Step aside for one week, SEC. The Big 12 grabs center stage Saturday.
Texas A&M vs. LSU and Missouri vs. Ole Miss are mere appetizers to what the Big 12 serves up: No. 4 Baylor at No. 10 Oklahoma State. It’ll be the only Saturday of the season when the Big 12 has a bigger attraction than the SEC.
The “College GameDay” show will be live from Stillwater, Okla., and ABC is showing the game nationally in prime time. No split-regional coverage for this one.
Las Vegas makes Baylor a 9½-point favorite to win in a place where it hasn’t won since 1939. The line raised some eyebrows because Oklahoma State was the preseason Big 12 favorite, has won six in a row and is coming off a 38-13 thrashing of Texas, which had been unbeaten in the league.
The Cowboys are content to play the underdog role.
“Baylor deserves all the credit it’s getting,” OSU safety Zack Craig said. “They are, by far, the ultimate offense in college football. Everyone talks about their passing, but they average 300 yards rushing a game.”
The Bears, enjoying a historic season in many ways, are on course to break major-college records by averaging 686 yards and 61 points per outing.
Cowboys coach Mike Gundy says Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, with his quick trigger, accuracy and big arm, is playing as well as Robert Griffin III. Yet he says the Bears’ defense concerns him the most.
“They’ve got several guys on defense who can play in the NFL,” Gundy said. “They’re experienced, aggressive, athletic and play with a lot of energy.”
Still, Oklahoma State plans on showing up. Before Gundy’s arrival, the program had one 9-1 start in 102 years of football. Now the Cowboys are 9-1 for the third time in four years. Plus, from 2009 to 2013, they are 17-3 against Texas teams. They welcome Baylor … and the big stage.
“Success in football leads to enrollment increases,” Gundy said. “The last four-five years here, enrollment has been tremendous, way up, and it’s directly related to the program’s success. ‘GameDay’ is coming here this week, and I don’t know if anybody can put a dollar figure on that, but it’s huge.”
Oklahoma State will be the best team Baylor has faced. The Cowboys don’t have all the glittering stats of the Bears, but they are tied for the national lead in interceptions and are fourth in turnover margin, seventh in takeaways and ninth in red-zone defense.
The winner takes temporary control of the Big 12, but each faces a significant final hurdle Dec. 7, when Baylor is home to Texas and Oklahoma State plays host to Oklahoma.
“This is a defining game Saturday, but I only say that because it is our next game,” Bears safety Ahmad Dixon said. “We have a great chance to do something that’s never been done here, and we are enjoying it.”
Empty bowl: With four teams eliminated, the Big 12’s six-team postseason contingent will be its smallest since 1999, when the league also had six. Last year, the Big 12 had a league-record nine teams in bowls.
The Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium draws the short straw and will have to look elsewhere for a team, perhaps fitting because this is the last year it has a tie-in with the Big 12.
Three’s a crowd: Oklahoma used all three quarterbacks against Iowa State, giving fan favorite Kendal Thompson his first taste of action. Coach Bob Stoops says he’ll keep his plans for Kansas State a secret. Expect San Antonio’s Trevor Knight to get the start over Blake Bell, but he’ll be on a short leash.
Chemistry lesson: Kansas State has won four in a row, and coach Bill Snyder thinks he knows why. “The players discovered it’s not just about football,” he said. “They’ve become more value-driven; they’ve bonded, learned what it takes to succeed, to help one another, and, most important, they’ve made a genuine commitment.”
Tech wreck: Despite a four-game losing skid, Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t expect Texas Tech to come into Austin next week with heads hanging. “Thanksgiving night, national exposure, we’ll be excited,” the first-year coach said. “Our school hasn’t won there in 16 years. We have some time to get healthier and refocus.”
Victory at last: Kansas ended its 27-game Big 12 misery by beating West Virginia; now the Jayhawks have a shot at a winning streak with 1-9 Iowa State next on the schedule. “Psychologically, it was huge for the players,” coach Charlie Weis said. “Having won really helps going forward. The next thing to do is win on the road. This is our last chance to do that.”
BIG 12 POWER POLL
1. (1) Baylor;9-0 (6-0);at Oklahoma State (9-1), Sat.;Rampaging Bears on pace to smash NCAA records for scoring and yardage, but this will be toughest test.
2. (3) Oklahoma State;9-1 (6-1);vs. Baylor (9-0), Sat.;Cowboys were preseason favorites, and now they’re showing why, rattling off six straight … with authority.
3. (2) Texas;7-3 (6-1);vs. Texas Tech (7-4), Nov. 28;Turns out narrow wins over lousy teams like Iowa State, WVU were sign that something’s still amiss here.
4. (4) Kansas State;6-4 (4-3);vs. Oklahoma (8-2), Sat.;It took time to replace so much departing talent, but Bill Snyder found way to get it done.
5. (5) Oklahoma;8-2 (5-2);at Kansas State (6-4), Sat.;They say when you’re playing two QBs you don’t really have one. And if you’re juggling three guys?
6. (6) Texas Tech;7-4 (4-4);at Texas (7-3), Nov. 28;While reeling Red Raiders drop four straight, old pal Tuberville pockets five wins in a row at red-hot Cincinnati.
7. (7) West Virginia;4-7 (2-6);vs. Iowa State (1-9), Nov. 30;‘Nobody likes being home for the holidays,’ Holgorsen laments as school’s 11-year bowl streak screeches to halt.
8. (8) TCU;4-7 (2-6);vs. Baylor (9-0), Nov.30;Speaking of bowl strings crashing, Frogs’ seven-year run is over. League office to A&M and Mizzou: We miss you.
9. (9) Kansas;3-7 (1-6);at Iowa State (1-9), Sat.;Jayhawks tarnish Big 12’s crummy game of year by snapping 27-game league losing streak. OK, just a little.
10. (10) Iowa State;1-9 (0-7);at Kansas (3-7), Sat.;Vegas must think KU will still be celebrating last week’s win because hapless ’Clones are six-point faves.