Oh, yes. Things are getting interesting in the Big 12.
Thanks to backloaded schedules, the conference title race is beginning to whittle down. Now, three front-runners remain. Thanks to a pair of blowouts and an overtime escape, the final few weeks in the Big 12 should be as interesting as anywhere in the country.
What did we learn in the Big 12 in Week 11?
The next few weeks of Big 12 play should be fantastic
Things are lining up beautifully in the Big 12 to end the season. Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas, all of whom won this weekend, are pulling away in the conference standings as the round-robin schedule begins to take its toll on everyone else.
As it so happens that all three play each other in the coming weeks. The Cowboys head to Austin next week (Nov. 16) and then host Baylor on Nov. 23. Texas will then travel to Waco for a season-ending game against the Bears on Dec. 7.
There are some interesting games sprinkled in to that time span, too. Texas Tech and Texas will play on Thanksgiving, and Oklahoma State will close out the season against Oklahoma. Conference title hopes for the Red Raiders and Sooners may be slipping a little, but they could always play spoiler for someone else.
There have been some unwatchable games in the Big 12 this year, but the next few weeks are shaping up to be a lot of fun.
WVU will be better eventually, but there's going to be heartache in the meantime
Texas' 47-40 overtime win over West Virginia Saturday night was the most exciting game of the year in the Big 12—not that there was much competition. The Mountaineers obviously would rather have some fonder memories of it.
But Texas, somehow, continues to get the job done despite potentially serious injuries on both sides of the ball. (Defensive tackle Chris Whaley had to be carted off the field; running back Johnathan Gray left with a lower right leg injury.)
WVU isn't quite there yet. That's a combination of inexperience and lack of depth, and those issues have shown up on more than one occasion this season. Against Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Kansas State and now Texas, WVU has lacked the horses to get to the finish line.
That's the difference between a team like Texas, which is built to handle a Big 12 schedule, and a team like West Virginia, which isn't.
That will change with time and West Virginia isn't that far away from fielding good football teams again. Other than its blowout loss to Baylor, WVU has been in a position to win four games it has lost in conference.
That won't make anyone in Morgantown feel any better, and it's not supposed to, but this program will be more competitive down the road.
Oklahoma doesn't know who or what or why it is on offense
Other than a 38-30 win over Texas Tech in Week 9, Oklahoma's offense has been largely uninspiring. Anyone watching OU week in and week out knows this already, but at no time was it more nationally discussed than the Sooners' 41-12 loss to Baylor on Thursday night.
Oklahoma switched back and forth between quarterbacks Blake Bell and Trevor Knight, but neither was effective moving the ball. Other than some misdirection plays in the third quarter, OU could barely advance the chains against the Bears defense. Power run, read-option and the Air Raid—Oklahoma dabbled in it all but accomplished little. Put another way, the Sooners don't have a base offense and it's hurting them.
Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel is becoming the focal point of a lot of the criticism. It's becoming increasingly difficult to say it's not warranted. Who knows what coaches are seeing in practice every day, but come game time, Oklahoma has often been all over the place.
Two of OU's final three games—at Kansas State and at Oklahoma State—could be long days if it doesn't establish something. It's clear the best thing Oklahoma does is run the ball, though the injury to fullback Trey Millard has had an obvious impact on its ability to do so. Maybe Oklahoma tried to compensate for that loss by trying different things against Baylor, but it really looked like the Sooners were trying to do too much.
Texas Tech's run defense is costing the Red Raiders the most
Statistically, Tech was solid against the run (123 yards per game) prior to its Week 9 game against Oklahoma. Since then, it has given up an average of 283 yards per game on the ground. The Wildcats didn't even attempt a pass against the Red Raiders during the first quarter of Saturday's game and were still up 14-10.
Things don't get any easier, either. Baylor and Texas, Tech's final two opponents, were two of the better rushing teams in the Big 12—Baylor is the best at No. 9 nationally—heading into Week 11.
Tech wasn't going to go undefeated, but a few weeks ago, 7-5 would have seemed like a harsh assessment. Now? It's realistic.
Other happenings from around the Big 12 in Week 11
Best offensive performance: Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty. When you account for five total touchdowns against a stingy Oklahoma defense, you get the Big 12 blog's Offensive MVP award. It's also launched Petty into the Heisman conversation.
Best defensive performance: Texas linebacker Steve Edmond. There are a few players from Texas' defense who have a case here, but Edmond came up big when the game was on the line. He led the Longhorns with 12 tackles and had back-to-back pass breakups (one was an interception) in the end zone when WVU was attempting to tie the game in overtime.
Best archived video appearance: Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy. Here he is, in his youthful glory, talking Barry Sanders. He wasn't always a man and 40, ya know.
Best throwback helmets: West Virginia. The Flying WV is classic and should never be replaced. But these old school lids paying homage to the 1970s WVU program are legit.
Best crowd shots: Tie—Iowa State and West Virginia.
The Cyclones have one win this season, but the crowd at Jack Trice Stadium showed up strong against TCU. There hasn't been a lot to cheer about in Ames this season, but for serious, pat yourselves on the back, Cyclones fans. Y'all are awesome.
Also, West Virginia has striped the stadium twice since joining the Big 12 (the first time was 2012's 70-63 win over Baylor). Both have looked fantastic. Under the lights, Mountaineer Field looked gorgeous.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. You can follow him on Twitter @BenKercheval.
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