As it turns out, Big 12 football has a stepladder playoff system of its own this year, building to the return of its championship game.
On Saturday the top two teams, TCU and Oklahoma, will clash in Norman, Okla. Two of the other three contenders — Oklahoma State and Iowa State — will collide in an elimination game in Ames, Iowa. West Virginia, the only other team still in the conversation, has a difficult test as well, playing at Kansas State.
The title game picture will become a whole lot clearer after these three games.
Opposites attract in the marquee match as TCU hurls its nationally sixth-ranked defense against Oklahoma’s top-ranked offense. The Sooners are 6½-point favorites.
Before the advent of peak-performing spread offenses, a suffocating defense always had the advantage on an explosive offense. Now things have changed, at least outside of the SEC.
A premier quarterback is now the biggest difference maker, and OU has the best college QB, Lake Travis ex Baker Mayfield. Look for the spirited senior to find a way to get his team at least a straight-up victory, keeping the Sooners’ College Football Playoff hopes very much alive.
There are a lot of handicapping numbers on the Horned Frogs’ side. TCU is an excellent road team, winning nearly 75 percent of its games since joining the league. The Frogs also are 5-1 straight up and against the spread in their past six road games. They are 6-3 ATS in their past nine games against OU and 4-1 ATS in Norman.
Oklahoma was torched for 661 yards in a WIN over Oklahoma State last week. Even TCU’s slower-moving offense will gain yards and score points. Enough to pull off the upset? Probably not. Yet Bucking would grab the points in a 35-31 type of game.
Oklahoma State at Iowa State is tricky, with each team coming off a loss. The Cyclones should be more upbeat, though, as they’re still enjoying a magical season. As a 6½-point home dog, Iowa State is probably worth a shot.
Streak’s over: We’ve been saying Texas was living on borrowed time with its national-best winning string against the line. The end came in Fort Worth as TCU, a 6½-point favorite, beat the Longhorns by 17, snapping their seven-game streak.
Texas and Iowa State are now tied for the Big 12 ATS lead with 7-2 records. We’re not touching the Texas game Saturday since the Horns are a 34-point favorite over Kansas. The Longhorns can’t score, and the Jayhawks are the worst Power Five team in the land — by a long shot.
BUCKING THE LINE
I’ve been given an imaginary $1,000 bankroll for the college football season. Will I turn a profit — or need a loan by bowl season?
Update: It was basically a break-even week, 2-2 and a loss of $6. The kitty stays in the black for a second straight week, and the season record is 24-23-2 against the point spread.
New bankroll: $1,037
Kansas State (-2) over West Virginia: The Wildcats (5-4) are gaining some late-season momentum and are tough to beat at home. Bill Snyder probably needs this one to make a bowl since his team closes against Oklahoma State and Iowa State. $44
Michigan State (+17) over Ohio State: The Buckeyes have had three big games and failed to cover the spread in any of them. $33
Georgia (-2½) over Auburn: The Dawgs’ package of the No. 3 scoring defense, No. 4 total D and one of the best running games in the country wins the day. $22
Iowa (+12½) over Wisconsin: The Hawkeyes have a chance to beat top-10 teams in back-to-back weeks for the first time since 1958. They should be able to push the unbeaten Badgers. $22
Florida State (+17) over Clemson: The Seminoles are the last winless team in the nation against the line. It’s time, Noles. A two-touchdown loss will do just fine. $22
South Carolina (-7) over Florida: It’s too strong to say the Gators have quit, but they are a total mess right now, a rudderless ship taking on water fast. $22
BYU (+4½) over UNLV: Slowly but surely, the Cougars are getting better. $22