It's only fitting the Big 12 -- this season's most entertaining conference -- would allow its championship race to culminate in yet another, enthralling primetime shootout. Two great quarterbacks and two great offenses traded punches well into the fourth quarter Saturday night in Stillwater, with 10-1 Oklahoma ultimately prevailing 61-41 over 9-2 Oklahoma State.
Now, the conference that's provided the nation with so many thrillers this season -- including Friday's Nebraska-Colorado nail-biter and Saturday's last-second Kansas-Missouri finish -- will sit back and let voters from around the country decide one of its championship-game participants. In a sport built on often-strange traditions, this may well be one of its most bizarre moments yet.
If you tuned in Saturday night, you saw yet another virtuoso performance from Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford. He completed 30-of-44 passes for 371 yards and four touchdowns and added a "signature" moment to his Heisman campaign when he went airborne in an attempt to somersault into the end zone. (He scored on the next play.)
You also saw an Oklahoma State team that simply would not go away, with dual-threat QB Zac Robinson accounting for 358 total yards and four TDs. Three times in the second half, Oklahoma went up by double-digits, only to have the Cowboys respond with a touchdown, including Perrish Cox's 90-yard kick return that made it 44-41 with just over 10 minutes remaining.
But Bradford marched right back down the field to throw yet another touchdown (the Sooners produced six straight at one point), OU finally got a couple of stops and ultimately managed to break the 60-point mark for a fourth straight week. (Almost by accident, Chris Brown broke a 28-yard touchdown run with 25 seconds left.)
Personally, I want nothing to do with deciding which 11-1 team -- Texas, Texas Tech or Oklahoma -- should be crowned Big 12 South champion, and fortunately I don't. That's up to the coaches poll, the Harris poll and BCS computers.
I do, however, have an AP ballot to submit by Sunday morning and must decide which order to rank them.
First of all, to no one's surprise, Texas Tech is not in my equation. The Red Raiders ended their season losing 65-21 to Oklahoma and barely surviving 4-8 Baylor. (They also lost star WR Michael Crabtree on Saturday, but that's another story.) They will remain right where I had them last week -- lowest of the one-loss teams (seventh).
Before Saturday night's game started, here's how I decided to approach the Texas-Oklahoma paradigm: The Longhorns were the incumbents and the Sooners were the challengers. In other words, the onus was on No. 4 (as of last week) Oklahoma to do something Saturday night to prove why it should unseat No. 3 Texas.
As hard as it is to take issue with a road win over a top-15 foe -- I do not think that "something" took place.
Whereas Texas has hard evidence on its behalf in the form of its 45-35 victory over OU on Oct. 11, any argument in favor of Oklahoma is essentially subjective. It comes down to arbitrarily determining the Sooners are playing better right now than are the Longhorns.
That would be a lot easier argument to make if Texas, like Texas Tech, had limped its way to the finish. However, all the 'Horns have done since their last-second loss in Lubbock is drill Baylor, 45-21; win at Kansas (the same team that toppled No. 12 Missouri 40-37 on Saturday), 35-7; and hammer Texas A&M, 49-9. There's no evidence that the 'Horns are playing any worse than they were on Oct. 11.
As for Oklahoma, there's little question the Sooners have the most dangerous offense in the country right now. They've put up no less than 58 points their past five games, and Bradford looks unstoppable every time he takes the field.
Oklahoma's defense, however, has hardly looked immortal this season, and Saturday night was no exception. The Sooners' defense played the game of their lives in shutting down Texas Tech's Graham Harrell last week, but they had a much harder time handling Oklahoma State's Robinson. And, for the fourth time this season, OU's special teams allowed a kick return for a touchdown.
Much like an instant replay review, I need "insurmountable evidence" to convince me to move one team (Oklahoma) above another (Texas). All I see are two extremely deserving teams with no discernible separation between them -- except, of course, for that 10-point margin on the day they played each other.