Seven other college football conferences have playoff games this weekend. The Big 12 has a Final Four of sorts. And possibly snow or ice, to boot.
A powerful Arctic cold front could make for wintry weather as the Big 12 rolls out its four best teams in a Saturday doubleheader: Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (11 a.m., ABC) followed by Texas at Baylor (2:30, Fox).
“Whoever made the schedule out is looking pretty smart right now,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “I don’t know how they did it, but they hit on this one.”
All but the sixth-ranked Cowboys will be pulling for the 18th-ranked Sooners to pull off the upset, because an Oklahoma State win guarantees OSU the Big 12 championship and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.
“Since we lost our conference opener, we’ve been in what I’ve called tournament play for the last eight weeks,” Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. “One more loss and we would have been out.”
Oklahoma State can win its second Big 12 title in three years, setting itself up as the early candidate for team of the decade in the conference.
“I don’t know about that, but I think we have raised our national profile,” Gundy said.
If the Cowboys fall, the Texas-Baylor winner takes the Big 12 title and Fiesta Bowl bid. The ninth-ranked Bears are a whopping 14-point favorite over the No. 23 Longhorns in what will be an emotional farewell to 64-year-old Floyd Casey Stadium.
Even if the Cowboys win Bedlam, the Longhorns-Bears winner will gain a title share and likely a trip to the Cotton Bowl. Baylor also has a slim shot at a BCS at-large bid.
“You couldn’t ask for a better scenario,” Baylor coach Art Briles said. “A high-stakes game to close out our stadium. It’s been a very great stadium for us. I would love to top it off for all the people who sacrificed (to build the program) … and let them feel good with the rest of us.”
Oklahoma is the wild card in the Big 12’s Final Four. The Sooners are out of contention, but, with a league-high eight Big 12 titles and a 7-1 record against Gundy, they’re still the big dog in this neck of the woods. Just don’t call them a spoiler.
“That maybe is the lowest form of motivation a competitor may have, so no, that has nothing to do with our approach,” coach Bob Stoops said.
OU is a double-digit underdog for only the fourth time in Stoops’ 197 games there.
Oklahoma State, which hammered Texas and Baylor by a combined 87-30 margin, offers the most complete package of offense, defense and special teams. The Cowboys are ranked top-three in every major category in the Big 12 except for rushing offense (No. 5) and total defense (No. 5). They are No. 1 in red-zone defense and No. 1 by a landslide in turnover margin.
Gundy credits his offensive line and the defense across the board, but no doubt senior quarterback Clint Chelf has helped make it all click.
Oklahoma has been held back by instability at QB. Trevor Knight, who showed progress the last time out, will likely start over Blake Bell. Either way, the Sooners won’t make a living with the Big 12’s ninth-ranked passing attack.
“It makes you adjust offensively,” Stoops said. “One guy will do things a little bit better than the other guy. It has been a challenge to manage it overall.”
Said Gundy: “What makes Bedlam different than some other rivalries across the country is that we don’t have professional football in this state.”
BIG 12 POWER POLL
1. (1) Oklahoma State;10-1 (7-1);vs. Oklahoma (9-2), Sat.;All pistols firing, Cowboys pack most punch in these parts and should reach Fiesta unless they take siesta.
2. (2) Baylor;10-1 (7-1);vs. Texas (8-3), Sat.;Maybe Art Briles will channel his inner Grant Teaff and eat a worm for grand finale at Floyd Casey.
3. (3) Texas;8-3 (7-1);at Baylor (10-1), Sat.;Horns aced one-dimensional Tech exam, but ultimate Bear scare is defensing team that runs and throws.
4. (4) Oklahoma;9-2 (6-2);at Oklahoma State (10-1), Sat.;Sooners did nice job sticking around. To create Bedlam, though, they need QBs firing darts, not air balls.
5. (5) Kansas State;7-5 (5-4);bowl game TBA;Replacing 13 starters, it was no surprise they opened 2-4. Also no surprise expertly coached Cats closed 5-1.
6. (5) Texas Tech;7-5 (4-5);bowl game TBA;Sorry, Tech fans, but Kingsbury’s Raiders turned out just like Tuberville’s Raiders: early sizzle/late fizzle.
7. (8) TCU;4-8 (2-7);season over;If this keeps up, Frogs might wish they were back in Mountain West. Big-boy football is tall order.
8. (9) Iowa State;3-9 (2-7);season over;Tough sledding in Ames, yet long, hard winter isn’t nearly as bleak with Cyclones finishing 2-0.
9. (7) West Virginia;4-8 (2-7);season over;Disastrous campaign for Big 12’s distant, disjointed cousin, now 6-14 since 5-0 start. Lots of work needed.
10. (10) Kansas;3-9 (1-8);season over;Anyone for Mark Mangino do-over? Jayhawks 9-39 since they pushed big guy out the door after 2009.