- Jake Trotter, ESPN Staff Writer
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NORMAN, Okla. -- After a wild win in Bedlam, No. 11 Oklahoma is on a collision course to meet an old foe in a BCS bowl.
That is, if a team from one of Bob Stoops’ old stomping grounds doesn’t get in the way.
Going into the final week of the season, the BCS bowl picture has begun to crystallize. After the 51-48 overtime victory over Oklahoma State, the 9-2 Sooners have emerged as a prime candidate to snag the Sugar Bowl’s BCS at-large berth, which would pit them against 11-1 Florida in a rematch of the 2008 national championship.
But a pair of obstacles remain: the Sooners’ road trip to TCU; and Kent State.
That’s right. Kent State, where Stoops coached as an assistant in 1988, could knock OU out of the BCS.
Seven of eight teams ranked directly ahead of the Golden Flashes -- Oregon State, Texas, UCLA, Rutgers, Michigan, Louisville and Oklahoma State -- all lost over the weekend, allowing Kent State to surge up to No. 17 in the latest BCS Standings.
If the Golden Flashes beat No. 21 Northern Illinois in the MAC championship game on Friday night -- they’re 5-point underdogs -- there’s a chance they could steal OU’s BCS at-large spot.
Per BCS rules, as a member of a non-AQ conference Kent State clinches an automatic BCS bowl berth if it’s A) ranked in the Top 16 of the final BCS Standings; B) ranked higher than that of a champion from an AQ conference; C) ranked higher than all other non-AQ teams.
By taking care of Northern Illinois, the Golden Flashes would finish ranked ahead of the Big East champ (contenders Louisville, Rutgers and Cincinnati are all unranked) as well as No. 20 Boise State.
But would they also move up one spot to finish in the Top 16?
It figures to be close.
A win over Northern Illinois would boost the Flashes’ surprisingly strong computer profile (they rank 18th in the computers).
But they could catch a break if the team in front of them, No. 16 UCLA, lost to Stanford for the second straight week in the Pac-12 championship game. ESPN BCS guru Brad Edwards thinks that would be enough to push Kent State across the threshold into the top 16, and thus the Sooners to the Cotton Bowl (assuming Kansas State also beat Texas).
But if UCLA and/or Northern Illinois prevail, the Sooners figure to be BCS-bowl bound if they too can take care of business this week in Fort Worth.
The Fiesta Bowl is still an option. But that would require Texas knocking off Kansas State. Considering how anemic the Longhorns looked against TCU, that seems unlikely.
More likely, the Sooners will end up in the Sugar Bowl against a program that might have the best résumé of anyone in college football, including top-ranked Notre Dame. The No. 4 Gators have victories over three teams ranked in the top 10 of the BCS standings -- Texas A&M, LSU and South Carolina -- and demolished No. 13 Florida State on its home field Saturday.
Florida’s only defeat came against third-ranked Georgia on a neutral field. In that 17-9 loss, the Gators turned the ball over six times -- and still had a chance to tie it at the end.
Like Notre Dame, Florida owns a punishing defense led by versatile safety Matt Elam, who can both hit and cover. Its front seven is loaded with future NFL starters, as well, headlined by menacing defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. The only defense maybe better than Notre Dame’s is Florida’s.
The last month, quarterback Landry Jones and his sparkling quartet of pass-catchers have been unstoppable. Then again, Florida shut down Sam Bradford’s record-setting attack in the ’08 national championship.
These Gators would pose a similar challenge. Provided Stoops’ old squad doesn’t spoil it.
3dBrandon Chatmon and Jake Trotter