By R.B. FALLSTROM
AP Sports Writer
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - The Big 12 is going to play a huge role in the race for the national title.
The conference has three of the top six teams in the country with Oklahoma, unbeaten Kansas and Missouri heading into the final three weeks of the regular season.
Barring upsets - which might be a stretch this season - No. 3 Oklahoma will to meet the winner of Kansas and Missouri's game Nov. 24 at Kansas City in the Big 12 championship game Dec. 1 in San Antonio.
The winner of that game could make a good case to be playing for the national title on Jan. 7 in New Orleans, though the chances of that actually happening are iffy at best.
Kansas is the only unbeaten team left among the six conferences with an automatic bid to the BCS following top-ranked Ohio State's 28-21 upset loss at home against Illinois, and is 10-0 for the first time since 1899. The Jayhawks have the Big 12's stingiest defense and have not committed a turnover in three games.
``It's awesome, it's unbelievable,'' said quarterback Todd Reesing, who has gone five games without an interception. ``To be at this point in the season and be undefeated is beyond out wildest dreams''
Oklahoma is 9-1 after freshman DeMarco Murray's four-touchdown showing in a 52-21 victory over Baylor. The Sooners stumbled in a loss to Colorado in their conference opener, but have been steadily climbing back into the race since then. The Sooners face Texas Tech at home on Saturday and face rival Oklahoma State the next week. One victory in their next two will be good enough to get the Sooners into the Big 12 title game. They need to be perfect to have a shot at the national title.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Bradford has led Oklahoma with 28 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. He threw for 353 yards on Saturday, 11 yards off his career high, for three touchdowns.
``Sam was exceptional again,'' coach Bob Stoops said. ``Those deep balls could not have been any better.''
Turnovers were disastrous to Missouri in a 41-31 loss at Oklahoma on Oct. 13, and quarterback Chase Daniel burns for another shot. The Tigers (9-1) have nine victories for the first time since 1969, knocking Nebraska and Texas Tech out of the rankings with impressive blowouts, and their 40-34 victory over Illinois in the opener adds luster to their resume.
Both Missouri and Kansas stared down adversity on Saturday, rebuilding once-comfortable leads that had been shaved to five points. Kansas scored the last 10 points in a 43-28 victory at Oklahoma State.
``The fans were on their feet and the place was getting noisy, and the kids just kept their poise,'' Kansas coach Mark Mangino said. ``They don't panic.''
Texas A&M twice cut the gap to five, forcing Missouri to answer twice. The Tigers scored nine points in the final 3:44 of a 40-26 victory, the big play on Jeremy Maclin's 12-yard touchdown catch.
``This is what champions are made of,'' Daniel said. ``It was something special.''
Before the Jayhawks and Tigers meet in an unexpected showdown, both have work to do.
``We're not caught up in polls and all that stuff,'' Mangino said. ``Our team is 10-0 right now because we have taken care of the task at hand.''
Kansas plays at home against Iowa State next week while Missouri is at Kansas State, where the Tigers have not won since 1989. Missouri had two November losses in each of coach Gary Pinkel's first six seasons.
``You want to play your best football in November,'' Pinkel said. ``Kansas State will be another barrier. Someone said we haven't won there in like 97 years.
``My big thing is just keeping players focused on what we have to do to play our best game.''
Source: ncaasports.com; Photo Credit: OU Athletics Department