2008 Big 12 Conference South Division 3-way tie controversy
The final standings of the 2008 Big 12 Conference's South Division football regular season resulted in the first 3-way division tie in the Big 12. The decision of which team would be selected to represent the division in the 2008 Big 12 Championship Game was controversial. Ultimately, the Oklahoma Sooners were chosen by their higher ranking in the polls, over the Texas Longhorns and Texas Tech Red Raiders.
The game against the 2008 Oklahoma Sooners football team marked the 103rd meeting of the Red River Rivalry, which has been called one of the greatest sports rivalries. It is the second longest running rivalry for the Longhorns, behind the one with Texas A&M. Since 1929 the game has been held at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas typically in mid-October with the State Fair of Texas occurring adjacent to the stadium. Prior to 2008, Texas led the series 57–40–5.
In the week prior to facing the Oklahoma Sooners, Longhorn fans conduct their traditional Torchlight Parade and Rally. The rally first took place in 1916 prior to a game versus Texas A&M, but since 1986 it has been an annual event held exclusively during the week prior to the Texas–Oklahoma game. Another annual tradition is the running of game balls by the schools' Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs. Each school's ROTC program uses a relay running system to run one game ball all the way from their respective campus to Dallas. Once there, they participate against each other in a football scrimmage, with the winner taking home a rivalry trophy and bragging rights.
|#5 Texas Tech||12||10||7||10||39|
The series with the Texas Tech Red Raiders began in 1928 and the Longhorns' record through 2007 was 43–14–0. In the 2006 contest, #5 ranked Texas barely came away with a 35–31 win over an unranked Texas Tech team. In the 2007 game #14 Texas won 59–43. During his post-game press conference, Texas Tech's Mike Leach used most of his time to rail against the officiating crew for incompetence and bias. He speculated that the officials may have favored Texas because the head official lives in Austin, because they are incompetent, or possibly because the conference wants Texas to appear in a BCS bowl because of the increased appearance fees that such a bowl generates for the conference. Jim Vertuno of the Associated Press wrote "Leach was upset officials disallowed two Tech touchdowns in the third quarter. The first was overruled when video replay clearly showed the receiver let the ball hit the ground. On the next play, a touchdown pass was negated by a holding penalty. Leach also wanted, but didn't get, a flag for roughing the quarterback." The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported, "Big 12 policy prohibits coaches from commenting publicly about game officials, so Leach’s actions leave him open to reprimand, fine or worse." ESPN reported, "Leach's rant will likely draw a fine from the league and possibly a suspension." The Big12 fined Leach $10,000, the largest fine in conference history.
The morning of the game, Las Vegas casinos favored Texas by 3½ points. The weather forecast called for a temperature of 72 °F (22 °C) and clear skies at kick-off. Students camped for a week to secure seating, and ESPN's College GameDay broadcast from Lubbock, Texas for the first time in the program's history.
Texas Tech won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball. The Longhorns forced a stop and the ensuing punt rolled inside the Texas 2-yard line. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis opted to line up in the I formation, an unusual formation for a team having trouble establishing a strong running game. The Texas running back was stopped in the end-zone for a two-point safety. Tech led the Horns for most of the game, by as much as nineteen points. Texas rallied to take a one-point lead with less than 1½ minutes remaining in the game. On the Red Raiders drive, a Texas defensive back missed an interception that would have sealed a Texas victory, letting the ball slide through his hands. In the final minute, down 33–32 with one timeout remaining, Texas Tech Heisman Trophy Candidate QB Graham Harrell engineered a drive down the field by throwing for first downs which repeatedly stopped the clock in order to move the chains, and almost threw an interception that fell through the hands of Texas defensive back Blake Gideon that almost certainly would have ended the comeback attempt. Harrell's final play was a pass to Heisman Trophy Candidate wide receiver Michael Crabtree who caught the ball near the sideline and somehow miraculously broke away from two Longhorn defenders to scamper in for the winning score with a second left to play. The extra point game them a 39–33 lead with one second remaining. The Tech fans had rushed the field after the touchdown, and again after the extra point. Tech was penalized accordingly and had to kick off from the 7½-yard line. Texas took the squib kick and lateraled twice in an attempt to score on the kickoff, but Tech caught one of the laterals to end the game. Subsequent to the loss, Texas fell from #1 to #4 in the BCS Poll, and Texas Tech rose to #2, behind Alabama.
|#2 Texas Tech||0||7||7||7||21|
Texas Tech and Oklahoma first played in 1992. Coming into the game, the Sooners led the series 11–4–0 though the Red Raiders had won 2 of the last 3 with the last loss coming in Norman in 2006. The only road game Tech had won in the series was during the inaugural season of the Big 12 in 1996. Under head coach Bob Stoops, the Sooners had lost only two games at home. The Sooners are 7-point favorites.
