76% of his passes for 858 yards, seven touchdowns and zero picks, while being an active part of the running game as well. He was deadly accurate in the last regular season game against West Virginia, going 20 for 23. There's so much balance in Iowa State's passing game with seven plays notching at least 15 receptions, including three wide receivers, three tight ends, and Hall. The passing game hasn't traditionally been Iowa State's go-to, but it's really been a lot more efficient in the second half of the season.
Event: Big 12 Championship Game
Date: Saturday, Dec. 19 | Time: Noon ET
Location: AT&T Stadium -- Arlington, Texas
TV: ABC | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Oklahoma vs. Iowa State prediction, picks
The lone hiccup in Oklahoma's winning streak was a 27-14 win over Baylor. The Bears' defense had the Sooners confused, showing that, yes, it's still possible to make this group look human. Iowa State has some excellent defenders at all three levels and got the best of Oklahoma the first time around. Win or lose here, Iowa State has been playing well enough on both sides of the ball to keep Oklahoma guessing again. Pick: Iowa State +5.5