- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Big 12’s best will finally play each other in November, the defining stretch of the conference schedule. There will be no more doubts about who will be the conference favorite, no more questions about the legitimacy of some teams' résumés heading into December.
Among the conference’s top five teams, only two games have been played, with Texas knocking off Oklahoma and the Sooners topping Texas Tech. Oklahoma State at Texas Tech on Saturday is a terrific primer for Oklahoma at Baylor on Nov. 7, as both games kick things off and a pseudo-Big 12 playoff begins.
Each week in November will feature at least one matchup of the top five teams in the conference. Will Baylor continue to dominate? Can Texas rebound to go undefeated through the Big 12? Will one of the one-loss squads ultimately rise to the top of the standings? It should be an exciting month.
Team with most to prove: All eyes are on Baylor, as the Bears are the conference’s lone hope to make an appearance in the BCS title game. They’ve been one of the most impressive teams in the country, playing like a top-five team week after week, but their four conference victories are against opponents that have combined to win nine games this season. So doubts remain. The Bears can remove all doubts by cruising through a gauntlet of Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State in their next three games.
Team with the most to lose: Texas Tech. After starting the season 7-0, the Red Raiders face a rough November schedule that will test their ability to play at a high level week in and week out. If they stumble in the season’s final month, the shine on Kliff Kingsbury’s first season will dim considerably.
Three players to keep an eye on:
Baylor’s Bryce Petty. The junior quarterback is putting himself into the Heisman Trophy conversation with exceptional play. His 95.3 adjusted QBR (out of 100, with 50 being average) is second nationally behind Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. Yet, like his team, doubters still remain. How will he perform in a top-10 matchup? Is he a championship quarterback? We’ll find out.
Every other quarterback. Texas’ Case McCoy, Oklahoma’s Blake Bell, Texas Tech’s Davis Webb and Oklahoma State's Clint Chelf are quarterbacks with the opportunity to prove themselves in November and lead their team to a Big 12 title.
Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. The senior has the ability to dominate games with his pass-rushing skills and his play played a major role in the Longhorns’ impressive victories over Oklahoma and TCU. Jeffcoat has seven sacks in his last four games, so his play, especially if he takes it to another level, could have a major impact on the conference title race.
Biggest trap game: Texas at West Virginia, Nov. 9. Barring a major upset by Kansas on Saturday, the Longhorns will travel to Morgantown, W.Va., with a 5-0 conference record. Oklahoma State already lost at West Virginia and Texas Tech had to make big plays in the fourth quarter to survive against the Mountaineers. The Longhorns could overlook WVU with Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor looming as their final stretch.
Fearless November prediction: One of the teams in the bottom half of the league entering November will have a major impact on the Big 12 title. One of the top five teams will drop a game to Kansas State, TCU, Iowa State, Kansas or West Virginia and reopen a door for a team that entered the day thinking its Big 12 title hopes were slim. If we’ve learned anything about college football, it’s not to assume any game will end up in the win column for the favorite.