78F Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) -- - Casey Walker looked squarely into a television camera, clapped his hands and uttered words no Oklahoma player is accustomed to saying: "Let's go Texas!"
Archrivals for decades, the No. 12 Sooners (9-2, 7-1 Big 12) are pulling for the 23rd-ranked Longhorns to upset No. 7 Kansas State this week with their only chance to win an outright conference title riding on it.
So, Casey, how about flashing a Hook'em Horns - right side up instead of upside down this time?
"That's too far," he said.
Like clockwork, Bob Stoops has his team in position to contend for a Big 12 championship just in time for December.
If history holds, the Sooners will win at TCU (7-4, 4-4) on Saturday and get the help they need from Texas to claim the conference crown outright. After all, Oklahoma has won the Big 12 championship in every even-numbered year since Stoops has been the coach.
Is cheering for the Longhorns uncomfortable? Sure. But in this case, it's whatever it takes.
"I guess now I'm OK with it because we need them to handle business, so then that puts us in a better spot," Walker said. "So, that's all right."
If that scenario doesn't materialize, the Sooners' BCS chances could be in jeopardy and rest in the unlikely hands of Kent State. The Golden Flashes are 17th in the BCS standings, one spot away from securing an automatic BCS bid and perhaps taking away the last at-large opportunity out there with Florida and Oregon seemingly locked in.
Stoops said he hasn't gone through all that could happen with the BCS, trying to focus instead on the game at hand.
"I think that we have a chance. That's the only thing I've been aware of," receiver Justin Brown said. "I don't know anything about all of that other stuff. You guys probably know way more than me. I just know we've got to play TCU."
That's all that Oklahoma can control at this point. With the Big 12 membership falling to 10 teams, there's no longer a championship game to decide it all. The closest to that came in September, when Kansas State won on the Sooners' home field. That would be the tiebreaker if both teams win - or lose - on Saturday.
"That's why every game is so important now in the regular season. Once you get into conference, every game is important. Typically to be the conference champion, you have to not lose a game in conference," quarterback Landry Jones said.
"In an ideal world, we all want the championship game to have another redemption and be Big 12 champions but that's not the way it is," he said. "We have to play the hand that we've been dealt and really just go after it, win this game and then see what happens in the end."
In the old divisional format, Oklahoma won seven Big 12 championships - in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and the title in 2007. It's a remarkable run not only for its predictability but the sustained success of never going more than a year without winning it.
"It's difficult and challenging with all the excellent teams. I think this is 11 of the last 13 years we've been in the last game with championship implications," Stoops said. "It's always tough. It's hard to do. This game will be equally tough to go down and give ourselves an opportunity to win."
TCU has had an up-and-down inaugural Big 12 season, but it has the opportunity to finish with quite a feat - back-to-back victories over Texas and Oklahoma. The Horned Frogs won 20-13 in Austin on Thanksgiving Day, intercepting the Longhorns three times and holding them to 86 rushing yards on 33 carries.
"The thing that everybody said, we'd hear on the recruiting trail before we joined the Big 12 was, 'Well, they win ballgames. But they don't play good competition every week.' And now, we've been in every ballgame and we've won our share of ballgames," coach Gary Patterson said.
Patterson has already led TCU to an upset of Oklahoma, winning 17-10 in Norman in 2005, although the Sooners returned the favor with a 35-10 rout in 2008.
Oklahoma rides into this matchup on a four-game winning streak after a 51-48 overtime victory against Oklahoma State last Saturday. Blake Bell's touchdown tied the game late in the fourth quarter and Brennan Clay's 18-yard run won it in OT after Jones threw for 500 yards and three touchdowns on a school-record 71 pass attempts.
Jones became the Big 12's career passing leader in his final home game.
"It is draining and exhausting to play in those (rivalry) games and it is hard to get back up for practice and it is hard to forget about that game and move on to the next opponent," Jones said. "I think we need to do a good job of remembering, yes, this game, but focus on our next opponent, which is TCU, who is a very capable team and very capable defense."