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Monday, October 22, 2012
OU's obstacles to playing in the title game

By Jake Trotter

NORMAN, Okla. -- Notre Dame held up its end of the bargain. The Fighting Irish squeaked past BYU to remain undefeated, providing an opportunity for eighth-ranked Oklahoma to make a BCS statement on Saturday.

By beating the fifth-ranked Irish, OU also can take out another obstacle between it and the national title game. But other obstacles still loom for the one-loss Sooners.

SoonerNation breaks down those five obstacles:

Bob Stoops
Bob Stoops and the Sooners moved up a spot to No. 8 in the BCS standings.
1. Its own schedule
To get into the national title picture, the Sooners first must take care of business. That won’t be easy. OU, however, should be favored in every one of its remaining games. The toughest test figures to be this weekend against the Irish, followed by road trips to West Virginia and TCU.

Those two games, however, don’t appear to be as tough as first thought. The Mountaineers have looked awful the last two weeks, and the Horned Frogs are playing without quarterback Casey Pachall.

Watch out for the Nov. 3 road trip to Iowa State, though. The Cyclones seemingly take down a giant every year.

2. Optimus Klein
Even after Kansas State took down the Sooners in Norman last month, nobody believed the Wildcats would finish the regular season undefeated. After Collin Klein and company completely dismantled West Virginia in Morgantown, that no longer seems so unbelievable for the now third-ranked Wildcats.

K-State has no gimmes left on its schedule. Then again, the Wildcats already have passed their two toughest tests. Bottom line: if K-State runs the table, the Sooners will not be in the title game, regardless.

3. The Beaver State
Outside of Kansas State, the greatest threat to an OU national championship appearance at this moment is the state of Oregon. Both the fourth-ranked Ducks and seventh-ranked Beavers.

The Oregon schools remain undefeated through the halfway point of the season. The two eventually will play each other in late November, but should either run the table, they will finish ahead of the Sooners in the BCS standings.

That said, Oregon State has yet to play a team currently ranked in the BCS Top 20. And Oregon would have to beat Oregon State in Corvallis and USC once on the road and once in the Pac-12 title game to get there.

4. The Trojans
Among one-loss teams, the Sooners’ greatest threat is USC. Like OU, the Trojans lost early in the season, yet also rebounded.

The Sooners are just one spot ahead of USC in the BCS standings but still hold a sizable points lead. USC, however, appears to have more statement opportunities to impress voters down the stretch than the Sooners. The Trojans potentially would get a chance to play Oregon twice -- at home on Nov. 3, then the Pac-12 championship. They also end the regular season with a home bout against Notre Dame. If USC gets through that gauntlet, it might surpass the Sooners both in the human polls and the computers.

5. SEC
The SEC is virtually guaranteed of at least one national championship slot. But could the conference place two in the title game again? It’s possible.

Alabama and Florida are one and two in the BCS, and wouldn’t see each other until the SEC championship game. If either the Tide or Gators lost narrowly in that game, they might not fall enough for a one-loss team like OU to pass them, thanks to the overall strength of the SEC.

Another possibility would be LSU beating Alabama and losing in the SEC title game, setting up a potential Alabama-Florida national title slate.

And if the Tigers won the SEC? There would be a chance for another LSU-Alabama title bout -- even if it caused the rest of the nation to revolt.