Big 12: Baybor Bears
Those, among others, will be the storylines to watch Saturday in the Big 12:
Texas at No. 11 Kansas State, noon ET (ESPN): If the numbers are any indication, Texas won’t get anything easy in this game. Kansas State has allowed only 19 plays of 20 yards or more, which is the fewest given up by any Big 12 defense. The Longhorns have been better offensively the last two weeks. Still, only Kansas and Iowa State have produced fewer 20-yard-plus plays in the Big 12 than the Longhorns. Running backs Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown have also had problems breaking loose from the line of scrimmage. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Texas is averaging 1.4 yards after contact on designed runs, the worst average among Power 5 offenses. The Longhorns will have to be better on the ground to have a chance of pulling the upset in Manhattan, Kansas.
Texas Tech at No. 10 TCU, 3:30 p.m. ET (FOX): Trickett isn’t the only Big 12 QB who has been a completely different player this year. Trevone Boykin’s Total QBR is up 28.7 points from last season, the fifth-largest increase in college football, per ESPN Stats & Information. Thanks in big part to Boykin’s turnaround, the Horned Frogs have featured one of the best big-play offenses in the country. TCU has 13 touchdown drives of three plays or fewer, tied for the most such drives in the country, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Boykin & Co. could add to that total this weekend. Texas Tech's defensive efficiency is the worst among Power 5 teams. Opponents have scored a touchdown on 36 percent of their drives against Tech, the worst percentage of any Power 5 defense. The Red Raiders will probably need their best defensive effort of the year to have any shot at toppling the surging Horned Frogs.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
I know some of you are wondering why I've made it a point of emphasis that Baylor needs a quick start to make its first bowl trip since 1994.
The major reason is that past history has not been kind to Big 12 teams that struggle in the nonconference portion of their schedules.
And with Baylor facing one of the toughest nonconference schedules in the Big 12, it will be critical for them to start fast. Baylor is facing a most daunting schedule in terms of being the only Big 12 team with two opponents from BCS conferences with its opener at Wake Forest on Sept. 5 and a home game on Sept. 19 against Connecticut.
I went back and did some figuring.
Of the 92 bowl teams in the 13-season history of the Big 12, only 10 of them had two nonconference regular-season losses. Only three teams with two nonconference losses have qualified for bowl games among the 46 teams making bowl trips since 2003.
Here's another nugget that might act as an incentive to Art Briles or anybody else in the conference. Of the 43 Big 12 teams that have started the season with a 4-0 record -- occasionally with a conference game thrown in -- all made bowl trips that season.
So that should bode well for the Bears if they are able to run the table in an opening start with nonconference games at Wake Forest and home games against Connecticut, Northwestern State and Kent State.
Here's a look at the Big 12's bowl teams over the years and how they did in nonconference play during the regular season. The two-loss teams are indicated in bold facing.
1996: No losses, Kansas State; one loss, Colorado, Texas Tech, Nebraska; two losses, Texas.
1997: No losses, Kansas State, Nebraska, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M; one loss, Missouri.
1998: No losses, Colorado, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Nebraska; one loss, Missouri, Texas A&M; two losses, Texas.
1999: No losses, Kansas State, Nebraska, Texas A&M; one loss, Oklahoma, Texas; two losses, Colorado.
2000: No losses, Iowa State, Kansas State, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas Tech; one loss, Texas, Texas A&M.
2001: No losses, Kansas State, Iowa State, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech; one loss, Colorado.
2002: No losses, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Texas; one loss, Nebraska; two losses, Colorado, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech.
2003: No losses: Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State; one loss, Kansas, Kansas State, Texas, Texas Tech.
2004: No losses, Colorado, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas; one loss, Iowa State, Texas A&M, Texas Tech.
2005: No losses, Iowa State, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Texas Tech; one loss, Colorado, Missouri; two losses, Oklahoma.
2006: No losses, Missouri, Texas A&M; one loss, Kansas State, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech.
2007: No losses, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech; one loss, Texas A&M; two losses, Colorado, Oklahoma State.
2008: No losses, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech; one loss, Kansas, Nebraska.
Additionally, Baylor has never started a season since joining the Big 12 with four straight victories. The Bears started 3-0 in 1996 under Chuck Reedy, finishing 4-7. And they started 3-0 under Guy Morriss in 2005, finishing 5-6.