Why Texas Could Actually Win the Big 12, Seriously

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Why Texas Could Actually Win the Big 12, Seriously
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Just when you thought it was safe to start looking for a new coach at Texas, Mack Brown goes and wins the Big 12 and gets himself invited to the BCS Fiesta Bowl.

Yes, the Longhorns have only been ranked twice since coming into 2013 at No. 15, and yeah, they gave up 84 combined points in early losses to BYU and Ole Miss, but this is—or could be—a BCS team.

What?

Indeed friend, if Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State in Stillwater this Saturday afternoon, and if the Longhorns upend Baylor later that same day…Texas wins the Big 12 and earns a BCS bid.

Though it sounds far-fetched, especially the part about the silver-haired Brown in his fifth BCS appearance—remember that all four of these teams are ranked.

So, it isn’t like saying that the unranked Sooners will upset No. 2 Oklahoma State, or that the six-loss Longhorns will knock off No. 1 Baylor.

 

How They Can Win

Despite the fact that Texas and Oklahoma will both be underdogs, each team enjoys at least one lesser-known statistical advantage worth mentioning.

 

Texas vs. Baylor

Though it’s crystal clear that Baylor—owner of the No. 1 scoring offense in the nation—will put up tons of points, what’s less obvious is how its offensive line will respond to Texas’ defensive front seven.

Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Did you know that the Longhorns rank No. 10 in the FBS in sacks this season and have already registered a whopping 35 through 11 games?

What makes this look like less of a concern for a team like Baylor is the Bears’ No. 37 ranking in sacks allowed.  But this somewhat safe number needs to be quantified by pointing out that, on average, Baylor has played defenses which rank No. 69 in sacks.

Take a look at the Bears’ FBS opponents’ team ranking in sacks.

Baylor's 2013 Opponents: Team Sacks Rankings
FBS Ranking Sacks vs. Baylor Final Score vs. Baylor
Buffalo 6 2 70-13
ULM 107 0 70-7
West Virginia 101 1 73-42
Kansas St 44 2 35-25
Iowa St 112 1 71-7
Kansas 77 0 59-14
Oklahoma 56 3 41-12
Texas Tech 94 2 63-34
Oklahoma St 73 2 17-49
TCU 22 3 41-38

College Football Statistics

So, what happens if Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty gets consistently pressured by Texas’ front seven?  Will the game look more like the beatdown win over Iowa State or, instead, the near-miss against TCU?

Add in that overall Texas has higher-ranked talent than does TCU, and the picture becomes even clearer.

 

Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State

The past two times the Cowboys lost to the Sooners, the margin of victory was less than six points.

In 2010, Oklahoma State fell to Oklahoma 47-41 in Stillwater, and last season it lost a heartbreaker 51-48 in Norman.

Brett Deering/Getty Images
The Sooners won the 2012 edition of Bedlam 51-48.

If the Sooners can keep it close this season, watch out for the Cowboys’ kicking game which has struggled to the tune of a No. 105 ranking in field goals.

Freshman kicker Ben Grogan is 9-of-15 on field-goal attempts, or 60 percent accurate. Only 18 teams in the country have posted a lower percentage.

Here’s a breakdown of Grogan’s work this season:

Ben Grogan: 2013 Field Goal Stats
Distance Success Rate Percentage Made
20-29 yards 4/5 80%
30-39 yards 4/6 66%
40-49 yards 1/4 25%

ESPN

If the 2013 edition of Bedlam goes down to the wire, the advantage goes to Oklahoma, the team that has made 88 percent of its field-goal attempts this season.

 

Injuries

Here’s the thing: Anything can happen in college football.

Being that it’s the final game of the regular season and guys have been beaten up all year long, it could be that a rash of devastating injuries is right around the corner.

What happens if Baylor’s Petty or Oklahoma State’s Clint Chelf goes down a la LSU’s Zach Mettenberger or Georgia’s Aaron Murray?

No big deal?

Well, the week after Murray's injury it took the Bulldogs two overtimes to prevent their first loss to Georgia Tech in Atlanta since 1999.

Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
Aaron Murray's college career ended in Georgia's game vs. Kentucky.

What does this do to games which should already be closely contested?

Suddenly, what seemed like a “sure thing” is about as sure as Alabama knocking off Auburn in a big rivalry game for all the marbles.

 

Who’s Your Daddy?

Perhaps the most compelling similarity between the two matchups is that the underdog in both cases will be a state’s flagship university.

While Oklahoma and Texas are “the” FBS schools in their respective states, Oklahoma State and Baylor are “the other.”  In Baylor’s case, they are one of “the others.”

This reality is interesting on several different levels.  First, both Baylor and Oklahoma State will have to deal with the mentality of being favored over a program that has historically owned them.

Owned them from a win/loss standpoint, owned them in recruiting and owned them in fan interest.

To illustrate, take a look at the numbers from each series:

Series History: Texas vs. Baylor
First Game 1901
All-Time Leader Texas 74-24-4
Last Decade Texas 8-2
Last Five Texas 3-2
Mack Brown vs. Baylor 13-2
Art Briles vs. Texas 2-3

College Football Data Warehouse

Series History: Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State
First Game 1904
All-Time Leader Oklahoma 82-18-7
Last Decade Oklahoma 9-1
Last Five Oklahoma 4-1
Bob Stoops vs. Oklahoma State 11-3
Mike Gundy vs. Oklahoma 1-7

College Football Data Warehouse

This makes one thing clear: Assuming Texas will fall to Baylor and Oklahoma will fall to Oklahoma State is betting against history.

To put a finer point on it, only twice in the past 37 seasons has Baylor beaten Texas during the same season that Oklahoma State took down Oklahoma.

Next, check out team recruiting rankings since 2010:

Team Recruiting Rankings Since 2010
2010 2011 2012 2013 Average
Texas 3 3 2 23 7.75
Baylor 39 46 44 29 39.5
Oklahoma 7 14 10 15 11.5
Oklahoma State 31 28 31 34 31

Rivals

Another clear point: Baylor and Oklahoma State don't have the same level of raw talent as Texas and Oklahoma do.

If you want to hear it directly from the source, check out what Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy had to say in 2012, according to Steve Greenberg of the Sporting News:

I guess if you were an NFL scout or coach and evaluating Oklahoma’s 85 or 100 vs. ours, you might say, ‘Yeah, they have, overall, better players,’…but the team concept? The attitude? The body language? The team chemistry? You put our 11 out there and we’ll be OK.

Not only will the Bears and the Cowboys have to outplay teams with more top-rated talent, they’ll have to refuse to buy in to the “little guy” mindset.

They will both have to remember that the past is just that, the past. Most importantly, Baylor and Oklahoma State will have to play like the favorites that they are.

 

What to Watch

While this Saturday will feature single-game conference championships for the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, the Big 12 will decide its title in two-part fashion.

It’s almost like having a "buy one, get one free" coupon.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

First up, it’s the 108th edition of Bedlam at 12 p.m. ET on ABC when No. 17 Oklahoma will travel to Stillwater to face No. 6 Oklahoma State.

If the Cowboys win, it’s over, and they own the Big 12 title.

If not, stay tuned for No. 25 Texas’ road trip to No. 9 Baylor at 3:30 p.m. ET on Fox.  This is where Coach Brown will make his valiant last stand near the banks of the Brazos River.

Remember Provo!  Remember Austin!  And—of course— remember the Alamo (Bowl)!

 

Statistics courtesy of ESPN, College Football Data Warehouse, Sports Reference/College Football and College Football Statistics.  Recruiting rankings courtesy of Rivals.

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