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OU football: Who are the three key players for Sooners, Cyclones in Big 12 championship game?

Oklahoma will try to win its sixth consecutive Big 12 football championship Saturday when the Sooners face Iowa State (11 a.m., ABC) at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Three players to watch for Oklahoma

1. Linebacker Nik Bonitto

Bonitto missed the Sooners’ last game but figures to make an impact here. He had his most impactful game of his first two seasons last year in the Big 12 Championship Game, with a pair of sacks, including a tandem sack with Jalen Redmond on third-and-10 in overtime that put Baylor’s back against the wall. Bonitto has been one of the Sooners’ most versatile defenders this year and will be asked to help contain not only Brock Purdy, but Breece Hall as well.

2. Cornerback Tre Brown

Brown will be under the gun in this one, especially after being called for a pass interference and a defensive holding penalty in the regular-season meeting. Brown has been solid outside of that, tying a team high with five pass breakups and recording a pair of interceptions. He’ll need to be crisp for the Sooners here.

3. Quarterback Spencer Rattler

Rattler’s stats against the Cyclones were solid last time around — 25 of 36 for 300 yards and two touchdowns. But his interception with just more than a minute remaining that sealed the win for Iowa State was emblematic of some of the early season decision making that led him to be benched in the second quarter against Texas. Rattler has been much better since returning to that game.

Three players to watch for Iowa State

1. Defensive end JaQuan Bailey

Bailey is Iowa State’s career leader in sacks (24.5) and tackles for loss (43.5). He stopped Texas’ Sam Ehlinger at the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-1 from the Cyclones’ 13 in the fourth quarter Nov. 27 to help Iowa State stay within striking distance in an eventual comeback win over the Longhorns.

2. Running back Breece Hall

Hall might be the best running back in college football this season. He’s topped 100 yards rushing in all but the last two games, and against West Virginia in one of those he had 56 receiving yards to total 153 total yards. Hall scored in each game this season.

3. Quarterback Brock Purdy

Like Rattler, there was a clear turning point in the season for Purdy, who entered with high expectations but had a flat start. Purdy has been fantastic of late, completing nearly 77% of his passes with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions in the 3½ games since throwing three first-half interceptions against Baylor.

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Ryan Aber

Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The... Read more ›