NORMAN, Okla. -- After a stunning loss to Texas Tech, Oklahoma fell to ninth in the latest BCS standings. No longer do the Sooners control their own destiny in the national championship race.
But could OU still slip into the title game? It's unlikely, but not unthinkable. The Sooners need help and they must win out -- quite a charge for a team that got exposed across the board Saturday night.
Facing a top-notch passing offense for the first time all season, the OU secondary capitulated without cornerback Jamell Fleming, who could be out weeks after having minor knee surgery. Special teams continues to be a major weakness. And while potent, the offense tends to disappear in stretches, as did it Saturday when OU fell behind 31-7.
But the Sooners are far better than what they showed against Tech. And Bob Stoops' teams have a history of responding after such losses to sneak back into the title discussion.
"If we can make improvements and show some character and make some improvements from this," Stoops said, "who knows what can happen?"
The LSU-Alabama winner seems destined to nail down one of the title game spots.
But the Sooners will have their chance to topple two of the other teams standing in their way: eighth-ranked Kansas State this weekend, and third-ranked Oklahoma State in the regular-season finale.
Despite going on the road, OU is a two-touchdown favorite over the Wildcats. And the Sooners have won eight straight over the Cowboys, including last year's 47-41 shootout in Stillwater.
Neither game will be easy, especially Bedlam. But if the Sooners play the way they did two weeks ago against Texas, they are capable of winning both.
Still, to surpass Boise State, Clemson, Stanford and possibly even Oregon, Nos. 4-7 in the BCS, the Sooners need help.
The loser of Stanford-Oregon will be eliminated. But the winner will need to lose, too, especially if it's the Cardinal. That means old foe USC is now the Sooners' new best friend. The Trojans get Stanford at home this weekend, and Oregon later. USC is playing better lately, and is coming off a convincing win at Notre Dame.
Remember, either Stanford or Oregon will have to win the Pac-12 title game, too, where scrappy Arizona State likely will be waiting.
Surprising Clemson is another obstacle for the Sooners, but the Tigers still have to knock off Georgia Tech and South Carolina on the road. Clemson would also likely have to defeat Virginia Tech for a second time this season in the ACC title game. Not an easy stretch.
Chances are much better that Boise State ends up undefeated. But as others get deeper into conference play, Boise's computer resume will continue to slide. A road victory in Stillwater, potentially over the No. 2 team in the country, might be enough for OU to leapfrog the Broncos in the final BCS standings. That might also be enough to bump the Sooners past the loser of LSU-Alabama, which would be a threat.
No doubt, the Sooners are in a tough spot. Clemson and Stanford have to lose. Oregon maybe, too. OU has to the run the table against a rugged schedule. And all that might not be enough.
No question, OU's title dreams are on life support. But dead? Not quite yet.
"It's a long season," said OU receiver Ryan Broyles. "Anything can happen."
Jake Trotter covers University of Oklahoma football for SoonerNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Submit questions to his mailbag and look for answers every Friday.