NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — No. 9 Oklahoma is headed back to the Big 12 championship game to face No. 13 Nebraska after winning a tiebreaker based on the Bowl Championship Series standings.
The Sooners were ninth in the standings released Sunday, with Oklahoma State 14th and Texas A&M 18th. The three teams finished the regular season tied atop the Big 12 South with 6-2 records in conference play, and the BCS standings were used to break the tie.
“It seems fitting that Oklahoma and Nebraska would meet in this game,” Sooners coach Bob Stoops said in a statement. “This has been a great rivalry for a long, long time and college football fans around the country will appreciate this game in particular.”
The “Battle of the Big Reds” determined the Big Eight conference champion 31 times in a 36-year span before being diminished as both teams went through down stretches following the creation of the Big 12. Saturday night’s meeting in Arlington, Texas, will mark the second time the rivals have met for the Big 12 title, and the last time before Nebraska heads to the Big Ten next season.
Oklahoma beat the Cornhuskers 21-7 in the 2006 title game for its fourth of a conference-leading six Big 12 championships.
“From our perspective, we’re proud to be in the championship game for an eighth time,” Stoops said. “Our players begin each season with specific goals and winning the Big 12 championship is near the top of that list.”
The Sooners are 6-1 in Big 12 title games. No other team has won more than three. Nebraska has won it twice — in 1997 and 1999 — and lost to Texas last year on a field goal as time expired, after one second had been put back on the clock.
“Part of coming to Oklahoma is you win championships. You want to win championships when you come here,” tight end James Hanna said. “We have that opportunity. That’s what it’s about.”
Perhaps no team has benefited more from the BCS system over time than Oklahoma.
The Sooners squeezed into the national championship game in back-to-back seasons by virtue of the computer rankings, and have now benefited from the BCS standings twice in three years to play for the Big 12 title.
Two years ago, Oklahoma edged Texas — which had beaten the Sooners 45-35 earlier in the season — by a mere 13-thousandths of a point in a tiebreaker filled with campaigning over the final week of the regular season. Texas supporters even flew a plane over the Sooners’ regular-season finale to draw attention to the Red River Rivalry result.
Oklahoma went on to beat Missouri for the Big 12 title and then lose to Florida in the BCS championship game.
The Sooners also got into the national title game ahead of top-ranked Southern California in 2003, despite losing 35-7 to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship. Then in 2004, Oklahoma got into the Orange Bowl and lost 55-19 to USC while Auburn was left out with an unblemished record.
This time doesn’t figure to be nearly as controversial. The Sooners (10-2, 6-2) were ahead of the other two divisional rivals in both BCS polls and every computer ranking on the strength of a nonconference schedule that featured a blowout of Florida State, which ranks 21st in the BCS standings.
Texas A&M (9-3, 6-2) beat the Sooners 33-19 but also had an extra nonconference loss, coming in its big chance to make a BCS case against Arkansas, No. 7 in the BCS. Oklahoma State (10-2, 6-2) beat A&M but lost 47-41 to Oklahoma on Saturday night and had no marquee nonconference wins.
Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said the BCS tiebreaker may be controversial, but no one has come up with a better system and there’s no reason to complain when everyone agreed to play under the current rules.
“We all know that when we start the season and you can’t change it once it’s over with,” Gundy said Sunday. “So, you have to win your games to guarantee yourself to be in there and if you don’t, then you’re putting it on a computer and a BCS rating and it’s out of your control.”
Nebraska (10-2, 6-2) also got to the championship game with a tiebreaker after sharing the Big 12 North title with Missouri (10-2, 6-2). With only two teams tied, the Cornhuskers get to play next week because of a head-to-head victory against the Tigers.