November 2, 2011

BCS standings always kind to Oklahoma

A loss shouldn't stand in the Sooners' way down the stretch.

No college football team in the BCS era has benefited more from the weekly tabulations used to set the BCS standings than Oklahoma.

Deserved or otherwise, that's simply a fact. Let's look at some examples:

Coming off a 35-7 loss to Kansas State in the 2003 Big 12 Championship Game, the Sooners still managed to maintain the No. 1 spot in the final BCS standings and earn a berth in the BCS Championship Game against LSU. The Tigers won 21-14, but OU suffered the latest loss in recorded history by any BCS title game participant.

Oklahoma won a three-way tiebreaker for the 2008 Big 12 South Division title, settled by the BCS standings, by 0.0128 of a point over Texas and by a wider margin over Texas Tech. The Sooners' emergence angered Longhorns fans because Texas won the teams' head-to-head battle, 45-35. But credit belonged to OU, which wound up losing to Florida in the national title matchup, for posting a 65-21 victory over Tech that carried the day with poll voters and BCS computers when all three teams finished 11-1 with 1-1 records in head-to-head meetings against one another.

Oklahoma received the nod in last year's three-way tiebreaker for the final South Division title, also settled by BCS standings, when the Sooners finished ahead of Texas A&M and Oklahoma State in the final tabulations.

Without question, the Sooners have fielded championship-caliber football teams in all of those seasons. But Oklahoma's ability to land, catlike, on its feet every time administrators consult the BCS standings for a reason to exclude another team(s) from playing for a title is uncanny.

Why is that important today, when No. 6 Oklahoma (7-1, 4-1 in Big 12) remains a pursuer in both the Big 12 and national championship races heading into Saturday's game against Texas A&M (5-3, 3-2)?

Because Oklahoma was No. 9 last week, coming off a home loss to a 29-point underdog (Texas Tech), yet managed to move up three spots in this week's BCS standings with a 58-17 pasting of then-No. 8 Kansas State (7-1, 4-1). That puts the Sooners atop a long list of one-loss teams in this week's standings, with an opportunity to resurface in the national title picture by winning their last four regular-season games.

Consider: Someone has to lose Saturday's matchup between No. 1 LSU (8-0) and No. 2 Alabama (8-0). No. 4 Stanford (8-0) could lose its Nov. 12 showdown against No. 7 Oregon (7-1).

That would thin the list of undefeated teams to three, with Oklahoma in position to knock off No. 3 Oklahoma State (8-0) on Dec. 3. Barring additional upsets, that would leave two undefeated teams in the title mix -- No. 5 Boise State (7-0) and the LSU-Alabama winner -- when the final BCS standings are released Dec. 4, with an OU victory over OSU likely trumping an Oregon win over Stanford in the minds of poll voters.

Could a one-loss OU finish ahead of unbeaten Boise in the final BCS standings in that situation? Could Boise lose Nov. 12 to TCU (6-2), a Big 12 member next season? Answers: Yes and yes.

So the Sooners' BCS status is worth tracking in November because history suggests OU will be in the title mix at the end. Especially if OU pounds A&M, a team with top 10 talent that has lost its three games by a combined margin of 12 points.

Given the placement of A&M's pass defense (No. 120) and OU's passing offense (No. 2) among the nation's 120 FBS schools, this matchup has blowout potential if the Aggies do not make strides in improving their minus-7 turnover margin.

Asked about this week's jump in the BCS standings, OU safety Sam Proctor said: "I think the real encouragement comes from how we played together [in routing K-State]. We complemented each other: offense, defense and special teams... I do not think we have made the BCS rankings a focal point. We are just working to get better every week."

Oklahoma clearly made a statement, to itself and to poll voters, by scoring the final 44 points in wiping out the Wildcats. Receiver Jaz Reynolds ignited the 44-0 closing run by grabbing an 18-yard touchdown pass with 11:20 left in the first half. Reynolds said the best is yet to come from these Sooners, who began the season at No. 1 in both major polls.

"I don't think we've seen the real OU team," Reynolds said. "We still have to put 60 minutes together. Against Texas Tech, we came out very flat and they came out and beat us. That's a lesson to us that we have to come out on edge every time."

By playing on edge down the stretch against K-State, Reynolds said the Sooners showed "we can pretty much be the team everyone expected us to be."

But more follow-ups are needed and figure to be rewarded.

History suggests the Sooners are November's team in the estimation of BCS pollsters and computers.

Follow Jimmy Burch on Twitter @Jimmy_Burch.

Jimmy Burch, 817-390-7760

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