Big 12 South up for grabs as OU, Texas stumble

The only thing that’s ever been close to certain in the Big 12

is that, by the end of November, either Oklahoma or Texas would

emerge atop the South division.

That tradition might have been tossed out the window after

another wild weekend in league play.

The Sooners suffered their second league loss, this time to

up-and-down Texas A&M. Texas continued its freefall with a loss

at Kansas State that guaranteed its worst season under coach Mack

Brown.

All that chaos helped Oklahoma State more than anyone else. The

Cowboys (8-1, 4-1 Big 12) pounded upstart Baylor 55-28 and took

control of its own destiny in the South in what many thought would

be a rebuilding year.

Oklahoma State and Baylor (7-3, 4-2), picked to finish fifth and

sixth in the division in the preseason, now own the top two spots

in the South.

Sooners coach Bob Stoops, whose team can still reach the title

game if they win out, said Monday that he isn’t taken aback by the

parity.

”I always marvel. Everyone always wants to act like, just

because something’s been this way for however many years – every

year is different,” Stoops said. ”Some teams are stronger at

different times than others, but it’s always going to be that way.

So, to me, it doesn’t have to be surprising.”

Oklahoma State is one of three South schools that’s never

reached the Big 12 title game, along with the Bears and Texas

Tech.

But if the Cowboys take care of business – and that’s a big if

with the Sooners looming on Nov. 27 – they’ll be the first team

besides Oklahoma or Texas to represent the division in the

championship game since Texas A&M beat Kansas State in a

double-overtime finale in 1998.

Oklahoma State lost quarterback Zac Robinson, dynamic wide

receiver Dez Bryant, four starting offensive linemen and nearly its

entire defensive back seven after finishing 9-4 last year.

But the Cowboys offense has been humming behind running back

Kendall Hunter, wide receiver Justin Blackmon and quarterback

Brandon Weeden, who was named the Big 12’s offensive player of the

week after going 34-of-42 passing for 435 yards – both school

records – with three TDs in a pasting of the Bears.

Next up is a date in Austin with the Longhorns (4-5, 2-4), who

have lost three straight and seemingly hit rock bottom. They’ll

have to try to bounce back against the league’s best scoring

offense, as Oklahoma State is averaging 46.3 points a game with new

coordinator Dana Holgorsen at the helm.

”It’s a lot like what we had in ’05 when we won the national

championship. They’re scoring in the 40 points, they’re 550 yards a

game, because they can score in different ways,” Brown said of the

Cowboys. ”They can beat you in so many different ways. I think

it’s the best offense I’ve seen in a long time.”

Texas Tech’s win on Saturday over Missouri (7-2, 3-2) did more

to clear up the North race than the South.

The 24-17 victory, combined with Nebraska’s 31-30 overtime

escape at Iowa State, gives the Huskers what amounts to a two-game

lead over Missouri with three games to play. Nebraska beat the

Tigers 31-17 on Oct. 30.

But it also put Texas Tech one win from bowl eligibility heading

into Saturday’s game at Oklahoma. The Red Raiders (5-4, 3-4) gained

some much-needed confidence as well, rallying from a 17-3 deficit

and shutting out Missouri in the second half.

”Each week in this league, it’s wide open. So your players have

to understand going into the game that they’re going to make some

mistakes, but they’ve got to make adjustments as they go along,”

Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. ”We needed something good

to happen for us. We’d played so close in four of our losses.”

The Bears will face Texas A&M (6-3, 3-2) on Saturday in a

matchup that carries a lot more weight than many thought it might

back in August.

Both programs have played a major role in turning the South

upside down this season.

”I think there’s a little more parity maybe than it was in the

past. (Baylor) coach (Art) Briles has done a great job over there

at Baylor, and their program is getting better. I hope our program

is getting better as well and trying to join up with the top dogs

in the conference,” Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman said. ”At

this point last year, to say that anybody could win the Big 12

South, I don’t know if that was the case.”