Oklahoma needs state title before national title

Updated: October 31, 2003, 4:01 AM ET

DALLAS -- Oklahoma has to win a state championship before it can worry about a national title.

The Sooners, the No. 1 team in both The Associated Press poll and Bowl Championship Series rankings, play No. 14 Oklahoma State on Saturday. The Cowboys have won the past two games between the instate Big 12 rivals.

Oklahoma State won 16-13 in 2001, costing the then-defending national champion Sooners a trip to the Big 12 championship game. Last year, the Cowboys led throughout in a 38-28 win that earned them their first bowl berth since 1997.

Oklahoma (8-0, 4-0 Big 12) has won its games this season by an average margin of four touchdowns. But that doesn't impress the Cowboys (7-1, 3-1), who have reeled off seven straight wins since an opening loss at Nebraska.

After last week's 38-10 win at Texas A&M, Cowboys coach Les Miles quickly turned the attention to Oklahoma: "They are the best team in college football, we are told."

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops wouldn't bite when asked how he interpreted the "we are told" portion of the remark.

"It probably means he doesn't believe it," Stoops said. "Gauging from the way we played a year ago, I don't blame him for not respecting us very much."

No. 12 Nebraska (7-1, 3-1), the Big 12 North leader, plays at No. 16 Texas (6-2, 3-1). Both teams have rebounded from losses with consecutive lopsided wins, including shutouts last week.

In other Big 12 games Saturday to start the second half of the conference schedule, Kansas (5-3, 2-2) plays at Texas A&M (3-5, 1-3); Colorado (3-5 1-3) goes to Texas Tech (5-3, 2-2); and Kansas State (6-3, 2-2) is home against Baylor (3-5, 1-3).

No. 21 Missouri (6-2, 2-2) and Iowa State (2-6, 0-4) have the weekend off.

Despite Oklahoma State winning the past two games and five of the past eight, the Sooners have dominated the overall series 74-16-7. This is the first time since 1988 that both teams are nationally ranked.

Texas is tied with Oklahoma State, which hasn't won a conference title since 1976, for second place in the Big 12 South, a game behind Oklahoma.

The Longhorns are about to find out if they're legitimate Big 12 title contenders. After Nebraska, they've got games against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas A&M.

Nebraska, going for its first division title since 1999, has a one-game lead in the North ahead of three teams. The trio includes Missouri, the team that beat the Cornhuskers, and their next two opponents after this weekend, Kansas and Kansas State.

Kansas will have to try to rebound without starting quarterback Bill Whittemore, who injured broke his right collarbone in last week's 42-6 loss at Kansas State.

Texas A&M has lost five of six games since winning its first two games for coach Dennis Franchione. The only win in the stretch was 73-10 over Baylor, but the five losses were by an average margin of 24 points.

Kansas State has had two easy wins since its three-game losing streak. Baylor has been outscored 157-31 its last three games, and has never beaten the Wildcats.

Two-time defending North champion Colorado and Texas Tech have both lost two straight games.

Texas Tech has the nation's worst overall defense, allowing 504 total yards a game, but their 514 yards per game passing is the best, 122 yards more than No. 2 Hawaii. And Colorado's defense is 115th of 117 teams against the pass, having allowed 2,431 yards and 22 touchdowns with only two interceptions.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index