Column: Sooners back in the national title hunt following dismantling of Texas

By Dillon Phillips

Well, now what?

After another Red River rout, how the Sooners will fare down the stretch has become one of the most intriguing storylines in college football.

Since losing to Kansas State at home Sept. 22, OU has looked as impressive as any team in the country — winning back-to-back games by a combined score of 104-41.

But OU’s season is far from over.

Unlike last season — when OU coasted until a Bedlam showdown at season’s end and lost a pair of games it should have won in the process — the Sooners’ back-loaded schedule won’t give them an opportunity to savor the victory.

“This game, for my 14 years, has never been the end-all on our season,” coach Bob Stoops said. “We’ve got a long road still in front of us.”

After next weekend’s game against Kansas in Norman, the Sooners have a grueling six-game stretch that starts with No. 5 Notre Dame and includes road tests at Iowa State, West Virginia and TCU, not to mention Baylor and Bedlam at Owen Field.

The question of whether OU is for real will soon be answered. In two weeks, the Sooners will host their second top-five team of the season in Notre Dame, who’s 6-0 for the first time since 2002 — during then-coach Tyrone Willingham’s first season with the Irish.

“We’ll see (how good this team is),” Stoops said. “We beat Texas; we beat Texas Tech in the league; that’s it.”

Even if OU can safely navigate the perilous back half of its schedule, it still needs Kansas State to lose to have any shot at a Big 12 title. And even then, Kansas State holds the head-to-head tiebreaker against OU.

Best-case scenario for the Sooners: Kansas State loses on the road to West Virginia next weekend and then loses one of its last five games. If that happens, OU will be back in the driver’s seat and control its own destiny if it can run the table.

But if Kansas State loses to West Virginia and then wins out — a likely outcome considering the Wildcats’ only remaining road games are against TCU and Baylor — we could be looking at a 2008-esque three-way tie, which certainly would complicate things.

If this were to happen, the Big 12’s four-step tiebreaker — which was approved after the 2008 seasons and went into effect last June — would come into effect.

Per the Big 12’s official website, if there’s a three-way tie among teams with the same record, whichever team has the highest BCS ranking will win the tiebreaker, “unless the two highest ranked tied teams are ranked within one spot of the other in the BCS poll. In this case, the head-to-head results of the top two highest ranked tied teams shall determine the representative in the Bowl Championship Series.”

And if none of that works, the winner will be determined randomly by a draw. Exciting stuff.

Of the 12 remaining undefeated teams, only seven are legitimate national title contenders, and five will be eliminated via head-to-head matchups between undefeated teams.

So if the Sooners win out, there’s a good chance they could sneak back into the national title picture with a little help from their friends.

What a difference three weeks make.

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