Oklahoma uncloaked again, as Big 12 title race gains clarity

DALLAS -- Bob Stoops sat behind the podium, trying to explain away a defeat that was difficult to comprehend. The setting and the tone had an all-too-familiar feel to it.

Oklahoma, billed as a contender in August, was uncloaked again in October. The same thing happened last season. And the season before that. And -- well, you get the picture.

Call it same song, seventh verse.

Saturday, the Sooners strutted into the Cotton Bowl as 17 1/2-point favorites with their chests puffed out, assuming they’d put a pounding on Texas simply by proclaiming their presence. They went for the dagger early, calling all passes on their first possession, then a double-reverse toss on their second.

The Red River Showdown, however, has always been decided by the side that blocks the best, tackles the best and fights for every inch of turf like oil might be underneath.

Oklahoma brought the style to Dallas. Texas brought the substance. The Sooners may have had the fancier routes and the more polished quarterback and the sharper pregame trash talk.

But Texas was tougher. And in the house that Doak built, toughness trumps all.

“All in all, they kicked us and won the football game,” Stoops said. “There's not much else to say about it.”

You can forgive Stoops’ terseness.

After all, the Sooners have grown rather accustomed to losing in such a stunning fashion.

According to the Football Power Index, which is a statistical measure of a team’s supposed strength, Oklahoma had a 90 percent chance of beating Texas.

Going back five years, the Sooners have had six defeats in which FPI gave them at least an 80 percent chance to win.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, no FBS team has more such losses over that span, not even Clemson -- from which “Clemsoning” entered the college football lexicon to describe when a heavily favored team delivers an inexplicably disappointing losing performance.

Clemson is undefeated and ranked fifth in the polls. And the Tigers finished off last season with a 40-6 win over Oklahoma.

Maybe it’s time the term be amended to “Soonering.”

Because currently, nobody seems to disappoint more on an annual basis than the Sooners, who have now been outplayed by inferior Texas teams three years in a row.

“They showed a lot of pride and toughness,” defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “We kind of walked into a lion’s den and that’s what happens. We kind of got set up for this and just couldn’t respond in a more positive way.

“That’s the disappointing part.”

And so with Oklahoma disappointing before Halloween yet again, the Big 12 title race has gained clarity. Black Friday figures to decide the conference championship when Baylor travels to TCU in what should be a Revivalry for the ages.

Armed with what’s looking like their most prolific offense yet, Art Briles’ Bears continue to mow through the opposition. Quarterback Seth Russell leads the country with 22 touchdown passes and has already had an off week and has yet to play an entire game.

“We probably have one of the freshest teams in America at this stage of the season,” Briles said. “That’s definitely a positive for our program. They’re going to like playing full games in a few weeks at a fresh level.”

TCU has sweated far more this year. But the Horned Frogs continue to deliver the winning plays in the fourth quarter. The trio of Trevone Boykin, Josh Doctson and Aaron Green simply refuse to allow the Horned Frogs to lose, most recently Saturday when they trailed Kansas State 35-17 at halftime.

“Shows the character and leadership with the team,” Doctson said. “People putting their whole heart on the line, playing for the guy next to us, and it shows in games like this coming from behind, on the road.”

Oklahoma State technically is in the conference race, too, after winning at West Virginia in overtime to move to 6-0. But the Cowboys have yet to play a clean offensive game all season. To have any hope with hanging with the offensive juggernauts of Baylor and TCU, the Pokes are going to have to make a dramatic jump offensively before November.

"We certainly need some rest," said Mike Gundy, whose Cowboys are off this week. "We’ve got some work ahead of us from an X’s and O’s standpoint."

With just one loss, Oklahoma, mathematically, remains alive, too.

But as Saturday proved, the Sooners are always liable to suffer a defeat when least expected. That’s not what championship teams do.

Oklahoma once was defined by “Sooner Magic” for winning games in inexplicable fashion. But these days, the Sooners are being defined by losses that can’t be explained.