The Red Raiders opened the game with a kickoff return to their 32-yard line. The Sooners forced a punt, and fielded their offense at their 27. The Sooners scored a touchdown with 8:59 left in the first. DeMarco Murray contributed 48 rushing yards in the drive. Tech returned the ensuing kickoff to their 22, and a Sooner personal foul after the return gave the Red Raiders 15 yards. Texas Tech lost 10 of those yards due to a delay of game and a false start. Starting at their 27, the Red Raiders were stopped at the Oklahoma 48, where they punted again. The Sooners got the ball on their 20. On the second play of the drive, Oklahoma was punished again with a 15-yard penalty. After three failed attempts to pass the ball for a first down, the Sooners elected to make their first punt. On the next Tech possession, Graham Harrell was sacked on two consecutive plays, once by Adrian Taylor and the other by Gerald McCoy. Coming into the game, the Red Raiders ranked second in the nation in sacks allowed, with only 5. The Sooners ended the first quarter with a 42-yard reception by tight end Jermaine Gresham and two rushes by Chris Brown for a combined 12 yards.
Once the second quarter commenced, both Brown and Gresham moved the ball for a touchdown on three different plays. Tech started their next drive at their own 38 and advanced the ball through the air to eventually get to the Oklahoma 15. Two incompletions caused the Red Raiders to face a 4th-and-3. Tech decided to go for it. Woods was unable to catch a pass by Harrell to convert and Tech turned the ball over on downs. Murray rushed the ball for 23 yards on Oklahoma's first play of the drive. Murray followed with a 31-yard reception, which put the ball on the Tech 30. After two rushes by Brown, Gresham scored a touchdown on a 19-yard catch, and the subsequent extra point extended the Sooners lead to 21–0. Oklahoma's defense forced Tech to four plays on the next drive, with the fourth play being a 4th-and-4, Tech's second 4th down conversion attempt. With 9:31 remaining, Oklahoma completed a 1:44 scoring drive, which was capped by Juaquin Iglesias' 28-yard scoring reception. On the following possession, the Red Raiders reached the end zone, thanks to Harrell's 25-yard throw to Tramain Swindall. Matt Williams' extra point brought the score to 28–7. With 6:28 left in the half, Oklahoma began to drain the clock using their running game. The Sooners eventually scored on the 12th play of the drive. Once Tech got the ball, about a minute was left on the clock. On the second play, Harrell threw an interception to Travis Lewis, who returned the ball 47 yards. Tech offensive guard Brandon Carter, who stopped Lewis at the Tech 1, received a personal foul. Murray scored on a 1-yard rush to increase the Sooners' lead to 42–7. Tech got the ball again after the Sooner touchdown with 18 seconds remaining in the game. Harrell threw a shovel pass to Baron Batch, who ran 21 yards to the Tech 28. The half ended with Tech receiving a 16-yard personal foul. The Red Raiders left the field facing their biggest deficit of the season (35 points).
Tech attempted an onside kick to start off the second half, though the Sooners grabbed the ball at the Tech 34. OU ended the drive on a 33-yard field goal. Tech fumbled on their next possession, Oklahoma's Keenan Clayton recovered the fumble and return it 53 yards to the Tech 3. The Sooners added another 7 points to extend their lead to 52–7. Tech cranked up its passing game on its next possession, eventually scoring a touchdown and extra point with 5:39 remaining in the third quarter. On the subsequent drive, the Red Raider defense forced their first sack on Bradford, and also forced the Sooners to punt. The Sooner defense countered in the next drive by forcing a three-and-out. The Sooner offense then added another score on a 66-yard reception by Manuel Johnson. The Tech defense blocked the extra point, and the score remained at 58–14.
In the fourth quarter, Tech failed to convert another fourth down, producing another turnover. Oklahoma scored immediately afterwards, improving their lead to 65–14. On the next possession, Tech was able to make three pass completions of at least 12 yards, though on the final play of the drive, Harrell lost the ball to the Sooners on a sack. With 10:50 left in the game, the Sooners started to run out the clock. The Red Raiders stopped them from scoring on a 4th down from the 1. Tech got the ball back with 4:48 on the clock. After a few plays, Tech faced another 4th down, and this time was able to convert it with a 13-yard throw to Crabtree. Tech later score their third touchdown with 11 seconds left, and Williams tacked on the extra point to change the score to 65–21. Tech attempted an onside kick and recovered the ball. The final play was a short-yard catch by Woods.
Since the Sooners won, Tech, Texas, and OU all tied for first in the division at 6–1. If all three teams win their regular season finales to tie again at 7–1, the highest ranked team in the BCS standings will earn a spot in the Big 12 Championship game. Sports columnists have also stated that the quarterback of the winning team would be the front runner for the Heisman Trophy.
Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech all finished the season with identical 7–1 conference records, creating a three-way tie for the South division championship. Under Big 12 tiebreaker rules, ties are normally broken by head-to-head matchups but this case was unique as Texas beat Oklahoma 45–35, Oklahoma beat Texas Tech 65–21, and Texas Tech beat Texas 39–33 which made breaking the three-way tie impossible using head-to-head games. Because the first four tie-breakers did not dictate a winner, Big 12 rules dictate that the fifth tie-breaker is the team with the highest BCS Ranking, based on the standings released on November 30 of that year, would represent the South Division. This rule meant that coaches, journalists, and computer rankings effectively determined the Big 12 South division representative, because they are the major components of the BCS ranking formula. Texas Tech, Texas, and Oklahoma were all presented Big 12 South Champion trophies from the Big 12. During the final week of the Big 12 regular season, Oklahoma defeated a tough Oklahoma State and Texas defeated a much softer Texas A&M delivering a sufficiently higher computer rating to Oklahoma.
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