NORMAN, Okla. -- The silliness this late in the season is that the third-best team in the Big 12 still has a heck of a chance to be the conference champion.
We're talking about Texas Tech, the team that gave up the most points in its history. The team that No. 5 Oklahoma wiped its feet on before a national audience and a record crowd. The team that rose to No. 2 with a great passing game, serviceable running game and underrated defense.
Yeah, that team, the borderline frauds who took up a sideline -- but not the challenge -- at Owen Field during a 65-21 loss.
They're not out of it by a long shot.
If you think anything was decided Saturday in this rout then you haven't been paying attention. The road to the Big 12 South title, which leads to the Big 12 championship game which could lead to the national championship game, is this:
Texas Tech beat Texas ... which beat Oklahoma ... which beat Texas Tech.
That's what we're looking at in a current three-way tie in the South Division. It would ultimately be broken by the BCS standings. The highest-ranked team at the end of the season goes to the Big 12 title game. The only thing we know for certain is that Texas Tech went from No. 2 in the nation to No. 3 in its own division if perception is anything.
And it should since Red Raiders coach Mike Leach already has his coaches poll vote lined up.
"I would put Oklahoma ahead (of Texas)," he said. "They beat us and they deserve it."
You wanted closure Saturday? You got nothing. By next Saturday, Florida State could beat Florida, Auburn could beat Alabama and Oklahoma State could beat Oklahoma and the backdoor would be open for one-loss wonders once thought to be out of it -- USC, Penn State ... even Texas Tech if everything falls right.
An Oklahoma State victory clinches the South for Texas Tech if it beats Baylor. Oklahoma would go from the highest of highs this season to the Fiesta Bowl, maybe.
You wanted closure? You certainly didn't get it in the Heisman race either. OU's Sam Bradford had a fine game, but he threw only 19 times (for 304 yards and four touchdowns). But Oklahoma came into the game trying to pound the Red Raiders. They did it 55 times on the ground for 299 yards and five touchdowns.
We learned a couple of things for sure. Oklahoma certainly believed some kind of corner was turned. They ran a heck of a victory lap around the field. The usually reserved Bob Stoops made a point to turn and bow to each corner of the stadium, saluting fans he had chided earlier in the week for not being loud enough.
|It's a nice win for the Sooners, but they're not guaranteed anything yet. (US Presswire)|
The problem is that Texas beat Oklahoma on Oct. 11. Going into Sunday every BCS measuring stick had Texas ahead of Oklahoma. That can, and will, change in some way with two human polls and six computers taking into account Texas Tech's second-worst loss of the Mike Leach era.
The lobbying already has begun. Texas sports information was text messaging national writers at the Oklahoma-Texas Tech game reminding them that the 'Horns beat Oklahoma and Big 12 North champ Missouri.
While Leach was weighing in, Stoops probably wished he could. OU's coach gave up his coaches poll vote after last season. Mack Brown, however, didn't. I think we all know which way he's going to vote.
"If you can't move us in front of Texas because they beat us, then you have to keep Texas Tech in front of Texas," Stoops said. "If it's logical for one, it's logical for the other. If you're going to forgive other teams with one loss because they're playing well now, well we're playing pretty well now, too."
Oklahoma has at least soothed its psyche. It can still win big games on its own turf. It hadn't played or beaten a top-five team at Owen Field since 2000 during its last championship season.
It came into the game leading the Big 12 in defense, if you want to consider that an accomplishment (allowing 345 yards per game). There were excuses for that large number. Oklahoma has been playing without three starters on defense -- both defensive ends and its middle linebacker for a while now.
"It got everybody thinking we were the worst defense in America," OU cornerback Dominique Franks said.
Not quite, but certainly not up to Oklahoma standards. Through it all, though, the Sooners were tied for the national lead in takeaways with 24. That was huge again Saturday against a Tech offensive line that had allowed five sacks all season.
That banged-up defense played as well as it has all season. At one point in the game, Tech had thrown 510 passes this season having only allowed those five sacks. Then they allowed sacks on back-to-back plays in the first half during which Oklahoma ran up a 42-7 lead.
In the second half, a fumble and interception were run back to set up touchdowns.
"We saw things out there that we had not seen before," Leach said.
"We didn't really do anything different," Stoops said.
Judge for yourself. Oklahoma played one of the best games in the Stoops era. It is both back in the title hunt and a week away from a possible flop. Remember, it has been a home-team league. The best road victory in the conference this season is Oklahoma State winning at Missouri on the same day Texas beat Oklahoma.
"Other teams that watched this game are going to say it was a fluke," Franks said.
They might be right.