While Rivalry Week meant some serious upsets across college football (love you, Iron Bowl), life in the Big 12 went mostly as planned in Week 14—except for West Virginia, whose season ended in heartbreaking fashion once again.
Baylor got a scare from TCU but was able to pull out its 10th win of the year. Speaking of the Bears and Horned Frogs, this week's "what we learned" kicks off with a tense exchange between their two coaches:
First, some thoughts about the Gary Patterson-Art Briles exchange
The real story of Baylor's 41-38 win over TCU was the mid-game exchange between Frogs coach Gary Patterson and Bears coach Art Briles, which then carried into the postgame press conferences. (More thoughts on TCU's loss below.)
It started when Baylor safety Ahmad Dixon was flagged and ejected for targeting TCU's Trevone Boykin. Patterson said he was upset at both Dixon's demeanor after the hit (Dixon was seen laughing and blowing kisses to the crowd) and how Briles handled the situation.
Here's the hit from Dixon, via gifdsports:
And here's Patterson's postgame reaction, courtesy of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
Also, here's Briles after the game, from Fox Sports:
First and foremost, understand that Patterson is going to protect and stand up for his player. That has to be expected, and in a way, applauded. Any player would want that kind of support from his coach.
That said, Briles deserves the benefit of looking back at the situation and speaking with Dixon later. Dixon's post-hit antics on the sideline were uncalled for. That much is certain, and he deserves any reprimand he gets—be it by his coach or from elsewhere. However, telling another coach how he should handle his team is overstepping the boundaries.
Both coaches will be on the Big 12 teleconference Monday. They'll probably be asked about the situation again. Suffice to say, this story isn't over.
The Big 12 will stage its own mini-playoff (sort of)
The ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC will have conference championship games next weekend, some of which will have BCS title implications.
The Big 12 won't have that level of national focus, but the two games on Dec. 7—Oklahoma at Oklahoma State and Texas at Baylor—nevertheless have a lot riding on them. Three teams—Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas—are still alive for an outright conference title. (Baylor's win over TCU has mathematically eliminated the Sooners from the title race.)
As it just so happens, the schedule works out kind of like a mini playoff. "No. 1 seed" Oklahoma State hosts "No. 4 seed" Oklahoma, and "No. 2 seed" Baylor hosts "No. 3 seed" Texas.
The scenarios play out like this: if Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma, it wins the Big 12 outright. However, Baylor can win the conference with an Oklahoma State loss and a win over Texas. Similarly, the Longhorns need to beat Baylor in addition to an Oklahoma State loss. If the Cowboys beat the Sooners, the best Baylor or Texas could do is share the Big 12 title.
It's as good a situation as you're going to get for a conference out of the national title conversation.
TCU's loss to Baylor was the story of its season
It's been a rough one in Fort Worth. The Frogs have come so close to winning a number of times, yet critical mistakes have cost them on more than one occasion.
TCU outplayed Baylor in Saturday's loss. Certainly, the Frogs defense was outstanding and generally kept the Bears offense in check. However, two pick-sixes by the Bears defense ended up being the difference on the scoreboard. A third interception from TCU quarterback Casey Pachall with seconds remaining in the game sealed the deal.
TCU was going for the touchdown because it had the opportunity to get the win with a field-goal attempt in its back pocket. Instead, the worst-case scenario happened and the Frogs came up agonizingly short—again. TCU hasn't been a good team, but it hasn't been catching any breaks either.
As was West Virginia's loss to Iowa State
West Virginia led Iowa State 31-7 in the third quarter of Saturday's game—and then was outscored 31-7 in the final quarter-and-a-half of regulation. The Mountaineers would go on to lose to the Cyclones 52-44 in triple overtime.
Youth, injuries and subsequent depth issues have caused WVU to let some games slip away, but none as bad as this. West Virginia had four second-half turnovers, three of which led to Iowa State scores. Especially rough was running back Wendell Smallwood's fumble at the Iowa State 1-yard line as the Mountaineers were on the verge of scoring. The Cyclones then drove 99 yards for a touchdown.
Paul Rhoads should be SO PROUD of his team. Dana Holgorsen is so disappointed.
"It's a disappointing end to a disappointing season," Holgorsen said in his postgame press conference.
Holgorsen's job shouldn't be in any immediate danger. The fact that the Mountaineers have lost several heartbreakers this year shows they were in a position to win in the first place. That said, the theme for 2014 is going to be about closing games. If West Virginia can't do it a second time around, the conversation about Holgorsen is going to be different.
Other happenings from around the Big 12
Best offensive performance: Iowa State quarterback Grant Rohach. The freshman overcame an early interception deep in his own territory to throw for four touchdowns and 331 yards against West Virginia.
Best defensive performance: This was a tight one between Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat and TCU cornerback Jason Verrett. Both deserve recognition, but the nod goes to Jeffcoat, who had a season-high three sacks plus seven tackles in Thursday's 41-16 win over Texas Tech.
Best photo: The Mountaineer Mascot, Jonathan Kimble, via Geoff Coyle of West Virginia Illustrated. Kimble has been the Mountaineer for two years now and his big personality makes him a fan and media favorite. Saturday was his last football game. He'll be missed.
Least ideal first-down situation: Kansas State, with the 1st-and-42 against Kansas. Just like they draw it up. #Snyderball
Worst Mark Sanchez impersonation: TCU running back B.J. Catalon. Not quite the New York Jets buttfumble, but a buttfumble nonetheless.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. Follow him on Twitter @BenKercheval.