The Big 12 was primed to be unpredictable this season. But if anyone thought Baylor and Texas Tech would be undefeated through the first seven weeks, there's just one question to ask: What are next week's winning lottery numbers?
Make no mistake, Baylor and Tech have been impressive in their own ways.
The Bears were equipped to score points, but could anyone have predicted three straight games of 70 or more points—most of which came in the first three quarters of each game?
Meanwhile, the Red Raiders were set up for success with a good defense and a bright, up-and-coming head coach in Kliff Kingsbury. But how many foresaw Tech's hot start after it was selected to finish seventh before the season started?
Though Baylor and Texas Tech have taken different paths to an undefeated record, there has been one common denominator: relatively easy schedules. Only one opponent between them, Buffalo, has a winning record.
That's set to change in the coming weeks. The Red Raiders have tough road games back-to-back at West Virginia (Oct. 19) and Oklahoma (Oct. 26), with Baylor getting the Sooners at home two weeks later on Nov. 7.
That's just the beginning. The final month of the season for Baylor and Tech is filled with Big 12 teams currently sitting in the upper-tier of the conference standings: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas.
The schedule is as even as can be, too. Both the Bears and the Red Raiders play two home games, two away games and each other on Nov. 16 in Arlington, Texas.
So which team will get through unscathed?
Given how weird the Big 12 has been, the safest answer is neither. But, of the two, Baylor is more equipped to survive what will be a grueling final month. What separates the Bears—not just from Texas Tech, but from the rest of the Big 12—is their speed on offense and defense.
Even against a Kansas State defense that did an outstanding job keeping big plays to a minimum, Baylor's offense had three touchdown passes of at least 54 yards. Wide receivers Tevin Reese and Antwan Goodley can simply run away from just about any secondary.
The concern, of course, is Baylor's defense and how it performs if the Bears aren't scoring 70 points. Kansas State was able to run whenever it wanted on Baylor, so there are signs defense could be a liability down the road.
Which team will finish the year undefeated?
The question comes down to which is more trustworthy: Baylor's ability to score points when needed, or Texas Tech's ability to make defensive stops when needed.
The Red Raiders rank in the Top 25 in total defense and scoring defense, and have been good at getting tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Not surprisingly, then, Tech ranks 13th in the country in pass efficiency defense and 11th in third-down percentage defense.
Point being, Tech is forcing opponents into tough third-down situations and getting off the field.
Keep in mind that Big 12 games have resulted in generally lower scores. Other than Baylor, only Iowa State, Texas and Texas Tech are scoring more than 30 points a game in Big 12 play. Meanwhile, Oklahoma has yet to score more than 20 points in a Big 12 game.
If that's not a sign of the times in the Big 12, what is?
Baylor is the Big 12's only team with a truly explosive offense. With other Big 12 offenses scoring fewer points, this favors the Bears for the rest of conference play.