LUBBOCK, Texas — The game of the week commences tonight at Jones Stadium, where Saturday nights get wild and woolly. And the ranch hands filling the air with fireworks tonight in college football’s Dodge City are newcomers to such a stage. Truth is, this is a fun ball game because of a lack of pedigree. While bluebloods Penn State and Alabama and Oklahoma dominate the afternoon television slots, ABC cameras tonight focus on two programs in national contention but without so much as an outright conference championship. Tech and OSU tied for league titles in 1976 and haven’t finished in first place since. Neither has so much as won the Big 12 South’s division, a mantel claimed six times by OU, four times by Texas and twice by Texas A&M. But OSU and Tech have proved in 2008 they are bona fide contenders for the Big 12 crown, which makes them national contenders, too. "That’s what all your goals are about,” said OSU defensive coordinator Tim Beckman. Tech and OSU have brought much-needed parity to Big 12 football. They have assured that, this season at least, the South race goes far beyond the State Fair of Texas. "That’s always something we’re talking about,” OSU center David Washington said of a Big 12 title. "Each year, it gets more and more serious.” This year, the Cowboys brought out bracelets that proclaimed the date of the Big 12 title game. They wore them during August heat. "Looking at my teammates’ faces, we had that same hunger,” Washington said. "We felt like it was a realistic, obtainable goal.” And now it is. But Tech must be vanquished — no small task in Lubbock, in any year — and the Red Raiders are an Oklahoma sweep away from turning the Big 12 title game into their own national semifinal. This much is certain: Both the Cowboys and Red Raiders have boosted the status of the Big 12 South. No other division in college football has been so top-heavy. In the SEC, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida each have won the East Division in the last three years, and in the West, LSU, Auburn and Arkansas have won the division in the last four years. Plus you’ve got top-ranked Alabama in the mix. The ACC has staged three championship games. Five schools already have played in the ACC game. In the Big 12 itself, four schools have won the North in the past five years. And now parity has come to the Big 12 South. "It’s a great step for our program,” State coach Mike Gundy said. "Obviously, that’s been talked about. Felt like something that hasn’t been talked about enough.” They’ll be talking tonight on the streets of Dodge. Talking and firing footballs and playing the game of the week, pedigree or not. Berry Tramel: 405-760-8080. Berry Tramel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1.