Oklahoma survived a stiff test from Big 12 newcomer TCU, 24-17, to close out a 10-2 regular season. Sooner faithful must now swallow the bitter pill of cheering for rival Texas when it faces Kansas State; a Longhorn win gives Oklahoma, currently tied with K-State in the loss column atop the Big 12, the conference championship and automatic BCS bid.
A K-State win will leave Oklahoma wringing its collective hands until Sunday’s BCS selection show. Though the Sooners have a leg up on an at-large BCS bid, OU faces competition for the berth.
Notre Dame’s entry into the BCS championship game eliminates one of the four at-large bids typically reserved for the four BCS bowls. Florida should move into the top three after either Alabama or Georgia loses in the SEC championship, guaranteeing the Gators one of the three remaining at-large invitations. Oregon is almost a shoo-in for the second at 11-1.
Oklahoma likely need not worry at No. 11. Behind UF and Oregon, OU is the highest ranked, eligible team remaining. Three more SEC teams — LSU, Texas A&M and South Carolina — outrank the Sooners, but BCS rules allow a maximum of two teams per conference.
The Sooner win all but ensures MAC champion Northern Illinois and Boise State are out of the BCS equation.
For would-be BCS busters like NIU and BSU, TCU provides insight into the power conference gap. The Frogs closes out its first Big 12 season below .500 in conference play at 4-5, and 7-5 overall. The Frogs arrived in the Big 12 with double digit wins in every season since 2008. TCU’s middling finish might suggest the Frogs have a way to go before contending in its home. However, Gary Patterson’s team dealt with the surprise departure of running back Ed Wesley in the summer, and the early season loss of Casey Pachall to off-field problems.
Trevone Boykin kept the Horned Frogs within striking distance, playing a quality game against the ballyhooed Sooner defense. He rushed for one touchdown and passed for second, though would like to have had a third. His final attempt at the end zone on fourth-and-13 sealed was tipped away from Josh Boyce, sealing the Oklahoma win.
The near-miss was representative of the Frogs’ debut Big 12 season. TCU competed admirably in its first season of Big 12 competition and should be a factor in the league’s championship race in seasons to come. Oklahoma is the benchmark TCU is striving to match.
Though a K-State win earns it the conference’s automatic BCS berth by virtue of tiebreaker, Bob Stoops has his eighth conference championship. Despite gaffes, Oklahoma made plays when it needed Saturday in Fort Worth, like Landry Jones finding Jalen Saunders on a perfectly placed scoring pass one possession after his interception set up the first TCU score.
OU also got a critical score from running back Damien Williams, whose 66-yard touchdown rush on the first drive after halftime gave the Sooners all the breathing room they would need.