John Klein: OU has chance to impress poll voters
BY JOHN KLEIN Senior Sports Columnist
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
9/18/12 at 4:56 AM
Go to John Klein's Blog Original Print Headline: Big 12 teams in national title hunt
The winner of Oklahoma's game with Kansas State is likely to get a healthy boost from national poll voters.
Outside of the Southeastern Conference stranglehold at the top of the polls, with Alabama and LSU, there appears to be a wide-open scramble to get in position to make a run at the BCS national championship game.
And, voters are showing through the first three weeks that they are searching for teams that can make a run in November and December.
That wide net would include, at this point, OU and K-State in the Big 12. Also, Texas and West Virginia are on the radar.
Losses are not tolerated.
Southern Cal went on the road and lost to a top 25 team last week and dropped 11 spots. Wisconsin, Nebraska and Oklahoma State went on the road two weeks ago to the Pac-12 and lost. They disappeared to the voters.
Voters seem to be searching for teams outside of the SEC that can be serious contenders.
Now, the real season gets under way.
Texas takes this week off and then plays Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Oklahoma. OU gets Kansas State, Texas Tech and Texas in the next three games.
"There are no easy games from here on out," said Texas coach Mack Brown.
West Virginia, up to No. 8 in the latest poll, plays Maryland before it jumps into the Big 12 schedule. The Mountaineers will get a crash course in Big 12 football starting Sept. 29: Baylor, at Texas, at Texas Tech, Kansas State, TCU, at Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Welcome to the league.
All eyes are likely to remain on the SEC until someone else, most likely from the Big 12 or Pac-12, can make a case to be included in the BCS discussion.
So far, Alabama has done more, actually a lot more, than any other team. The Tide deserves that top spot.
Already this season, Bama has hammered two teams that were in the preseason top 10.
"Everyone thought that we were too young, too inexperienced and we couldn't handle success," said Alabama coach Nick Saban. "Everyone was saying those things about our team. Now, people are saying something different. My question is what's different? Nothing.
"We are still young, we are still inexperienced and we still have things to work on. It's going to be all about the maturity that the team has to be able to focus on what they need to do to correct the deficits that we have."
USC was the preseason No. 1 and has now dropped to No. 13 after the loss at Stanford. The Trojans may have a path back to the title game because of their schedule.
It was an early loss, and if USC wins the rest of its games, including probably two against Oregon, then the Trojans could sneak back up there. But, USC has to win and needs Oregon to remain unbeaten until the USC game.
USC, because of the loss, has no room for error.
"I don't think we were under prepared," said USC coach Lane Kiffin. "Stanford did a great job."
Coaches love to talk about getting better as the season progresses. However, the truth is that early-season losses can still be devastating, depending on what other teams do.
Once you lose, you put your fate in someone else's hands.
That's why BCS executive director Bill Hancock loves to say "every game counts." That's why the BCS folks love to say college football's playoff system is every week of the season.
"It's all about the progress you make through the season," said Saban. "There's plenty of room for us to make progress. Successful teams are willing to do what unsuccessful teams aren't.
"That's what we need to prove that we are ready in terms of how we go about each game that we play and each challenge that we have."
Certainly, games at the end of the season are weighted more heavily in terms of impact on the human polls.
Every game may look the same to the computers, but not to the human voters.
As a result, winning now can set up a strong finish. Losing now puts you against the wall. No mistakes allowed.
So even if you are young and inexperienced, that doesn't factor into the voting.
"You lose 25 percent of your team every year in college football," said Saban. "You have a whole different team.
"A whole different mindset. Different chemistry, character, strengths and weaknesses, things that you have to do to work hard to get young players to have the maturity that they need to go out there and play winning football."