What if Oklahoma State wins big? - NBC Sports

What if Oklahoma State wins big?
If the Cowboys crush OU, do they have a chance of halting 'Bama-LSU rematch?
It will be interesting to see what Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy has to say about the BCS if his No. 3 Cowboys defeat No. 13 Oklahoma to win the Big 12 championship on Saturday night.
December 3, 2011, 12:12 am

1. Planting the seed
If the No. 3-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys (10-1) can defeat No. 13 Oklahoma (9-2) on Saturday night, the real game begins. You want Bedlam? Cowboys coach Mike Gundy can set it in motion by stepping to the news-conference microphone and saying something like this:

"We DESERVE the opportunity to play for a national championship.''

It might be the only way to avoid the rematch of LSU against Alabama in the BCS Championship Game.

Too political?

Too crass?

Remember 2006? It was just a few weeks after No. 1 Ohio State had defeated No. 2 Michigan 42-39. For a few weeks, there was talk of a rematch for the national title. Michigan was idle, but on the final day UCLA beat next-in-line, one-loss USC.

"That other team (Michigan) had its shot,'' then-Gators coach Urban Meyer said that night. "We belong in the game.''

The voters chewed on that for a while.

When the final BCS standings came out, Ohio State was No. 1, Florida was No. 2 . and Michigan was No. 3 - on the outside, looking in.

Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, largely biting his tongue, said Meyer's tactics were "slick.''

Will history repeat?

Gundy, at least so far, hasn't gone the political route. In fact, he said if he had a vote in the USA Today coaches poll (he doesn't), he'd put Alabama at No. 2 and Oklahoma State at No. 3. His reasoning seems sound. After all, Alabama's loss was in overtime to top-ranked LSU. Oklahoma State's loss was against Iowa State, which is now 6-5.

Gundy said he was uncomfortable politicking for his team, knowing that the first priority must be defeating the Sooners, not engaging in a pre-game war of words that could blow up in his face.

"So, to be fair,'' Gundy said, "I don't think I could put us in front of (Alabama) right now.''

Right now.

Maybe those are words to remember.

The Cowboys are No. 5 in the USA Today coaches poll, behind Virginia Tech (11-1) and Stanford (11-1). By beating Oklahoma, the Cowboys almost certainly will leap ahead of the Hokies and Cardinal.

It would be Oklahoma State's fifth win over a team currently ranked in the BCS top 25. Alabama has beaten just two BCS top 25 teams.

Oklahoma State can sell how it had a bad night (five turnovers), how it walked into a Friday night double-overtime ambush at Iowa State. It can point out how Alabama had every opportunity to defeat LSU, but couldn't get it done with a series of missed field goals and turnovers.

One team (Oklahoma State) will be a conference champion. The other (Alabama) will not have even won its division.

See how the perception can change? Particularly when Oklahoma State has the Saturday night stage and Alabama is idle?

Make no mistake, Oklahoma State must take care of business against Oklahoma. If the margin it decisive, that would be very helpful.

After that, it will largely be in the hands of voters in the USA Today coaches poll and Harris Interactive poll. If Oklahoma State has a good performance - and if Gundy, particularly, has an exceptional performance in the post-game news conference - Sunday's BCS final standings might carry more suspense that anyone anticipated.

2. LSU has incentive
No. 1 LSU (12-0) doesn't have a layup in the SEC championship game, facing the No. 12 Georgia Bulldogs (10-2), who have won 10 straight games, and emerging sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray.

What if Georgia pulls the unthinkable upset?

Then LSU would lose . nothing?

Apparently, that's true.

So we could have a national-title game - presumably LSU-Alabama - with neither team winning its conference championship?

It's an interesting concept, an intriguing storyline, to suggest that LSU has little incentive on Saturday.

Except for one minor point:

It's not true.

LSU is playing for a national championship. It's also playing for history.

The Tigers already have defeated seven ranked opponents, including three in the top five. They have victories against three teams (Alabama, Oregon, West Virginia) that could be headed for BCS bowl games.

You could easily visualize a 14-0 LSU team standing on the Superdome turf on Jan. 9, justifiably claiming to be the best college football team of all time. They would have the goods.

But that wouldn't happen without the SEC championship.

There's no reason for LSU to take its foot off the pedal. There's no need to rest any starters (the BCS title game is six weeks away). It's weird that Alabama was defeated, but might have an easier road. But LSU is prepared to finish the job. The Tigers want SEC title rings. Then they want the crystal-football trophy.

