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We're Halfway There!

"Whoa, we're halfway there...whoaaa livin' on a prayer!"
"Whoa, we're halfway there...whoaaa livin' on a prayer!"

When I finished watching the OU-Texas game this weekend, the only thing going through my head was how perfectly the lyrics of Bon Jovi's 1986 smash hit "Livin' on a Prayer" fit the Sooners' situation. We are halfway there. We've played 6 of our 12 games. We're also still halfway to bowl eligibility with three victories. Both of those are rather sobering thoughts. This season hasn't turned out how we've wanted it to, but that doesn't mean that it's over.

So let's start by establishing some goals. No three loss team has ever played for the national championship, not even one that only averages a deficit of 1.7 points per loss. So, you can basically cross Pasadena, and possibly another shot at Florida, off the list.

The Big 12 Championship is still achievable, and thereby another berth into the Fiesta Bowl, a BCS bowl game. However, we aren't in the drivers' seat any more, so we would undoubtedly need some help kind of like the 2006 OU football team received. This is where the "living on a prayer" phrasing comes into play. Texas needs to lose two conference games, and we would need to run the table. Not impossible, but not likely.

Simply running the table from here on out in the regular season will help the Sooners avoid another 2005 season, finishing with only 3 losses. Four losses mark the worst regular seasons in Stoops' tenure - both in 2005 and 1999. Plenty of people will tell you that 1999 was a rebuilding year, and that 2005 season was marred by problems. Running the table will be tough, but I can tell you that nobody wants to play the Sooners right now. The OU defense will keep the Sooners in games.

More goals and thoughts after the jump.

Let's summarize some of the major goals, in order:

  • Running the table, OU finishes the regular season a respectable 9-3, especially when considering all of the circumstances.
  • Finish the season second in the Big 12 South, or better. This would be achievable simply by winning out, but that isn't the only scenario by which that could occur. Stoops has never had a team finish worse than a tie for second place.
  • Get Landry Jones ready for 2010. Everyone knows that football is a team sport, but the quarterback is like the point guard in basketball, easily the most important player on the field. Landry lacks experience now, but putting him through the Big 12 gauntlet and keeping him healthy will be key.
  • The offensive line gains some semblance of order. Texas held Oklahoma to -16 yards rushing, their 2nd worst rushing total ever. They had 9 quarterback hurries, 2 sacks, and 8 tackles for loss. That's pretty much unacceptable. Not to mention, Sam Bradford got hurt...again!
  • Get penalties under 6 per game, pronto! Right now, OU is averaging 8.2 penalties per game for 90 yards per game. Against Texas, OU committed 10 penalties for 125 yards. Also unacceptable.
All of these goals are easily achievable. Our team has the talent. We just need to put all the pieces together. Penalties and lack of discipline on the offensive line are the players' faults, but almost as equally the result of coaching as well. Highly penalized teams often have poor coaching. Now is the time to fix it.

Bowl Prospects

The Big 12 has eight bowl tie-ins. The winner of the conference automatically gets a bid to the Fiesta Bowl (BCS). If the winner of the conference is ranked #1 or #2, then they will get a bid to the BCS National Championship game instead. BCS bowls can also select other eligible at large teams if they happen to be from the Big 12. The at large pool usually involves teams that have both won 9 regular season games, and are ranked in the top 14 in the BCS.

Oklahoma can get the automatic berth to the Fiesta Bowl, but that would involve winning out, and some help from Texas. They can also get an at-large BCS berth but that would involve moving up in the rankings about 12 to 16 spots, and running the table - things that are possible given that they have 2 ranked opponents left on their schedule, and two additional tough road games against Texas Tech and Nebraska.

The odds of either of these happening are slim. This leaves "the other bowls" - something OU hasn't had to consider since 2005. Since Texas is the only team towards the top of the rankings, it should be relatively safe to assume only one Big 12 team will qualify for the BCS.

Big 12 Conference Standings

(updated 10.18.2009 at 12:22 AM PDT)

North Conf Overall
Kansas St. Wildcats 2 1 4 3
Kansas Jayhawks 1 1 5 1
Nebraska Cornhuskers 1 1 4 2
Colorado Buffaloes 1 1 2 4
Iowa St. Cyclones 1 2 4 3
Missouri Tigers 0 2 4 2
South Conf Overall
Texas Longhorns 3 0 6 0
Oklahoma St. Cowboys 2 0 5 1
Texas Tech Red Raiders 2 1 5 2
Oklahoma Sooners 1 1 3 3
Texas A&M Aggies 0 2 3 3
Baylor Bears 0 2 3 3

This means that the Big 12 "runner up", so to speak, will get to go to the Cotton Bowl, as is the norm. Last year with the three way tie between Texas, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma it was Tech who got to go to the Cotton Bowl with OU and Texas receiving BCS bids. Tech got the nod despite Missouri representing the North in the Big 12 Championship Game, and Nebraska having the best record in the North after the CCG.

Cotton Bowl: Big 12 2nd Place
Holiday Bowl: Big 12 3rd Place
Gator Bowl: not an automatic bid, but the selection is between Big 12 4th Place, Big East 2nd Place, or Notre Dame
Sun Bowl: not an automatic bid, but the selection is between Big 12 4th or 5th Place, Big East 2nd Place, or Notre Dame
Insight Bowl: Big 12 4th-6th Place
Independence Bowl: Big 12 5th-7th Place
Texas Bowl: Big 12 6th-8th Place

These bids are contingent upon the Big 12 having enough bowl eligible teams to fill all the spots. Even if Texas doesn't help us out, running the table would net us a Cotton Bowl berth, where we would face off against the second best non-BCS SEC team , tough to tell who that would be at the moment.

Losing another game would probably send us to the Holiday Bowl, where we would be matched up against the 2nd place Pac 10 team - currently Oregon based on the rankings.

Losing two more games would place our conference record at 5-3. Depending on tiebreakers and whatnot, we could wind up somewhere from the Gator Bowl to the Insight Bowl, more likely the Insight Bowl or the Sun Bowl. With Notre Dame likely to have a good record this year, but not quite enough to get them into the BCS, I would expect the Gator Bowl would love to get them into Jacksonville.

Losing three more games would be awful. Our conference record would be 4-4, and overall record 6-6. If this occurred, I would expect us to be going to the Texas Bowl.

There you go, that's pretty much the prospects for the rest of the season. As lousy as we've looked lately, it's tough to imagine us losing to A&M or Kansas State at home. I think our defense is good enough to keep the rest at the very least close, which I would think at worst means a 7-5 finish and a 5-3 conference record. At worst. More likely will be one more loss along the way, an 8-4 finish, and a 6-2 conference record.

I hope this team has the resilience to prove me wrong, and turn things around.