Wednesday, November 7, 2012
What is each Big 12 team playing for?
By David Ubben
There are only four weeks left in the season, and many teams have just three games to play. Plenty of folks are out of Big 12 title contention. All but one is out of the national title picture. So what's left to play for? Well, I'm glad you asked.
Here's each team's best-case scenario.
It's all about the bowl game. Baylor has been to two consecutive postseasons, but that was with RG3. It faces four teams in the top half of the Big 12 standings and has four wins. Two more would make it three consecutive bowl games and prove the Bears' program can sustain growth.
The Cyclones are 5-4 and would like to get to a third bowl game in four seasons. Three winnable games are left. They haven't won eight games a season since 2000. Paul Rhoads said earlier this fall it was possible. Will his team prove him right?
The goal for Kansas at this point has to be progress from last season. That means simply getting over the hump and winning a conference game. Its best shot will be at home against Iowa State, but KU will have to try and go on the road to surprise Texas Tech or West Virginia to snap its 18-game Big 12 losing streak.
In Manhattan, it's much rosier. Kansas State is sitting pretty at 9-0 and No. 2 in the BCS standings. A national championship is definitely on the table, and the first Big 12 title since 2003 looks likely. Games against TCU, Baylor and Texas stand between Bill Snyder and his first undefeated season.
Oklahoma's not out of the Big 12 title hunt just yet. Win out, and the Sooners just might get lucky and earn a share, even if it doesn't get the Big 12's automatic BCS bid. Oklahoma still has a fantastic chance to reach a BCS bowl if it wins its last four (Baylor, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, TCU). If Kansas State slips up in its final three games, the Sooners can grab a share of yet another Big 12 title.
The Cowboys are not mathematically out of the Big 12 title hunt, but they can make a serious statement, with three solid opponents ahead, about the state of the program. Was last season's Big 12 title a flash in the pan? Folks will be more apt to believe in the 2013 team if it wins eight or nine games this season than if it struggles down the stretch and just wins six or seven.
TCU, like Oklahoma State, is playing for the pride of its program and a great bowl bid. The Frogs can mathematically still win the Big 12, but the chances are almost nil. Still, it's already bowl eligible, and considering the mountain of personnel losses, that's no small feat. Measuring-stick games against Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas State await.
Texas is still in the Big 12 title hunt, but needs lots and lots of help. Oklahoma must lose again, and the Longhorns get a shot at K-State to close the season. They still can reach 10 regular-season wins, which seemed hard to imagine after losses to West Virginia and a blowout loss to Oklahoma. The only thing Texas can't do is stumble down the stretch and finish with just eight wins like it did last year. Texas is trying to prove it's rebuilding and moving forward from last year.
Texas Tech's Big 12 title hopes are nil, but it can take solace in that all three of its losses were against the conference's top three teams who also are in the top 25. The Red Raiders are bowl eligible, something Tommy Tuberville had to achieve this season. It can still improve its bowl with three very winnable games to close the season against KU, Baylor and Oklahoma State.
West Virginia needs to prove it won't give up down the stretch. Believe it or not, the Mountaineers aren't among the five Big 12 teams that are already bowl eligible. The Mountaineers have lost three consecutive games to fall from No. 5 to out of the polls, and need to get off the mat to improve their bowl standing.