Big 12 title still up for grabs with 3 weeks left
With three weeks left in the Big 12′s regular season, the league champion is far from being determined.
Title contenders No. 5 TCU, No. 6 Baylor and No. 12 Kansas State all have one league loss.
The Bears are home Saturday against struggling Oklahoma State and then play Texas Tech at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium. Baylor then hosts Kansas State during the first weekend in December when the rest of the power-five conferences will be playing championship games.
“We don’t do anything differently. We understand that we have to play our best,” Baylor coach Art Briles said Monday on the weekly Big 12 coaches teleconference. “Our guys, they’re fresh mentally and physically, and we’re ready for this three-game push.”
Kansas State plays Thursday night at West Virginia, which already at home this year beat Baylor by two touchdowns and lost to TCU on a game-ending field goal. The Wildcats also play a home finale against Kansas.
TCU’s next game is Thanksgiving night at bowl-bound Texas. The Horned Frogs finally gets a break after playing eight consecutive weeks, going from unranked to a possible spot in the new four-team playoff.
“I don’t think that really we’ve had a lot of pressure,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “I think it was one of those situations where we’ve kind of been the surprise team.”
The Frogs, in only their third Big 12 season, were fourth in last week’s playoff rankings, three spots ahead of Baylor. But there will be some changes in the new rankings Tuesday night after No. 5 Alabama beat top-ranked Mississippi State.
While highly unlikely, it is still possible for up to six teams to finish 6-3 and tied for the Big 12 title. Texas would have to beat TCU, which would also have to lose to Iowa State. Then No. 23 Oklahoma and West Virginia would have to win both of their remaining games, with Kansas State and Baylor each losing two of three.
“A couple of weeks ago we were in position to try to accomplish our goal, which was to win the Big 12,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Took a couple of losses here, so I think more than anything our motivation is just get back out there and try to beat a good Kansas State team.”
Texas became bowl eligible by winning at Oklahoma State, giving the Big 12 six bowl teams to match last year’s total. The Cowboys (5-5), who have lost four in a row, are the only team that could make it seven, but would have to win at Baylor or Oklahoma.
First-year Texas coach Charlie Strong wasn’t ready Monday to talk about the possibility of a bowl game matchup against Texas A&M, the Longhorns’ biggest rival before they left for the SEC in 2011.
“If it works out, it works out,” Strong said.
Iowa State has three chances left to avoid going winless in the Big 12 for the first time since 2008. The Cyclones’ best chance could come Saturday at home against Texas Tech (3-7), before games against West Virginia and TCU.
Kansas (3-7) is assured its sixth straight losing season, but has shown some promising signs under interim coach Clint Bowen, with a win over Iowa State before pushing TCU in a 34-30 loss Saturday.
“When you invest that much into something, it’s going to hurt when you don’t succeed,” Bowen said. “We’re making a conscious effort to learn and grow as a problem, and I believe we’re making some positive strikes.”