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One of the lingering knocks against Oklahoma is its performance in the final two games last season, when it went from being mentioned in the same breath with the 1972 USC behemoths to being labeled the Sooner sham after losses to Kansas State (35-7) and LSU (21-14).

That first crushing loss, in last season’s Big 12 title game, slapped off Bob Stoops’ coaching halo and, most would argue, was the defining game of the 2003 season. But not according to Oklahoma guard Davin Joseph, who is trying to put the verbal David Copperfield on last season’s collapse in Kansas City.

“Everybody should forget that game,” Joseph said. “It was a fluke. We were already in the title game, and we had nothing to play for. If you want to see something, watch Saturday night when we have everything to play for.”

Even USC, which has an Orange Bowl spot virtually locked up barring a loss, isn’t above last-minute politicking. Lest his Trojans be overlooked tomorrow because of the Auburn-Oklahoma debate, coach Pete Carroll wants the world to know just how tough a test his Trojans face in UCLA.

“UCLA is a good football team,” Carroll said. “Just ask Oregon, ask Stanford and ask the other teams they knocked off and really handled. They have put together an extraordinarily good offense.”

What Carroll doesn’t tell you is that the key cog in that offense, tailback Maurice Drew, is doubtful for tomorrow’s game with a severe ankle sprain. He also doesn’t tell you the Bruins have put together an extraordinarily awful defense, one that ranks 105th of 117 Division I-A teams in average yardage allowed (431.3).

Fact is, everybody has an agenda, perhaps even the networks carrying the games, as Oklahoma’s Stoops recently suggested. And thanks to the perverted BCS system, which is likely to backfire like never before come Sunday, the college football world is focused on the polls and not the playing field.

“Man, I’m sick of all the politics — I just want to play,” said Auburn All-American cornerback Carlos Rogers. “How can anybody think all this yapping is better than a playoff?”