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Archive for Monday, October 30, 2000

Nebraska, No. 1 Oklahoma could meet again

October 30, 2000

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Ready for Oklahoma-Nebraska II?

After going three years between meetings, then playing for the nation's No. 1 ranking on Saturday, the longtime rivals are likely to hook up again in five weeks for the Big 12 championship game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.

The Sooners' 31-14 victory Saturday practically gives them the Big 12 South's spot in the Dec. 2 league championship. Despite ending their national-best winning streak, the Cornhuskers are in great shape to meet them there on behalf of the North division.

OU (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) could go 2-2 in its remaining games at Baylor, Texas A&M, vs. Texas Tech and at Oklahoma State and still win the South.

But division titles are meaningless for a team in line for the biggest prize of all, a national championship.

"Our goal wasn't to be the No. 1 team halfway or three-quarters of the way through the season," said Sooners coach Bob Stoops, whose team on Sunday became No. 1 for the first time since 1987.

"Everybody is gunning for you," said OU quarterback Josh Heupel. "Each game becomes more important. Therefore, they're more difficult."

The No. 5 Cornhuskers (7-1, 4-1) can play in their second straight Big 12 title game by winning remaining games against Kansas, Kansas State and Colorado. The Jayhawks and Buffaloes are 2-3 in conference play and the Wildcats aren't the team everyone thought a few weeks ago.

Nebraska will need some help from other teams, but if it can make it to Kansas City without another loss, then extract revenge on Oklahoma, the Cornhuskers could still end the year on top of the polls.

"No one's out of anything yet," Cornhuskers coach Frank Solich said. "It's still a season that has to be played out. We need to regroup and get ready to play Kansas. We're not looking at implications as how to this affects us down the road."

Kansas State's 60-game winning streak against unranked teams ended with a 26-10 loss to Texas A&M on Saturday. While the Aggies reminded everyone how hard it is to win at Kyle Field, the victory may have done more to unmask the Wildcats, who fell from No. 10 to No. 19. The win put the Aggies at No. 24.

"We're really not a good team right now," K-State coach Bill Snyder said.

Oklahoma's rise and Nebraska's sustained dominance seems is dividing the league into tiers.

The Sooners and Cornhuskers belong in the top group, followed by a pack of Longhorns (6-2, 4-1), Aggies (6-2, 4-1) and Wildcats (7-2, 3-2).

Iowa State is a probationary member of that class. After playing Nebraska tough but going meek against Texas A&M, the Cyclones (6-2, 3-2) will get a final shot at legitimacy Saturday against Kansas State.

The Red Raiders (6-3, 2-3) need one victory to be part of the Big 12's group of bowl-eligible teams, but it won't be easy. Tech still has Texas and Oklahoma left, although in between is a home game against Oklahoma State (2-5, 0-4).

The Iowa State-Kansas State game heads next weekend's schedule.

The Sooners' game against Baylor (2-6, 0-5) will be noteworthy only because of OU's return to No. 1. More interesting could be the Longhorns' first visit to Lubbock since a 1998 loss that knocked them out of the conference title race.

The Huskers will look to heal against Kansas (4-4, 2-3) and Colorado (2-6, 2-3) will be after its first two-game winning streak of the season against Missouri (2-6, 1-4).

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