ARLINGTON, Texas — Fluorescent confetti fell through the air and stuck to the sweaty arms of Oklahoma defensive tackle Du’Vonta Lampkin.
The shreds were caught in OU coach Lincoln Riley’s hair and scattered at his predecessor Bob Stoops’ feet.
They were everywhere, like thousands of tiny trophies signifying the latest stretch of OU’s Big 12 dominance and a season that has never looked more promising.
The No. 3 Sooners’ emphatic 41-17 victory over No. 11 TCU in the conference title game Saturday at AT&T Stadium gave OU its third straight league title, but more importantly pushed it firmly into the College Football Playoff, which will be finalized and announced Sunday.
“The most exciting thing about today,” said OU quarterback Baker Mayfield, “was that we controlled our own destiny.”
That destiny looks better than ever after Saturday’s resounding statement, played in front of a crowd of 64,104 made up mostly by OU fans.
OU (12-1) took advantage of the Big 12’s first title game since 2010 by giving CFP committee members another solid performance to dwell on, while other top contenders were out attempting the same in other Power 5 title games.
The Sooners roared to a 17-0 lead and left the Horned Frogs — and TCU’s top-tier defense — in the dust for the second straight time this season, even after TCU closed the score to 24-17 at halftime.
Mayfield bolstered his 15-of-23, 243-yard passing day during a 17-0 blitz in the third quarter, tossing touchdowns of 52 and 55 yards as OU built a 24-point lead it milked the rest of the way.
The Sooners put a maligned defensive past behind them and forced two turnovers, including safety Will Johnson’s interception in the third quarter that effectively ended the game. They blanked the Horned Frogs in the second half, yielding just 317 total yards.
It was OU’s second-best statistical output in conference play, which helped put away TCU for the second time this season. OU won 38-20 on Nov. 11.
The Sooners continue tapping into their talent — most of it unknown to outsiders before the season — in ways they dreamed of back in July and August.
Mayfield’s two touchdown passes in the second half were to the small-and-speedy Mykel Jones and Marquise Brown, neither of whom had scored for OU until this season.
The Sooner offense tallied a season-low 461 yards, but didn’t need its usual gaudy numbers after stopping TCU six times after halftime. It was a turnaround from the first half, when shoddy tackling and several big plays allowed TCU to hang around.
“The biggest thing we talked about at halftime was we had to tackle better,” Riley said. “We [did that] so much better in the second half. We got a stop and played a lot of great, complimentary football in that [third] quarter to separate ourselves.”
OU’s measured performance required field goals of 41 and 40 yards from Austin Seibert and a tough outing from running back Rodney Anderson, who ran 24 times for 93 tough yards against the nation’s No. 2 rushing defense.
“Any way to win,” said Mayfield, who was voted the game’s Most Valuable Player. “Sometimes you’ve got to do it in different ways, and you need everybody on the team to do it in November and December.”
OU will know its bowl assignment Sunday following ESPN’s 11 a.m. selection show. A Rose Bowl trip seems likely, but nothing is certain. CFP teams are expected to be announced around 11:30.
The Sooners’ previous playoff trip was 2015, but the last time the program had this kind of momentum was 2008, when Heisman quarterback Sam Bradford led OU to its third consecutive Big 12 title and eventually the national championship game against Florida.
“We had a good year as far as getting better each week [in 2015],” OU senior safety Steven Parker said. “We always said, ‘take champ reps and they’re going to equal, basically, winning a championship, and I feel like we’ve done our part.
“I feel like if we keep working the way that we’ve been working, everything is going to play out just how we want it to.”