If OU Defeats TT, Who Deserves the South Nod?

Will Muschamp's move from merely a defensive coordinator to the heir apparent for Mack Brown temporarily derailed talk of the congregation of greatness huddled in the Big 12 South division. It still remains that the nation's best football resides largely in a two-state area. Who among those — Texas, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma — deserves acclaim as the best?

If Texas Tech upends Oklahoma this weekend, then there's no argument for who should represent the mighty South. But, let's assume the Sooners hold serve in Norman, where a Bob Stoops' coached program has lost only twice in his ten years there.

Never mind, for a moment, what the myriad of computers and such have to say—who deserves to battle in the Big XII title tilt?

We can start with the first part of the season, the non-conference competition. While most of the games were, as expected, one-sided, it looks like Oklahoma has an edge due to facing two foes tougher than anything Texas or Tech met. Among OU's victims are TCU and Cincinnati, both in the top 20 of the latest BCS standings and both which succumbed to the Sooners by over 20 points and were never in the contest.

According to Jeff Sagarin's power ranking set that utilizes real scores, Texas actually handled an overall slightly more difficult path because it didn't get a week's pass with any I-AA (FCS) opposition.

In comparison, OU met Chattanooga and Texas Tech had both Massachusetts and Eastern Washington—an embarrassing data point for strength of schedule. The Red Raiders don't do themselves any favor by having Nevada, a marginal opponent by any standard, play them fairly tough. Tech only led by nine points before sealing the deal with one more score. (Missouri, the very next week, bombed Nevada, 69-17).

Let's give the slight edge to Oklahoma for non-conference results due to its two significant wins, with Texas in second.

Conference play is harder to determine, even assuming OU wins this weekend over Mike Leach's high-flying group. That's because each team has other games remaining: Texas vs. A&M (don't laugh), OU vs. Oklahoma State, and Tech vs. Baylor.

But if the "Big Three" win out as expected (though Oklahoma St. can pose major problems), then you can break it all down versus common opponents.

Most of it's splitting hairs, but a couple of differences stand out. For example, looking at OU and Tech's results against Nebraska shows a big edge for the Sooners, which knocked out the Huskers, 62-28. The Red Raiders, on the other hand, had to take Nebraska to overtime before finally prevailing at home, 37-31.

Oklahoma also deserves the nod over Texas Tech in their matches against bottom-dweller Texas A&M. The Sooners obliterated the Aggies at Kyle Field, 66-28. It was never a game. But, Tech went to the same field and had to fight all game to get its ‘W.' Leach's squad was only ahead by a touchdown with just seven minutes to play before finishing things. Texas doesn't meet Nebraska this year and has yet to play A&M.

So, if Stoops gets yet another Norman triumph this Saturday, is there any reason to think his team shouldn't be bumped ahead of Texas Tech?

You might bring up the fact Tech is the only team to have beaten Texas, and Texas defeated Oklahoma as reason to give Tech the nod over OU.

But maybe that only reminds us about the Longhorns, the team very few expected to be at this station late in the season. Mack Brown's program, wisdom believed, was at least a year away.

We noted above that Oklahoma probably deserves a slight nod over Texas and Tech in its non-conference slate. And we see as well that the Sooners have done better against common opponents than the Red Raiders. An OU win this weekend seemingly would put Bob Stoops' squad ahead of Leach's.

Texas, though, has an ace which negates Oklahoma's slight edges above, in the form of a full-fledged blistering of a standout Missouri program, 56-31. And the contest wasn't even anywhere near that close. The ‘Horns were able to cruise the second half after exploding to a 35-3 halftime bulge.

Then, recall the Red River Rivalry, where Texas overcame a lightning-hot, top-ranked Oklahoma squad and snatched its third win in the last four of the series, 45-35.

To top that off, amongst the round-robin results between these three powers, Texas will have been the only school not benefiting from any home-cooking, having had to travel to Lubbock against Tech and the Cotton Bowl's neutral site against the Sooners.

If Oklahoma beats both Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, it's conceivable the amalgamation of BCS components could vault the Sooners over the Longhorns.

But that would only remind us of the problems that our current system possesses.

Mack Brown and Texas triumphed over Bob Stoops and Oklahoma in October. Whether that happened the first or the last game of the year makes no difference. Nor should it make a difference to any kind of ranking concocted.

Upsets can happen at any time, including any of the games remaining for these south division stalwarts. Assuming, for the moment though, Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech each win their remaining game, the Longhorns should be playing in the Big XII championship game.


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