On the heels of a 35-21 victory over Notre Dame on Saturday, the Oklahoma Sooners may have just regained the inside track to the Big 12 title.
After coming out of South Bend with the win—a venue the Sooners hadn’t won at since 1956—the team certainly proved its worth. Throw in a shocking loss by preseason conference-favorite Oklahoma State, and the road to Oklahoma’s seventh conference title in the last 10 years just became a lot clearer.
More importantly, it also moved the team one step closer to a larger goal: Earning a berth in the BCS championship game.
The Road to the Big 12
It seems every week brings another disappointment from one of the conference’s top-tier teams.
During the opening week of the season, the reigning Co-Big 12 champions Kansas State dropped a shocker to FCS-foe North Dakota State. TCU also lost its opener, albeit to a Top 10-ranked LSU squad.
Fast-forward four weeks, the Wildcats and Horned Frogs have since added a second loss and a 30-21 loss to West Virginia has left the Cowboys suddenly looking vulnerable.
As far as Texas goes, words can’t express just how much of a mess this season is shaping up to be in Austin. Instead, I’ll leave you with this GIF to sum it up for you.
Sure, the conference schedule is just beginning. However, these early games have exposed several conference contenders as anything but.
Just a month ago, the Sooners faced a daunting three-week stretch from Sept. 28-Oct. 12, where the team faced the Irish, TCU and the Longhorns in consecutive weeks. Instead, after Saturday, the trio now has a combined record of 7-6.
The win against Notre Dame has the team feeling good heading back into conference play:
.@OU_CoachStoops "It was a good, well-played game and gives us another bit of a springboard going into Big 12 play again."
— Oklahoma Football (@OU_Football) September 28, 2013
The biggest remaining roadblock preventing Oklahoma from cruising to a Big 12 title is a Nov. 7 showdown with No. 19 Baylor.
Unlike recent years, these Bears are no pushover. The team currently ranks No. 1 in both scoring and total offense, averaging an unreal 69.7 points and amassing 751.3 yards over its first three games. Not to mention the game will be played at Baylor on a Thursday night—not the best recipe for top-ranked teams on the road in recent years.
If the Sooners can get by those pesky Bears, head coach Bob Stoops should expect to bring home his ninth Big 12 title.
The Road to the BCS Title
Entering this week, there were nine undefeated teams sitting ahead of Oklahoma in the AP Poll. With both Oklahoma State and LSU losing, that drops the number to seven.
Taking into consideration the teams that play in the same conference and are yet to play each other, that list narrows down even further to five. The potential list looks like this: Alabama, Ohio State, Louisville, Pac-12 champion and ACC champion.
Right off the bat, you’d have to believe that an undefeated Oklahoma team would rank higher than the Cardinals. But unless anyone other than the Tigers win the ACC, that’s about it.
This is where that aforementioned drop in the level of Big 12 play comes back to haunt the Sooners.
Fortunately, each of the schools ahead of the team still have some hurdles to navigate around.
For the Crimson Tide, they still have a date with No. 6 LSU remaining on the schedule as well as the SEC title game. On the other hand, the Buckeyes still have trips to No. 17 Northwestern and No. 18 Michigan. As far as the Pac-12 goes, there’s always the possibility that Stanford, Oregon and UCLA could all knock each other out.
Fortunately, as history has proven over the years, the possibility of more than two teams finishing undefeated is pretty slim to none.
With that said, it’d be tough to imagine that an undefeated Oklahoma team would be held out of the BCS title game.
All stats and rankings courtesy of NCAA.com
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