Big 12: 9 possible bowl teams, 2 vie for auto BCS

BY foxsports • November 14, 2011

The Big 12's automatic BCS berth could easily come down to one game, even though there are still three weeks left in the league's first round-robin schedule.

As long as fifth-ranked Oklahoma (8-1, 5-1 Big 12) doesn't slip up before then, the regular-season finale between the Sooners and No. 2 Oklahoma State (10-0, 7-0) on Dec. 3 will determine who gets the league's automatic berth into the Bowl Championship Series - and possibly the national title game.

''My whole thoughts are solely on going to Baylor, but that's one of the steps in the process. So we just have to keep working through it,'' Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said Monday. ''You get to this point and everybody wants to project the end, and you can't.''

Oklahoma has won seven of the last 11 Big 12 titles, but the 10-team league no longer has a championship game.

The Sooners travel Saturday to No. 25 Baylor (6-3, 3-3), a team they have never lost to in 20 games. That's the night after Oklahoma State plays at Iowa State, the team Oklahoma then faces Thanksgiving weekend.

Stoops planned to remind his players what they have to do before any sort of BCS talk.

''It's our job to stay grounded and in the moment,'' Stoops said.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, whose team is 10-0 for the first time, has been having conversations with his team since January, after the Cowboys got back from their Alamo Bowl victory over Arizona.

''We're just upfront with them and said, `Look, this is where you're at.' ... We've continued that all the way up to this week,'' Gundy said during the Big 12 coaches conference call.

Even though the Cowboys have maintained their focus so far, Gundy will remind them to keep doing that.

''We say it every day,'' Gundy said. ''Do I believe this team understands that? No question. Do I let a day get by without telling them? No.''

No. 16 Kansas State (8-2, 5-2) could still tie for the Big 12 regular-season title, but the Wildcats are out of the mix for the automatic BCS bid because their losses are to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. That means they lose any potential tiebreaker, even in a three-way tie.

The Wildcats are definitely going to a bowl game, as are Baylor and Texas (6-3, 3-3) - who also play each other on Dec. 3, the extended final date of the regular season without a Big 12 title game.

Missouri and Texas A&M, the teams headed to the SEC after this season, both need one more win to get bowl eligible, as do Iowa State and Texas Tech. The Big 12 could have nine bowl teams, and has spots for each, with only Kansas (2-8, 0-7) unable to get a postseason invitation.

''It's exciting anytime you get into November and you're playing for something,'' third-year Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads said. ''We're thrilled with two victories in a row, and a renewed confidence because of that.''

The Cyclones have the league's toughest closing stretch against Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Kansas State. When someone on the conference call wished Rhoads luck, he responded, ''Thanks, we'll need it.''

Kansas State is coming off a four-overtime victory over sliding Texas A&M. Under the Big 12's former format with divisions, the Wildcats might have already clinched a North Division title.

''I have always been a proponent of having two divisions in our conference. I think it was good for so many teams,'' K-State coach Bill Snyder said. ''I've been a proponent, always have, and probably always will.''

Except that won't happen again unless the Big 12 goes back to at least 12 teams.

Missouri, which has alternated wins and losses its last six games, is home against Texas Tech on Saturday. The winner becomes bowl eligible.

Since a 41-38 upset victory at Oklahoma, Texas Tech has lost three games by an average margin of 42 points. The Red Raiders are coming off a 66-6 loss to Oklahoma State.

''We just kind of play it as a two-game season,'' Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. ''We had good meetings (Sunday). We talked about a lot of things. We didn't talk much about football. We talked about keeping motivated. We've got to have something positive happen for us.''

Texas coach Mack Brown and Texas A&M's Mike Sherman probably feel the same way.

The Longhorns lost 17-5 to Missouri and their best player, tailback Fozzy Whittaker, sustained a season-ending knee injury.

''Right now, we just need a win,'' said Brown, whose team plays K-State this week.

Texas A&M (5-5, 3-4), a preseason Top 10 team, has lost three games - two in overtime. Four of their losses are by a combined 15 points.

''Been close too many times to not have won those games in my mind, and that's inexcusable,'' Sherman said. ''As a coach, you have to walk a fine line there ... we have to be held accountable as a team and as coaches for the predicament we're in, but that the same time build up their confidence as well.''

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