Tramel: Sooners on verge of Big 12 title game elimination
The Sooners will enter the Cotton Bowl on Saturday with two Big 12 losses. Which is a dicey total for December, much less early October.
A loss to Texas would torpedo every remnant of hope for the Sooners making the Big 12 Championship Game. The same goes for any subsequent defeat.
Oh, I suppose that’s not technically true. A 6-3 Big 12 record might get OU into Arlington, though odds are against it.
Since the Big 12 went to a 10-team format for the 2011 season, the worst record for the conference runnerup has been 7-2. That’s right. Through nine years of history, a 6-3 never has been or would have been good enough to lift a team into the Big 12’s top two. Heck, three times, the top two teams in the Big 12 finished tied at 8-1 (OU-Baylor in 2019, Baylor-TCU in 2014, OU-Kansas State in 2012).
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The Big 12 title game returned in 2017, so for six years, the league had a 10-team, round-robin format with no championship game. But if a title game had been played 2011-16, five teams that finished 7-2 in the league would have not qualified for Arlington -- West Virginia in 2016, TCU in 2015, Kansas State in 2014 and both OSU and Texas in 2013.
So even winning out might not be enough to get the Sooners into the top two of the Big 12.
OU should be hoping for the kind of parity we saw in 2010, when five Big 12 finished 6-2. Nebraska and Missouri tied atop the North Division; OU, OSU and Texas A&M tied atop the South. OU beat Nebraska in the final Big 12 Championship Game of the 12-school era.
Across the country, teams with two conferences sometimes make league title games. In eight of the last 10 years, the ACC title game has sported a team with at least two losses. In seven of the last 10 years, the Pac-12 title has done the same, and in 2018 7-2 Washington played 6-3 Utah.
The Big Ten thrice has had a two-loss team in its championship -- 7-2 Wisconsin last year, 7-2 Wisconsin in 2016 and 6-2 Wisconsin in 2011.
Only twice in the last 10 years has the SEC Championship sported a team with at least two losses -- 6-2 Florida in 2016 and 5-3 South Carolina in 2010.
Other three-loss teams to make a title game in the last decade are 6-3 Southern Cal in 2015, and 6-3 UCLA and 5-3 North Carolina in 2014.
So it’s mathematically possible for the Sooners to even lose to Texas and remain alive. But it seems more likely that even winning out puts the Sooners on the precipice of missing the title game.