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Sooners Have Been Here Before; One Loss Is Neither Final Nor Fatal

A win or loss to hated archrival Texas does not make or break at season, even if it is arguably the biggest game every season on the Sooners' schedule. The Big 12 title is still up for grabs, and the Sooners are still in it.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Last weekend's disturbing loss to archrival Texas before a sun-splashed, sold-out crowd at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas without question broke the hearts of Sooner fans, not to mention the team's unbeaten streak in the 2013 season, handing the defending conference co-champions their first loss in six games.

After all, a victory over the Sooners' burnt orange-adorned rivals from south of the Red River can make a season. But while it might seem like it at the time, a loss to the Longhorns does not end the season, nor does it leave OU out of the championship picture and the conference's automatic bid to a BCS bowl.

The quicker the Sooner coaching staff is able to convince the players of that and get them to put the Texas loss in the rear-view mirror - except, of course, for making improvements from the learnings taken from the game and getting better because of it - the better the chances of taking care of the business that lies ahead in the next six regular-season games.

There is still a bunch of football games still to be played in 2013, and even though the Sooners have no control over what happens to Texas the rest of the way, they still have a lot to say about what happens to the other conference leaders - namely undefeated Baylor and Texas Tech as well as the Bedlam game with conference preseason favorite Oklahoma State - along the way. OU still has games remaining with the latter three. The Longhorns have games left with all three, as well as with TCU, which upset the Horns last season.

Oklahoma has won eight conference championships in the Big 12 era, all under head coach Bob Stoops, who is within four wins of becoming the all-time winningest coach in OU's storied football history. It is highly likely that Stoops will achieve that mark sometime this season, eclipsing former coach Barry Switzer's all-time win total of 157 in 15 seasons as the Sooners' head football coach. This is Stoops' 15th season in Norman.

Legendary Sooner coach Bud Wilkinson garnered 145 victories at Oklahoma in 17 seasons, including the first three of OU's seven national championships.

The rest of the season for the Sooners starts this weekend at Kansas, a team Oklahoma has beaten 70 of the 103 times the two schools have played. Moreover, The Sooners have won 14 consecutive games immediately following their Red River Rivalry game with Texas and 20 consecutive games since 2004 following a loss.

For most of the Big 12 era, the conventional wisdom was that the winner of the Texas-Oklahoma game had the inside track to the conference championship. For much of that time, the league was divided into a North and South Division. Because the Sooners and the Longhorns were both in the South, a win over the other in the annual Red River game increased the likelihood that the winner would advance to the conference championship game.

In two of the eight seasons since 2000 that Oklahoma went on to win the conference crown in football, the Sooners were losers to the Longhorns in their annual October battle royal (in 2006 and 2008). In both seasons, the Texas loss was the only loss suffered by the Sooners that year, and in both seasons Oklahoma finished out the conference schedule with a 7-1 record.

That same phenomenon occurred in reverse in 1996, the first year of the Big 12. Texas defeated Nebraska for the league title, but the Longhorns were upended in their game with Oklahoma that season, as the Sooners took home a 30-27 victory in overtime, the only extra-session game in the 108-year history of the rivalry.

Going back even further in time, long before the two schools were members of the same conference, Oklahoma won 32 conference championships between 1938 and 1995. In 10 of those seasons, the Sooners lost to Texas in the same season.

So, suffice it to say, a loss to the hated Longhorns does not a season end, just as a win over Texas does not guarantee a conference title. You still have to get by eight other teams, at least half of which are every bit as good, and even better, than what the Sooners faced last Saturday in the Cotton Bowl.

And it's not just about how Oklahoma fares in its head-to-head confrontation with the six teams remaining on its regular-season schedule. Just as important in the final outcome is how the other league contenders fare against each other. Chances are, no team in the conference will make it completely through the league gauntlet this season with its record unscathed. It's also not out of the question that this year's conference champion could lose as many as two games, although the probability is not nearly as great as a one-loss champion.

Either way, the Sooners are still very much in it. They just can't afford any more subpar outings on offense, defense and special teams like what they collectively exhibited in being completely dominated by Texas last Saturday.

Texas Tech is 6-0 and, if the Red Raiders are successful in their first true road test this weekend at West Virginia, will be 7-0 when it visits Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium next Saturday afternoon. No Sooner fan will forget what happened the last time Texas Tech came to Norman. OU was ranked third in the national polls and was a perfect 6-0 to that point in the season, not to mention the Sooners' 39-game home winning streak. All that went by the wayside when the Red Raiders surprised the Sooners 41-38.

This season, it's the Texas Tech that is commanding all the headlines, and on Oct. 26, Oklahoma will have a much to say about the validity of Tech's run at the championship.

Twelve days after that, OU faces perhaps its biggest challenge of the season, and one that definitely holds championship implications, when it visits Baylor. Through five games, Baylor has practically obliterated everything in its way with the nation's most prolific offensive attack. The Sooners own a 21-1 record all-time against the Bears, but their one loss came the last time they played at Baylor, with Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III at the controls.

The Sooners also have to play their in-state Bedlam rival Oklahoma State on the road to end the regular season. Sandwiched in between is a home date with Iowa State and another big road test at Kansas State, which under coach Bill Snyder always gives OU a tough test.

So there is still a lot to play for if you're Oklahoma, and a handful of big games dead ahead. That should be enough incentive for Big Game Bob and his Sooners to keep fighting, continue to get better, as coach Stoops likes to say, and get their game on.

Forget what has happened up to now. How the Sooners perform from here on out - beginning Saturday at Kansas - will determine how high and how far they are able to go this season. It's all out there in front of them.

Other upcoming games that will impact the 2013 Big 12 championship

October 26 - Texas at TCU

November 2 - Oklahoma State at Texas Tech

November 9 - Kansas State at Texas Tech

November 16 - Baylor vs. Texas Tech in Arlington, Texas

November 16 - Oklahoma State at Texas

November 23 - Baylor at Oklahoma State

November 28 - Texas Tech at Texas

November 30 - Baylor at TCU