When the Big 12’s schedule-makers mapped out 2013, this is exactly what they had in mind. An extremely back-loaded schedule has each of the conference’s remaining contenders squaring off in the final four weeks of the season.
Baylor’s dismantling of the Oklahoma Sooners nearly eliminates OU from contention. That leaves Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma State as the only teams with a realistic shot of taking home the conference crown.
The question is: Who comes out of it on top?
Here is the remaining schedule for those three teams.
|Remaining Schedules for Big 12 Contenders|
|Week 12||Week 13||Week 14||Week 15|
|Texas (6-0)||Oklahoma State||OFF||Texas Tech||@ Baylor|
|Baylor (5-0)||Texas Tech (Dallas)||@ Oklahoma State||@ TCU||Texas|
|Oklahoma St. (5-1)||@ Texas||Baylor||OFF||Oklahoma|
For the sake of maximizing the value of each head-to-head matchup, we are going to assume that each team holds serve against the other conference opponents. That includes Baylor wins over Texas Tech and TCU, a Texas win over Texas Tech, and an Oklahoma State win over Oklahoma. All are probable, but none are shoo-ins, either.
Let’s take a look at the three head-to-head games between Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma State and see how the conference race will unfold.
Week 12: Oklahoma State at Texas
The first major matchup is Saturday in Austin as the Cowboys take on the Longhorns.
Texas lost two key players in running back Johnathan Gray and defensive tackle Chris Whaley last week against West Virginia but managed to squeak by the Mountaineers in overtime.
Oklahoma State has won its last two road games at Texas and is the favorite going into this one again.
The key to this game is Texas’ run game. With Gray out, Malcolm Brown will get the bulk of the carries for the Longhorns. Brown has eight touchdowns on the year, but he’s not as much of a threat to break off a big run.
That won’t necessarily hurt Texas too much, though, because Texas is deep at the running back position. Joe Bergeron’s role will also be increased as long as he can hold onto the ball, and redshirt freshman Jalen Overstreet could also get more touches.
Oklahoma State is known as an offensive powerhouse, but its defense has been more impressive this year. As Chris Hummer of The Dallas Morning News notes, the Cowboys are sixth in the country in third down defense, seventh in interceptions, ninth in takeaways, ninth in pass efficiency, and 20th in scoring defense, among other impressive stats.
Case McCoy has filled in nicely in David Ash’s absence, but he is going to have a hard time if the running game doesn’t get going early in the game.
Texas deserves tons of credit for righting the ship and getting to this game undefeated in conference. However, that run has coincided with the weakest part of its schedule and the Longhorns haven’t exactly looked dominant against some of those teams.
The same can be said of Oklahoma State. The difference is that the Cowboys offense is more dangerous and is getting hot as the season winds down. Texas’ defense under Greg Robinson is worlds better than when Manny Diaz was running the show, but it also looked vulnerable in the second half last week in Morgantown.
This game will come down to the wire in the fourth quarter, but Oklahoma State will show it is the better team and sneak past Mack Brown and Texas.
Week 13: Baylor at Oklahoma State
When the Bears hit the road for Stillwater Nov. 23, they’ll be going to a place they haven’t won since 1939 according to ESPN.
Don’t expect that to be any easier this year.
If Oklahoma State knocks off Texas in Austin like I predicted above, this game could act as the de facto Big 12 Championship. And for the Bears, it would be represent their best chance to position themselves for a possible BCS National Championship game.
Art Briles has been working miracles in Waco this season, and a win at Oklahoma State in this situation would fit into that category. While the rest of the nation and perhaps even the Big 12 wait for the Bears to fall back to reality, it only seems to get them more fired up.
Baylor has been waiting and waiting this season for a chance to prove its worth as a national contender. The problem is that each time the Bears easily dispose of a solid team, the rest of college football is quick to discredit the win.
This game could pit the two best teams in the Big 12 against each other, but I think Baylor separates itself in this one.
And a win here would be nearly impossible to discredit.
The Bears have been slowed down at times by both Kansas State and Oklahoma, both of which have great defenses. The thing is, neither one could do it for the whole game. Baylor got to 35 points against the Wildcats and 41 against the Sooners.
This is the game where that close call up at Kansas State benefits the Bears the most. Baylor struggled in that game with penalties, dropped passes, the opposition’s mobile quarterback, and an ineffective game from Lache Seastrunk. In the end, though, Baylor found a way to win in a difficult environment.
This game will be far from easy but Baylor should come out of it with a win.
Week 15: Texas at Baylor
The Massey Ratings couldn’t be much more confident that Baylor is the team to beat in the Big 12, as shown in this tweet.
If Baylor gets to this game undefeated, it’s tough to imagine the Bears losing their finale at home against Texas.
The possible storylines for this one are endless. Baylor’s last game at Floyd Casey Stadium, National Championship implications, a major role reversal in the histories of these two programs, and the list goes on.
Baylor’s Board of Regents did its best to stamp out a possible “Art Briles Bowl” where Texas would pursue the head coach if Mack Brown is let go, but that possibility remains.
On the field and on paper, Baylor is the clear favorite at this point. This tweet shows just how big of a favorite.
With the game nearly a month away, there are many things that could tip the odds more in Texas’ favor. Barring any major injuries, though, Baylor should close down its old stadium in style as Big 12 champs.