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Big 12 roundtable: Players to watch down the stretch

11/4/2014

In this week’s Big 12 roundtable, we discuss players to watch down the stretch, and how many teams will sit atop the Big 12 standings at the end of the regular season:

Who will be the one offensive player to watch in the league down the stretch?

Max Olson: To me, all eyes are on Bryce Petty. Still seems like we haven't seen him at his 2013 best yet, which makes you wonder what's coming next. He's completing 52.2 percent of his passes in Big 12 play and has to face the league's top two scoring defenses. He doesn't have to be phenomenal to beat Oklahoma and K-State, but Petty does have to be sharper, and you get the sense he recognizes that based on his post-Kansas comments. If he's locked in for this final four-game stretch and keeps the Bears' offense humming, he can decide this Big 12 race.

Brandon Chatmon: Kansas State receiver Tyler Lockett could hold the keys to a second Big 12 title in three years in his hands. The senior tends to play big in the biggest games and with TCU and Baylor left on K-State’s schedule, I think the Big 12’s top all-purpose threat will put up some numbers that will make everyone take notice. He has been a joy to watch for four seasons in Wildcat purple and he might have saved his best for last.

Jake Trotter: I agree with Max, I think it’s Petty. He has had such a weird season so far, with the back injury, then the paltry completion percentage in Big 12 play. Petty is a tremendous quarterback talent who really hasn’t found his groove yet. It will be interesting to see if he can catch fire here down the stretch and push the Bears to the top of the Big 12 standings and into the playoff conversation. He definitely has the capability to do it.

Who will be the one defensive player to watch?

Olson: So, who's our Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year at this point? You can make a decent case for Paul Dawson, Eric Striker, Shawn Oakman, Malcom Brown, Ben Heeney, maybe a few others. I'm sorry to give you five players to watch, but really, we've yet to see one of these guys take control of that race. With lots of big games left to be played, somebody is poised to steal the conference's attention. I'm tempted to guess it's Dawson or Oakman who steps up in these huge games, but we shall see.

Chatmon: Nobody has noticed because his team’s offense has been one of the storylines of conference play with its staggering struggles but Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah has quietly become a monster on the Cowboys defense. The sophomore has eight sacks including six in conference play after he started the year by putting his name on the map with two sacks against Florida State. OSU’s offense might not be fun to watch, but seeing Ogbah in action is enough to make you tune in to watch the Cowboys final three games.

Trotter: I’m going with K-State defensive end Ryan Mueller, who has had a very quiet season so far. For the Wildcats to run the table, they’ll need Mueller to produce the big plays he did last season when he earned first-team All-Big 12 honors.In TCU, West Virginia and Baylor, K-State is about to face three teams that like to throw the ball. Mueller will have plenty of opportunities to get after the passer.

How many teams will be at the top of the Big 12 standings at the end of the season?

Olson: Three. I don't know if I really believe it, but let's talk about that anyway. I don't think the following chaotic scenario is impossible: Baylor loses at Oklahoma, TCU loses to Kansas State, K-State loses at West Virginia and Baylor. And we'll say OU somehow loses one more game, too. That leaves us with a trio of 7-2 teams atop the Big 12 standings. Baylor would hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over both, but would they get into the College Football Playoff in that situation? I'm really not so sure. The Big 12 would love to have "One True Champion" this year, I'm sure, in the interest of a seat in the CFP. But I think things are about to get a little messy.

Chatmon: One. I said before TCU’s trip to West Virginia that I felt like the winner of that game would win the Big 12 title. Nothing has changed after the Horned Frogs’ buzzer-beating 31-30 win. If TCU survives against K-State on Saturday, its final three opponents (Kansas, Texas, Iowa State) have combined to win eight games this season. Trevone Boykin rebounds with a big game on Saturday and the Horned Frogs carry that to a 11-1 record and College Football Playoff berth.

Trotter: I’m sort of rooting for Four True Champions, so the Big 12 will be forced to dump its stupid slogan, “One True Champion.” But when the dust settles, I think the most likely scenario will be TCU alone at the top of the Big 12 standings with the lone conference loss.