DALLAS (AP) – The Big 12 will have its own championship Saturday, even without a title game.
Both remaining regular-season games in the conference’s round-robin schedule have championship implications, providing for quite a closing doubleheader.
“Whoever made the schedule out is looking pretty smart right now,” Baylor coach Art Briles said Monday. “I don’t know how they did it, but they hit on this one.”
Sixth-ranked Oklahoma State (10-1, 7-1, Big 12) can clinch the league’s Big 12 BCS berth with a win at home over No. 18 Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2). The Bedlam game should wrap up about the same time that No. 9 Baylor (10-1, 7-1) kicks off its regular-season finale at home against No. 23 Texas (8-3, 7-1).
If Oklahoma State loses, the Bears and Longhorns suddenly are playing for the outright conference title and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.
Texas quarterback Case McCoy said he’ll be rooting for Oklahoma, though “it makes me sick to my stomach to think about.”
Oklahoma State has won seven in a row, including convincing victories over Baylor and Texas their last two games.
“It’s really another game for us,” Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. “We’ve been in what I’ve called tournament play for the last eight weeks.”
The Cowboys have made quote a comeback since that still-surprising 30-21 loss at West Virginia (4-8, 2-7) in their Big 12 opener nearly three months ago.
Their only Big 12 title came two years ago, and they clinched that with a 44-10 win over Oklahoma on the final Saturday. That was the first season the league went to a round-robin schedule after dropping from 12 to 10 teams and losing its championship game.
“There’s a lot going on, our players have been in this situation,” Gundy said. “They have to understand the importance of preparing for this game and taking care of their business and not worrying about anybody else’s team.”
Such as what happens to Florida State, Ohio State, Auburn and Missouri — the teams ahead of them in the BCS standings that play in league championship games Saturday.
Texas was in a similar situation going into the 2001 Big 12 championship game against Colorado, needing a win for a national championship shot after other teams lost earlier that day to create that possibility. But the Longhorns lost 39-37.
“We did make the guys aware in 2001 before the Colorado game that things had worked out so if we beat Colorado we would be playing Miami for the national championship, and then we didn’t play well,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “Probably tried too hard, they wanted to play in the national championship so badly.”
Brown anticipates a different approach this week with the earlier Big 12 game.
“I think you ignore it the best you can,” Brown said. “We told (players), let’s not talk about the Big 12 championship after today. … Whatever happens will be good for us if we take care of our business.”
Baylor is trying to win its first Big 12 title when playing the final game after 64 seasons in Floyd Casey Stadium before moving to a new on-campus stadium next year. Asked if it would be difficult to ignore what is going on Saturday in Stillwater, Okla., before his game, Briles chuckled while insisting that it wouldn’t.
“I guess just because it doesn’t really have any bearing on the outcome of our game,” Briles said. “Our deal is to go out and play our best and try to scratch out a victory against Texas. We can’t control what happens prior to that.”
Should Oklahoma State win Saturday, the winner between Baylor and Texas would still share the Big 12 title and likely be the league’s representative in the Cotton Bowl. A one-loss Bears team could still get an at-large BCS berth.
Oklahoma has won a league-high eight Big 12 titles, sharing last year with Kansas State. The Sooners now could keep their arch-rival from winning the conference championship, though coach Bob Stoops said that doesn’t play into their thinking this week.
“That maybe is the lowest form of motivation that a competitor may have, so no, that has nothing to do with how we approach the game whatsoever,” Stoops said. “That’s a very, very low form or motivation.”
They have than enough with Bedlam.
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