By Stephen Hawkins
Associated Press Sports Writer
The way Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops sees it, there will be only one Big 12 champion no matter how many teams might end up with same record.
“We all played each other, it isn’t like we’re in different divisions,” Stoops said Monday. “You can determine who the champion is if there are two people or three people tied for it. Who beat who.”
There is no longer a Big 12 championship game since there are only 10 teams with no divisions and a round-robin schedule. But the annual Bedlam game will be a pseudo title game, with the winner of Saturday night’s showdown between third-ranked Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) and No. 13 Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2) getting the league’s automatic BCS berth.
“I just hope I can get home to watch it,” Texas coach Mack Brown said.
Oklahoma State, which had its national championship hopes hurt by a loss at Iowa State in its last game, can win its first conference title outright. They have to beat the Sooners for the first time since 2002, when Les Miles was coaching the Cowboys before going to LSU.
“With the BCS, starting in the middle of October becomes somewhat like March Madness, they’re all really big games,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “But we get to this point, it’s cut and dry for our team to have a chance to do something that’s never been done.”
If Oklahoma wins, and No. 16 Kansas State (9-2, 6-2) also wins its regular season finale, there would be a three-way tie atop the Big 12 standings. According to league policy, the Sooners would get the BCS berth based on head-to-head matchups though all three teams would be declared co-champions.
“Well, I don’t really understand that,” Stoops said, reiterating how the round-robin schedule was touted during the league’s media days before the season. “The entire theme of the two days is, we’ve got one true champion since everybody’s playing each other. … So in our eyes, there will be one, and so that’s just how I see it.”
Without a championship game that would usually be played the first weekend of December, the Big 12 extended the regular season with three games for the extra week.
Baylor (8-3, 5-3), already with eight wins for the first time in 20 years after a clean sweep in November, finishes its regular season at home against Texas (7-4, 4-4). It is a last chance for Bears quarterback Robert Griffin III to influence Heisman Trophy voters a week after he was limited to playing one half because of concussion-like symptoms.
Kansas State is home against Iowa State (6-5, 3-5), which is trying to improve its bowl stock after splitting the last two weeks against Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. The Wildcats are 11th in the BCS standings and could still get an at-large berth in one of those big games. But they can’t get the Big 12’s automatic BCS berth since their losses were to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
K-State coach Bill Snyder has never wavered in his preference for divisions and a Big 12 championship game, something that can’t happen again unless the league expands back to at least 12 teams.
But if the Wildcats are fortunate enough to end up in a three-way tie at the top of the league standings, Snyder said, “it would be a very positive thing for the players in our program. I think they would appreciate that. I would.”
Oklahoma State is third in the BCS rankings, but even a loss by No. 1 LSU in the SEC championship game against Georgia might not be enough to get the Cowboys back in position to play for the national championship. There would still have to be some drastic shifting in the polling and computers that determine the BCS standings.
Gundy is keeping his focus on Oklahoma this Saturday, a game that will played after the SEC championship game. He’s not ready to start politicking to try to influence voters.
“We’re in a situation that we have a chance to win a football game and win a conference championship for the first time in the history of the school,” Gundy said. “I feel like that’s more important than politicking for a spot in second place, or whatever it would be, in the BCS.
“With where we’re at with our team, developing and building our program and continuing to take this thing to another level, it’s more important that we prepare to win the game than necessarily make comments regarding where we are in the BCS.”
No. 2 Alabama’s only loss was at home against LSU. The Crimson Tide are waiting to see if they will get a national title rematch against the Tigers when all the bowl matchups are announced Sunday.
The Big 12, which has only seven guaranteed bowl spots unless the league gets two teams in the BCS, has eight bowl-eligible teams. That includes Missouri (7-5, 5-4) and Texas A&M (6-6, 4-5), the two teams headed to the Southeastern Conference next season.
Texas Tech (5-7, 2-7) and Kansas (2-10, 0-9) have played their final games, both finishing with long losing streaks.
The Red Raiders lost their last five games after an upset victory at Oklahoma, finishing with their first losing record since 1992. Kansas had a 10-game losing streak and on Sunday fired coach Turner Gill after only two seasons.