Texas at Baylor.
Battle of Big 12 unbeatens.
A national showdown in the last college football game to be played at venerable Floyd Casey Stadium.
Too bad it’s not until Dec. 7.
With roughly half of the conference schedule remaining, the most shocking development coming out of the Big 12 is that unbeaten Baylor is the prohibitive favorite to win the conference.
Did I really just put that in the print?
Once again, for emphasis:
The unbeaten Baylor Bears are the prohibitive favorite to win the Big 12.
Judging from the events of the non-conference season, the second most shocking fact is that Texas is tied for first place in the conference.
The Horns were seemingly left for dead three games into the season, but have recovered to make that Dec. 7 regular-season finale a possible showdown affair with glitz, glamor, and maybe even an ESPN Game Day appearance.
Despite their unbeaten Big 12 slate and a four-game winning streak, the Horns are still not talented enough to just show up and win because of the logo on the helmet. With that said, Texas has several hurdles to overcome before it can even think about its I-35 rival. Four hurdles to be exact, starting with Kansas, a 28-point underdog that’s probably more speed bump than hurdle.
“At the end of the day, it’s about us playing football and winning games,” cornerback Carrington Byndom said, “and not about who is predicting us to win.”
Ah, the dreaded lookahead.
It’s what media types and fanatics live to do. There are many among us — ask the guy sitting across from you at work — who have already discussed a Texas-Baylor matchup. Of course it’s been bandied about. After all, the Horns blasted Oklahoma in Dallas, then rolled over TCU in Fort Worth, all the while increasing the likelihood of defensive coordinator Greg Robinson running for mayor at season’s end.
The problem with that lookahead stuff is that Baylor’s still more than a month away and our experience in Cowtown over the weekend has taught that a lot of rain can fall between now and then.
Let’s take a brief look at each part of the four games separating the Bears and Longhorns from one that could be for the marbles.
Kansas: A rematch of the game that featured Case McCoy saving Mack Brown’s bacon. The Horns, a huge favorite, enter the game having watched 12 or 13 replays of that 21-17 win thinly disguised as an escape. The Horns are rolling and figure to have no problem in their first home game in 42 days.
Speaking of point spreads, this will be the first conference game where Texas is the big favorite, which means the Horns, who have spent the last four weeks getting things back on track, have gone from the hunter to the hunted. They figure to be favored for the next four games leading into the Baylor game.
And not everyone is happy about that.
“The hungry dog gets the bone,” cornerback Quandre Diggs told me Monday. “We want to stay the underdog.”
Then comes the gauntlet.
How about the roadie at West Virginia on Nov. 9? Well, the Mountaineers knocked off Tech in their conference opener, and even if Geno Smith and Tavon Austin aren’t about to walk through that door, it’s a definite trap game if there ever was one. The Horns should be 6-0 conference by game’s end, even if it won’t be easy.
Formula One will be in Austin on Nov. 16, but the football-watching population will have its eyes turned toward DKR, where Texas hosts Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys will probably have decided upon a quarterback by then, but will still be the underdog. Dare we say, Horns at 7-0?
If that happens, you would have to give Texas the edge against Kliff Kingsbury’s upstart Texas Tech team. Texas is 12-3 against Tech under Brown and 7-0 at home. History says the Horns should take care of business and set things up nicely for the finale.
That is, if the Bears do their part and run the table against a tougher slate than the one that awaits Texas. Baylor’s remaining four opponents before Texas — Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and TCU, and Oklahoma State — have a combined conference record of 12-7.
For his part, Mack will have none of this Baylor talk and his players have been trained to answer in kind.
“Beat Kansas,” has been his answer to most questions this week.
Let’s just hope that Dec. 7 game means something.
Whenever it gets here.
TEXAS VS. KANSAS
2:30 p.m. Saturday, LHN, 1300, 98.1
HORNS: THE BIG PICTURE
How does Texas compare?
Where the Longhorns rank in the Big 12 and nationally in various categories, after seven games. Parenthesis shows last week’s rankings:
Rush offense;3rd (3);35th (36)
Pass offense;4th (4);52nd (49)
Pass efficiency;4th (3);56th (54)
Total offense;3rd (3);41st (37)
Scoring;4th (4);45th (T-46)
Rush defense;8th (10);97th (114)
Pass defense;3rd (3);19th (23)
Total defense;7th (8);74th (90)
Sacks;3rd (3);T-29th (34)
Turnover margin;2nd (T-2);T-13th (T-15)
The season, so far
Texas 56, NMSU 7: David Ash, Daje Johnson lead a record-breaking offensive night.
BYU 40, Texas 21: Horns implode defensively and see Ash, Johnson get injured.
Ole Miss 44, Texas 23: No Ash, little defense and a second-half implosion against the ranked Rebels.
Texas 31, Kansas St. 21: Johnathan Gray and the defense lead Horns to Big 12-opening W.
Texas 31, Iowa St. 30: A controversial ending, but Horn rally late to survive Ames road trip.
Texas 36, Oklahoma 20: Horns dominate Sooners in every phase, move to 3-0 in the Big 12.
Texas 30, TCU 7: Lightning delay? No problem for Case McCoy and UT’s rejuvenated defense.
2013 vs. 2012, 2011
How the Longhorns (5-2) compare statistically with the 2012 and 2011 teams’ averages and totals after seven games (* average per game):