Big 12 second-half preview

October, 17, 2012
10/17/12
11:00
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The Big 12? It is what we thought it was, and the second half of the season will be all about sorting out a conference that's deeper than it has ever been. The second half of the season begins with seven -- yes, seven -- Big 12 teams in the BCS rankings. That's 70 percent of the league.

Kansas State is the only undefeated team, but the Wildcats are certainly vulnerable and tough tests await. Few believed the Big 12 truly had a national title contender to begin the season, and though the Wildcats are doing their part so far to prove it does, the odds are against Kansas State making it through the season unscathed.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
AP Photo/Eric GayGeno Smith and West Virginia can shake up the Big 12 race by beating Kansas State.
What the Big 12 did have? Three conference champions and six 10-game winners. That's a lot of guys who know how to win. The league's parity might have it land an unbelievable nine teams in bowls -- everybody but Kansas. We've seen a strong performance in nonconference play with a 26-3 record, with the losses coming from Kansas (Rice, Northern Illinois) and Oklahoma State (Arizona).

Oklahoma will host Notre Dame to close the nonconference schedule, but the second half holds answers to plenty of fantastic questions. Will the Big 12 get back in to the Big Bowl for the first time since the 2009 season? How many games on the final weekend of the season will help decide the Big 12 title? How many teams will make bowls?

All of that is fairly impossible to predict based on a head-spinning first half of the season. Don't be surprised if the second half is just as unpredictable.

Let the games begin.

Bold prediction: The Big 12 will have its first-ever co-champions. Kansas State is out in front, but the conference got lucky with Oklahoma State running over Oklahoma last season in a winner-take-all battle. This time around, it won't be quite as clear-cut. Despite what the outside of Kyle Field might tell you, there has been one Big 12 trophy every year, and one team has claimed it. This year, that changes, and the new look of the Big 12 finally begins to set in.

Looking forward to: The rest of the Big 12 title race. This conference is deeper and more unpredictable than ever, and if West Virginia beats Kansas State this weekend, the title race is essentially reset with a bunch of teams playing good football, and a bunch of teams with one loss in Big 12 play. Anything can happen, and five or six teams will still be in the mix for the title. That's a new look for the Big 12, and I like it. Makes things more interesting. Even if Kansas State wins on Saturday, it could still be interesting. Could the Wildcats make a run all the way to the national title game?

Top five games:

1. Kansas State at West Virginia, Oct. 20: If you would like your team to win the Big 12 title, you'd better hope West Virginia wins this Saturday. If Kansas State wins, it will have road wins against its two biggest contenders for the Big 12 title, and the second half of the season might be little more than a victory lap. If it loses? The league descends back into madness, and anybody can win it.

2. Notre Dame at Oklahoma, Oct. 27: There's still one nonconference game left on the schedule, and it's a good one. Notre Dame is finally looking like it's back, and the college football giants are clashing in Norman. This one very well could be a battle of top five teams next week. Quarterback Everett Golson has been a breakout star, and linebacker Manti Te'o might get himself an invite to the Heisman ceremony.

3. Oklahoma at West Virginia, Nov. 17: This one was No. 1 on the schedule all offseason, but losses by Oklahoma and West Virginia have put the Big 12 flag in Kansas State's hands. Still, this game will be a good one, and should still have Big 12 title relevance, especially if West Virginia beats Kansas State on Saturday. Expect a big-time atmosphere for this game.

4. Texas at Kansas State, Dec. 1: Kansas State always seems to have Texas' number, and the Wildcats could have one last hurdle at season's end in a Texas team that could still have plenty to prove. Like Oklahoma earlier this season, you still probably can't count the Longhorns officially out of this thing. Either way, expect a great game.

5. Oklahoma State at Oklahoma, Nov. 24: Bedlam has been the Big 12's premier rivalry in each of the past two seasons. That's unlikely to be the case this season, but Oklahoma would love to exact a little revenge on the Cowboys in Norman, which hasn't hosted Bedlam since 2009. The Sooners might have to get past OSU to keep their Big 12 hopes alive, too.

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