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Archive for Friday, December 1, 2000

KSU could end OU’s national title hopes

December 1, 2000

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Once again, the Big 12 Conference title game can crush the national championship hopes of the best team in the league.

If No. 8 Kansas State (10-2) beats No. 1 Oklahoma (11-0) Saturday night, it will be the third time in the league's five years that the title game robbed the Big 12 of a national title shot.

And there's a bunch of Big 12 coaches who aren't happy about it, including Nebraska's Frank Solich.

"If they didn't have to play another game, they would automatically be in the national championship game," Solich said. "We'd have a representative there. If they end up losing the game, they are not in the national championship bowl. Neither is Kansas State."

In 1996, the first year of the Big 12, Texas upended No. 3 Nebraska, 37-27, and prevented the Cornhuskers from playing Florida State in the Sugar Bowl. In '98, No. 2 Kansas State lost its perfect season in a double-overtime loss to Texas A&M and lost out on a title shot in the Alamo Bowl.

The Wildcats would like nothing more than to beat the Sooners, who defeated K-State, 41-31, Oct. 28 at Manhattan. But first, Oklahoma quarterback Josh Heupel must be stopped.

"Obviously, we're going to have to play much better than we did in the initial game," Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. "I don't think we could make a lot of wholesale changes defensively. We have to do what we do."

In the first game, Heupel threw for 374 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a score. Kansas State quarterback Jonathan Beasley, meanwhile, scored three TDs but was only 14-of-36 for 211 yards with two interceptions.

Since then, the Wildcats scrambled to a 10-2 record. There was a 26-10 loss to Texas A&M, a team that nearly beat Oklahoma before losing 35-31, and close calls against Nebraska (29-28) and Missouri (28-24).

The Sooners followed their win over Kansas State with a dominating 31-14 victory over Nebraska, then beat Baylor, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and closed with a shaky 12-7 win over Oklahoma State.

The stakes couldn't be higher in this rematch: Oklahoma plays for a chance at its first AP national title since 1985 with a win, while Kansas State will clinch its first Bowl Championship Series game with an victory.

Should the Wildcats win, they would likely play in the Fiesta Bowl, leaving the Sooners to play in the Sugar Bowl.

The title game will be played outdoors for the first time, with a sellout crowd of 80,000 expected at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium.

The picks:

No. 1 Oklahoma (minus 21/2)

vs. No. 8 Kansas State

at Arrowhead Stadium

Nobody's perfect. ... KANSAS STATE, 31-28.

No. 7 Florida (minus 91/2)

vs. No. 18 Auburn at Georgia Dome

Gators shooting for sixth SEC title since 1991. ... FLORIDA, 31-24.

Army (minus 21/2) vs. Navy

at Baltimore

Cadets have one win; Middies none. ... Army, 21-20.

Western Michigan (minus 61/2)

at Marshall

Broncos set to take MAC title away from Thundering Herd. ... WESTERN MICHIGAN, 27-24.

UNLV (minus 7) at Hawaii

Warriors try to avoid nine-loss season after nine-win season in '99. ... UNLV, 34-21.

Last week: 10-1 (straight); 6-5 (vs. points).

Season: 185-53 (straight); 123-102-3 (vs. points).

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