Sooners prepare for Tech

11-15-07 - Oklahoma has played in more Big 12 championship games than any other team. The third-ranked Sooners look to add to their total as they try to clinch the Big 12 South title for the sixth time in eight years when they visit Texas Tech on Saturday.

The Sooners (9-1, 5-1) have a one-game advantage over second-place Texas in the South Division, but they own the tiebreaker over the Longhorns because of their 28-21 win in the Red River Rivalry game on Oct. 6. Oklahoma needs one win in its last two regular-season games to guarantee at least a tie with Texas and therefore, another shot at the conference championship.

Oklahoma, which has won a record four Big 12 titles in its five championship game appearances, extended its conference win streak to five games with a 52-21 win over Baylor last Saturday. The Sooners moved up one spot in the AP poll, matching their highest ranking of the season.

Freshman running back DeMarco Murray ran for three touchdowns and returned a kickoff 91 yards for another score as Oklahoma recorded its highest point total in conference play this season. Sam Bradford, meanwhile, completed 20 of 25 passes for 353 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

"I felt comfortable tonight throwing the deep ball," said Bradford, who connected on four passes of at least 40 yards, including a 60-yard TD to Manuel Johnson. "I think each week I gain more comfort with our wide receivers' timing."

Since suffering their only loss Sept. 29 at Colorado, the Sooners have outscored opponents 180-94 during their win streak.

The streak has helped the Sooners move into the fourth spot in the BCS rankings, and with only one undefeated team from a BCS conference remaining, the door is open for a one-loss team to sneak into the national championship game. Oklahoma's potential matchup with undefeated No. 4 Kansas in the Big 12 title game would then have major BCS implications.

"I realize we're in a good position. Is it the best position? No," coach Bob Stoops said. "But with two or three games to go, the bottom line is all I can do anything about is getting prepared to be as good as we can be against Tech.

"That's what I've said to the players. All this talk and all this banter about, what does it do? The bottom line is Tech is all that matters to us -- winning at Tech, and if we do we're a step closer."

The Red Raiders (7-4, 3-4) have an entirely different set of distractions as they try to put a controversial week behind them and finish their regular season on a high note.

Last Saturday, coach Mike Leach criticized the officiating crew after two Texas Tech touchdowns were disallowed in the third quarter of the Red Raiders' 59-43 loss to then-No. 15 Texas in Austin. The first was overruled when video replay clearly showed the receiver let the ball hit the ground. On the next play, a touchdown pass was negated by a holding penalty.

Without naming him, Leach noted that referee Randy Christal lives in Austin.

"I think it's disturbing that Austin residents are involved in this. People work too hard, too long, there's too much money invested in these games to allow that," Leach said. "Am I condemning the crew? Hell yeah, I'm condemning the crew."

Leach managed to avoid a suspension for his comments, but was fined a conference-record $10,000 - twice the previous record.

The fallout from Leach's comments overshadowed another strong game from Texas Tech's Graham Harrell, who completed 36 of 48 passes for 466 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. He leads the Football Bowl Subdivision with 421 completions, 4,878 yards and 43 TDs.

Harrell has guided a Texas Tech offense that leads the FBS with 542.8 yards per game and ranks sixth with 42.5 points per game. The defense, however, has given up 43.7 points per game in three losses in the Red Raiders' last four games.

Texas Tech has lost six of its last seven meetings with Oklahoma to fall to 3-11 all-time against the Sooners. The Red Raiders, though, won the teams' last matchup in Lubbock 23-21 on Nov. 19, 2005.