NORMAN — When Oklahoma boarded the bus in Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday, it believed it was heading to the Sugar Bowl.
By Sunday night, it was making plans to face No. 10 Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
What changed for the Sooners? Nothing that was in their control.
The Sooners (10-2, 8-1 Big 12) are the Big 12 co-champions along with Kansas State. The Wildcats earned the Big 12’s automatic BCS berth to the Fiesta Bowl because of their 24-19 win over the Sooners on Sept. 22.
OU believed it would receive an at-large bid to the Sugar Bowl because it was ranked No. 11 in the BCS standings.
That spot, however, evaporated when MAC champion Northern Illinois jumped seven spots to No. 15 in the BCS standings in the final week.
BCS conference champions — the winners of the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC — are guaranteed spots in one of the four BCS bowl games: Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar.
If one of the other conference champions is ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS Standings — or in the top 16 while also being ranked above a BCS conference champion — that program is ensured an automatic berth.
Big Ten champion Wisconsin is still outside the BCS standings. Big East winner Louisville is No. 21.
There it is.
Northern Illinois, which didn’t make an appearance in the BCS standings until Nov. 25, is in. OU is out.
The Sooners were not complaining on Sunday about falling to the Cotton Bowl.
“Our players are enthusiastic about winning another Big 12 championship and look forward to competing against Texas A&M in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic,” OU coach Bob Stoops said in statement. “The Cotton Bowl has long been a marquee postseason destination, and we’re excited about being selected to play there a second time. Cowboys Stadium is a great venue, and I know Sooner fans will be excited to make the trip to support us.”