Big 12 South up for grabs as OU, Texas stumble

LUKE MEREDITH - AP Sports Writer
The Associated Press
Texas A&M's Dustin Harris celebrates as time expires in an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma in College Station, Texas, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010. Texas A&M won 33-19.  (AP Photo/Steve Campbell)
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Texas A&M's Dustin Harris celebrates as time expires in an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma in College Station, Texas, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010. Texas A&M won 33-19.

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."