NORMAN — Oklahoma's 2012 national-title hopes were destroyed last weekend, when Notre Dame walked off Owen Field a 30-13 victor.
The same day, unbeaten Kansas State routed Texas Tech, significantly decreasing the likelihood of the two KSU losses Oklahoma would need to remain in the Big 12 championship race.
With its two ultimate goals fading, what prizes remain attainable — and big enough — for a prideful program that considers anything short of championships to be unacceptable?
“We still have a lot at stake in the conference and that matters,” said coach Bob Stoops. “It isn't just solely on a national championship; it never has been, it never will be. There's a lot more to it.”
An at-large berth in one of the BCS bowl games is a strong possibility for Oklahoma if it wins its remaining regular-season contests, beginning with Saturday's game at Iowa State.
For Oklahoma to be eligible for an at-large BCS selection, it would have to win nine games and finish ranked among the top 14 teams in the final BCS standings.
But what would make a coveted BCS bowl appearance even sweeter for the Sooners and their fans? The chance to avenge a 2012 home loss in a postseason rematch.
Under certain conditions, the BCS procedure for picking teams allows for adjustments, which aren't required, of bowl pairings after selections have been made.
One considerations for such an adjustment is “whether two teams that played against one another in the regular season will be paired against one another in a bowl game.”
If Kansas State ends up winning the Big 12 Conference, but doesn't earn a spot in the national championship game, the Wildcats would be contractually tied to the Fiesta Bowl, which also has the first choice this year in choosing between the remaining automatic qualifiers and at-large candidates.
Might the Fiesta Bowl decide to pit Oklahoma against Kansas State, which beat it 24-19 on Sept. 22 in Norman?
It's unlikely, but not entirely out of the question.
The more plausible scenario involves Kansas State finishing ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the final BCS standings, and OU getting a shot at avenging its other 2012 home loss.
A Fiesta Bowl representative told The Oklahoman last weekend that an Oklahoma-Notre Dame rematch would be possible if the Wildcats play in the national championship game.
Of course, a lot can happen between now and the end of the regular season. Depending on which schools become BCS qualifiers, and what agreements those schools or their conferences have with certain bowls, a two-loss OU squad could be left out of major bowls altogether.
The other possibility is that the Sooners simply lose another game; while a third regular-season loss wouldn't 100 percent dismantle OU's BCS chances, it definitely would diminish their likelihood.