- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"Last year in Lubbock," recalled running back Chris Brown, who supplemented Murray's 125 rushing yards with 108 of his own, "they got after us. We vowed this time around to be the more physical team." In victory the Sooners took more than Tech's shot at an undefeated season, as Brown sees it: "When you manhandle someone, you're basically taking their manhood."
Oklahoma took whatever it wanted from Texas Tech. The guy in the wheelchair was right. The visitors were not ready.
NOR IS America ready, one fears, for the round of recriminations and bellyaching about to break out in the Big 12 South, whose top three teams—Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech—now have identical conference (6--1) and overall (10--1) records. Who will play Missouri in the Big 12 title game on Dec. 6 in Kansas City, Mo. (page 36)? If the three win this week (all will be favored), the spot goes to the team that is ranked highest in the BCS standings on Nov. 30.
While one third of a team's BCS ranking is determined by the average of six computer ratings, two thirds is in the hands of subjective humans who tend to espouse one of two ideologies:
The BOW (Body of Work) School takes the longer view. Its members are less susceptible to the pull of current events. Yes, Oklahoma looked like an NFL squad against the Red Raiders. But teams must be judged over the course of a 12-game regular season. And in one of those games the Sooners were beaten by Texas 45--35 in Dallas on Oct. 11. How could anyone elevate Oklahoma over the only team that has beaten Oklahoma?
Of course, by that line of reasoning, "you've got to keep Texas Tech in front of Texas," argues Stoops, chief spokesman for the WHN (Who's Hot Now?) School, who was alluding to the Red Raiders' last-second, 39--33 victory over the Longhorns in Lubbock on Nov. 1. "What's logical for one is logical for the other." Where it might have seemed illogical for Stoops to leave his offensive starters in the game until early in the fourth quarter—Bradford was airing it out when Oklahoma was up by 44—it made perfect sense in the context of the BCS beauty contest, in which style points trump sportsmanship.
And on Sunday, they did. The Sooners jumped Texas in both the coaches' poll (going from fifth to second) and the Harris (fifth to third). They're still trailing the Horns in the BCS—but just barely, by .084, down from .523 a week earlier. (Unbeaten Alabama, at No. 1, and fourth-ranked Florida will square off in the SEC title game, with the loser dropping out of the national-title hunt and in the process clearing a spot for the Big 12 survivor.) A victory this Saturday at Oklahoma State, 12th in the latest BCS rankings, should move the Sooners ahead of the Longhorns and put them into the Big 12 championship game. Oklahoma would be one win from returning to the BCS title game for the first time since 2004.
The Sooners were run out of the Orange Bowl that night, you might recall, by a star-studded USC squad. Such periodic, inexplicable implosions—most recently against West Virginia in last January's Fiesta Bowl—have plagued them over the past five seasons, further debunking Stoops's onetime handle, Big Game Bob, and earning his team the cruel, not wholly fair nickname Choke-lahoma.
On Saturday the stage seemed set for another embarrassment. Yes, the Sooners had averaged 57.8 points in their previous four games. But the defense had yielded an average of 30.5 points in five games starting with the Texas loss. Now, led by Harrell and All-Cosmos wide receiver Michael Crabtree, the Red Raiders were swaggering into Norman with the nation's No. 1 passing offense, its No. 3 scoring offense and the longest winning streak in the land (12 games).
THE SWEAT had not yet dried on his players on Nov. 8 when Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables called them together in the visitors' locker room at Kyle Field following a 66--28 victory over A&M. The subject of his short speech: Texas Tech.