To suggest anything less than LSU's maximum effort is ridiculous.

3. Big Ten drama
Sometimes, these conference title games work out beautifully.

And sometimes, they don't. The Pac-12 had No. 8 Oregon (11-2) crushing UCLA (6-7) and it's lame-duck coach. The ACC has No. 5 Virginia Tech (11-1) against one-time BCS-contender Clemson (9-3) that has lost three of its last four games.

Saturday night's inaugural Big Ten championship game worked out beautifully on paper.

It's a cut-and-dried formula. Winner goes to the Rose Bowl. Loser probably goes to a lower-level bowl game in Orlando or Tampa.

It's a rematch of perhaps the season's most unforgettable moment, the Kirk Cousins-to-Keith Nichol "Hail Mary'' pass on the final play that lifted Michigan State past Wisconsin 37-31 on Oct. 22.

Before that gut punch, the Badgers realistically entertained thoughts of the BCS Championship Game. That quickly disappeared. But for Wisconsin and Michigan State, short of a national championship, the achievable goal is still tremendous. There's a Rose Bowl trip against Oregon and the opportunity to win 12 games.

Michigan State hasn't played in the Rose Bowl since Lorenzo White led the Spartans into Pasadena following the 1987 season.

Wisconsin has played in back-to-back Rose Bowl games only once.

There's plenty at stake here.

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4. Heisman showcase
By Monday afternoon, voting will close for the Heisman Trophy. Most Heisman straw polls favor Alabama running back Trent Richardson, Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck or Houston quarterback Case Keenum, possibly USC quarterback Matt Barkley.

Then there's fast-charging Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.

But ever since his stunning pass that beat Oklahoma, RG3 has been all the rage.

Now he gets one final platform.

No. 19 Baylor (8-3) gets to host the Texas Longhorns (7-4) on Saturday.

Here are some fascinating numbers: In the past two seasons, Griffin has thrown 40 touchdown passes of 20 yards or longer. This season, the No. 9-ranked Texas defense hasn't allowed ANY touchdown passes of 20 yards or longer.

Griffin's presence has elevated Baylor football to a higher level. The Bears just completed a 4-0 November - after going a mind-numbing 4-47 in previous November games since the Big 12 began play in 1996. The Bears just defeated Texas Tech 66-42 (Texas Tech has won the previous 15 meetings by an average 42-16 score) when Griffin had to leave with a concussion.

Now Baylor gets the Longhorns.

The Bears haven't beaten Texas in back-to-back seasons since 1991 and '92.

Griffin, who said he's playing, has 3,678 yards passing with 34 touchdowns and five interceptions. He has rushed for 612 yards and seven touchdowns.

Can a Baylor player pull a Heisman upset? Richardson and Luck don't play this weekend. The final stage belongs to Griffin and Keenum.

Maybe the momentum is too difficult to overturn. But if Griffin plays brilliantly on Saturday, that would give him victories against TCU, Oklahoma and Texas. That would make Baylor 6-3 in the Big 12 for the first time ever.

That's worth a trip to New York - at minimum.

5. Speaking of Keenum
The Conference USA championship game between the No. 7 Houston Cougars (12-0) and No. 24 Southern Miss Golden Eagles (10-2) begins Saturday's noon-to-midnight, ET, slate of college games, so it's a chance for many fans to focus on Houston senior quarterback Case Keenum, perhaps for the first time.

The numbers are staggering.

Keenum is the NCAA's career leader in passing yards (18,312), total offense (19,217), touchdown passes (150) and touchdowns accounted for (173).

This season, he has 4,726 passing yards (no one ever has surpassed 5,000 in the NCAA), a 73.2 completion percentage, 43 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.

He has a passing efficiency rating this season of 187.3 (the NCAA single-season record is 186.0 by Hawaii's Colt Brennan in 2006).

Keenum's numbers are so overwhelming, we have almost become desensitized to what they really mean. Last week, he passed for 457 yards and five touchdowns as the Cougars rallied past Tulsa 48-16 to clinch the C-USA West Division.

Keenum might not win the Heisman. The Houston Cougars, in this BCS system, have no realistic shot at playing for a national title. But these accomplishments don't deserve off-Broadway status.

Because of his unusual status - the NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility due to an injury - we won't see career numbers like this for a long time, maybe ever.

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