The Big 12 South race must wait.
On Nov. 22, Oklahoma will host Texas Tech in a matchup that could see the Red Raiders clinch their first division title or cloud the situation even more. With two games left, Texas Tech (10-0, 6-0 Big 12 Conference) stands atop the division, a game ahead of Texas (9-1, 5-1) and Oklahoma (9-1, 5-1).
Should Texas Tech win, the picture becomes clear. The Red Raiders would hold at least a one-game lead and the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over the second-place Longhorns. Fans in Lubbock could begin making plans for the Big 12 Conference championship game on Dec. 6 in Kansas City, no matter the result of their team’s finale game against struggling Baylor on Nov. 29.
Should Oklahoma win, things become messy. A Sooners victory would create a three-team clog atop the division, with Oklahoma joining the Red Raiders and the Longhorns. Should each of the teams win the remainder of their November schedules, the squad with the highest BCS ranking would become Big 12 South champion. Since the Big 12 Conference’s inception in 1996, the tiebreaker has never been necessary.
But on Saturday, the attention will be elsewhere. Texas is favored at Kansas and is expected to keep pace in the breakneck race to the division championship. In the meantime, Oklahoma and Texas Tech each enjoy bye weeks before their decisive game.
“We look back on ourselves and some of our tendencies,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said of the bye week in Monday's Big 12 coaches' teleconference. “You work on those in the off week. You have more time to study Texas Tech and what you need to do in this game.”
Heisman Trophy discussion will be spotlighted as well. Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell and Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford are considered serious contenders for the sport’s most prestigious award. This season, Harrell has thrown for 4,077 yards and 36 touchdowns; Bradford totals 3,406 and 38.
Under coach Mike Leach, Texas Tech has struggled against Oklahoma. Stoops boasts a 6-2 record over Leach, who served as an offensive coordinator during Stoops’ first season at Oklahoma in 1999. Leach’s first victory over his former boss occurred in 2005 in Lubbock. But the most memorable triumph happened last year, when the Red Raiders topped the Sooners at home to spoil Oklahoma’s national-championship aspirations. Two weeks later, Oklahoma claimed its 41st conference championship with a victory over Missouri.
“Oklahoma was a great program,” Leach said of his season under Stoops. “It was exciting to combine what we did offensively with what Bob Stoops did defensively.”
LEACH LIKES HARRELL: Leach likes Harrell for the Heisman Trophy. With Big 12 South quarterbacks Harrell, Bradford and Texas’ Colt McCoy considered front-runners, Leach issued public support for his player.
“I would definitely vote for one of our guys,” Leach said.
Stoops didn’t mince praise toward Harrell either.
“He does everything you look for,” Stoops said. “He has great accuracy. He has a quick release. He’s well-drilled in his reads and progressions."
PRAYING FOR PLACE KICKERS: Colorado coach Dan Hawkins can’t figure out why his place kickers are struggling.
Place kicker Aric Goodman has made only three of 11 attempts this season. Jameson Davis has made one of three.
“A little bit of that is obviously confidence and continuity,” Hawkins said. “It’s been a tough deal for them, that’s for sure.”
The Buffaloes missed two field goals and had an extra point blocked in the close win over Iowa State.
Hawkins said the kickers do plenty of repetitions and practice pressure situations often.
“Who knows?” Hawkins said. “I guess I’m not going to church enough.”
OFF THE FIELD, ONLINE: Coaches spend plenty of time worrying about their players on and off the field. Now they have to worry about what the students are doing online.
Big 12 coaches discussed the importance of educating players about potential harms of using social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace.
“Anything they put on there is going to be public so just make sure that you’re smart about it,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.
Stoops said the athletic department’s compliance office monitors players’ social networking sites and occasionally calls in players about questionable material.
A few coaches admitted unfamiliarity with the details of sites like Myspace, but said the athletic departments do what they can to promote responsible behavior from students.
“I don’t know much about that because I don’t get on the Internet,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “I certainly don’t know much about Facebook other than there’s a lot of information out there.”
Coaches said their players are allowed to put information on the Web, but should be careful what they make available.
“They just live on that stuff (on the Internet),” Iowa State coach Gene Chizik said. “We just try to educate them on the evils of it.”
IT’S NOT AWKWARD IN MANHATTAN: Kansas State coach Ron Prince, who was fired last Wednesday, told reporters that his program maintains a professional decorum despite the fact that he won’t return next season. Kansas State (4-6, 1-5) will have to sweep remaining games against Nebraska and Iowa State to have a shot at a bowl game.
“Is there any awkwardness? No, not at all,” Prince said. “These are kids we recruited. These are kids that we’ve been coaching. We told them on Wednesday that there would be no change or approach in our demeanor. We told them that we would try to win the games we have left to become bowl eligible.”