By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News and Eagle
The wailing, moaning and crying that may be coming out of Norman could reach deafening levels before the Sooners play their regular season finale at TCU on Saturday. Why? Even with a win, OU could very well be shut out of a BCS bowl game ... by Kent State.
A good portion of the No. 11 Sooners’ postseason fate rests in Detroit on Friday night in the Mid-American Conference championship game between No. 17 Kent State (11-1) and No. 21 Northern Illinois (11-1).
A Golden Flashes win, and a move up in the polls to at least No. 16, would likely take a second BCS bowl away from the Big 12, which means the Sooners, who would have otherwise been projected to play in a BCS bowl if they and No. 6 Kansas State (which plays No. 18 Texas) both win Saturday, will be tuning into the MAC title game with a rooting interest in Northern Illinois.
Coupled with a loss by No. 16 UCLA to No. 8 Stanford in the Pac-12 title game Friday, a Kent State victory could, no make that should, propel the Golden Flashes into a BCS bowl.
Such a scenario also would mean the Flashes overcame a system designed to keep party crashers like them from intruding on the BCS’ annual private soiree.
The steps a school from a non-Automatic Qualifying (non-AQ) conference has to negotiate to reach a BCS bowl berth are more complex than determining a legitimate list of registered voters in the city of Chicago.
To reach a BCS bowl, Kent State, or for that matter any non-AQ team, must be ranked No. 16 or higher in the final BCS standings; ranked higher than a champion of a BCS conference (in this case that would be the Big East, which has unranked Louisville and unranked Rutgers battling it out for their conference title tonight) and ranked higher than all other non-AQ schools.
That’s a cozy little setup.
But if Kent State upsets Northern Illinois (the Huskies are a 4-point favorite) and Stanford defeats UCLA, the Golden Flashes, barring any Chicago-like voting chicanery in the polls, should be no lower than No. 16 and on their way to a BCS bowl at OU’s expense, likely either the Sugar Bowl or Orange Bowl.
Northern Illinois certainly deserves a shot as well, but may be too far down the rankings at No. 21 to make the jump to No. 16. The Huskies’ only setback was an opening-season 18-17 road loss to Iowa. And their quarterback, Jordan Lynch, has numbers that would make the top Heisman contenders jealous.
Meanwhile, Kent State — the school that gave OU head coach Bob Stoops his first collegiate assistant coaching gig — is going to its first bowl game since 1972.
These Flashes are for real and possess a top offensive threat of their own in Dri Archer, who is fifth in the nation with 197 all-purpose yards per game.
Of course, an OU win and a Kansas State loss would render moot any OU hand-wringing as the Sooners would claim the Big 12’s automatic BCS bid.
Meanwhile, the MAC, coming off its most successful regular-season ever, is likely to draw its best TV numbers for its conference title tilt as Sooner nation tunes in to see if its BCS hopes are dashed in a Motor City Golden Flash.
Perhaps the Sooners and the BCS should acquaint themselves with the phrase “hoisted on one’s own petard.”
Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.쇓