NEW YORK —A week before the final standings are released and the Bowl Championship Series is already ticking people off.
Oklahoma—not Texas—is headed to the Big 12 championship game with an inside track to the national title game by moving ahead of the Longhorns in the BCS standings Sunday.
Texas’ victory against the Sooners in October wasn’t enough to give the Longhorns the advantage in a three-way tie between the Red River rivals and Texas Tech atop the Big 12 South. And that’s sure to leave many in Austin dismayed—at the least.
“Going into the last couple of weeks, we knew that a good team was going to be left out of the Big 12 championship. Unfortunately, in this situation, it was us,” Texas coach Mack Brown said in a statement. “It is what it is. We don’t like it, we don’t agree with it or think it’s fair, but, like anything else, we’ll handle it and move forward.”
The Big 12 had to use its fifth tiebreaker, best BCS rating, to determine which team will play North winner Missouri on Saturday in Kansas City, Mo.
The Sooners (11-1), who lost to Texas 45-35 in October, barely edged the Longhorns. Oklahoma has a .9351 BCS average. Texas’ BCS average is .9223.
Oklahoma was a point ahead of Texas in the USA Today coaches’ poll and six points behind the Longhorns in the Harris Interactive. The computer ratings preferred the Sooners and that made the difference.
“They don’t have agendas, they don’t have loyalties, they don’t have opinions. They don’t have all the bias that everyone else does,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “And if you say no one else does, then I don’t think you’re really being truthful.”
So the Longhorns will be watching two teams they beat play for the conference title, rooting for Missouri.
Oklahoma is second in the BCS standings behind unbeaten Alabama. Texas is third and Florida is fourth.
The winner of the Southeastern Conference championship game between the Crimson Tide and Gators is virtually guaranteed a spot in the BCS national title game on Jan. 8 in Miami.
Oklahoma would earn the other spot by beating Missouri. If the Sooners lose, it could open the door for Texas to go to the national title game, despite not playing for its conference championship.
If voters are squeamish about letting a team that didn’t win its conference play for a national championship, maybe Southern California could get a shot at the SEC champ in South Florida.
The Trojans are fifth in the BCS standings with a game to go at rival UCLA.
The Sooners were behind Texas last week in the BCS standings by a tiny margin. The Sooners actually led the Longhorns in the polls, but a week ago the computers had Texas ahead of Oklahoma.
After the Sooners’ 61-41 victory Saturday night against Oklahoma State— 14th in the latest standings—and the Longhorns’ 49-9 win over lowly Texas A&M on Thanksgiving night, the polls tightened but the computers flipped.
The strength of the Big 12 South led to this new BCS controversy, with the top three teams in the conference each finishing 11-1.
After beating Oklahoma and jumping to No. 1 in the polls, Texas (11-1) lost at Texas Tech 39-33 on Nov. 1. The Red Raiders (11-1), No. 2 at the time, then lost at Oklahoma 65-21 on Nov. 22.
The lopsided loss dropped Texas Tech way back. The Red Raiders were seventh in Sunday’s standings.
After beating Texas Tech, Stoops touted his team publicly. But later in the week, Stoops passed on a chance make another pitch to poll voters and said the politicking that’s become a part of the BCS was making more coaches favor a major college playoff.
“I don’t think anyone’s been comfortable with this,” said Stoops, who declined an opportunity to be interviewed on ESPN during the Texas-Texas A&M game. “All parts for the last couple or three weeks, it’s been aggravating more than anything.”
Brown, maybe sensing that his team was in danger of losing its spot, did his best to campaign for the ‘Horns without slighting the Sooners in several national television and radio interviews last week. Brown did a telephone interview with ABC’s announcers during the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State broadcast.
Brown has stopped short of supporting a playoff, saying only that the BCS is flawed.
Brown also lamented the Big 12’s tiebreaker system, which removed the head-to-head element. In other leagues, such as the SEC, a similar three-way division tie would be settled by eliminating the lowest rated team in the BCS standings, then reverting back to head-to-head results between the remaining teams.
“I think their systems are fairer and give more credit to how the two highest ranked teams performed against each other on the field,” he said.
But ultimately, the Longhorns’ victory against Oklahoma couldn’t trump the Sooners’ surge over the past two months.
Oklahoma has scored at least 60 points in its past four games, and has won its past five games by at least 20 points.
Though it’s not as if Texas has been struggling down the stretch. The Longhorns’ only loss came on Graham Harrell’s touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree with 1 second left in the game. That was also the fourth of four consecutive games for the Longhorns against teams ranked in the top 11 of the AP poll.
Since losing to the Red Raiders, Texas has won three games by a combined score of 129-37.