Since conference realignment, every Big 12 program has beaten at least two different Power 5 teams outside the conference. Sometimes, those wins mean just as much as, if not more than, conference victories. They can spark long-term success, become a statement win, or provide a boost during a tough season. That got me thinking about which non-conference, Power 5 wins have been the most impactful or most impressive for each Big 12 team over the past nine seasons.
2012: Beat No. 17 UCLA 49-26 (Holiday Bowl)
Baylor ended the 2012 regular season on a three-game winning streak and kept things rolling against the Pac-12 runner-up, No. 17 UCLA. Bears’ running back Glasco Martin scored three touchdowns while quarterback Nick Florence threw two touchdowns and surpassed Robert Griffin for most passing yards in a season with 4,309. The defense allowed 33 rushing yards on 28 carries and sacked UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley six times. The Bears used the game as starting point for 2013. Key pieces returned on offense and defense, Bryce Petty took over at quarterback, and an 11-2 Baylor squad claimed the Big 12 title.
Honorable Mention: 2015 beat North Carolina, 49-38 (Russell Athletic Bowl)
Iowa State Cyclones
2021: Beat No. 25 Oregon 34-17 (Fiesta Bowl)
Since conference realignment, Iowa State’s only nonconference, Power 5 wins came in 2012 and 2014 against Iowa. The 2021 Fiesta Bowl victory over No. 25 Oregon finally expanded that list. All-American running back Breece Hall carried the ball 34 times for 136 yards and two touchdowns. The defense gave up 86 rushing yards and forced three turnovers. With Hall, quarterback Brock Purdy, and other key pieces returning, Iowa State could put together another historic season. The Cyclones are a favorite to make the Big 12 title game, showed up twice on ESPN’s most-likely College Football Playoff scenarios, and are ranked No. 4 in the FPI Top 10.
Honorable Mention: 2014 beat Iowa 20-17
2018: Beat Rutgers 55-14
When Kansas beat Rutgers and improved to 2-1, it felt like that start meant something more was coming. The Jayhawks scored a season-high 55 points and, seemingly, were a better team than usual. Running back Pooka Williams carried the ball 19 times for 163 yards and a touchdown. Quarterbacks Miles Kendrick and Peyton Bender combined for 139 passing yards. The defense converted two interceptions into touchdowns and had six total turnovers. Expecting a few Big 12 wins seemed reasonable. Hope quickly soured as Kansas dropped four consecutive conference matchups and ended the season at 3-9.
Honorable Mention: 2019 beat Boston College, 48-24
Kansas State Wildcats
2016: Beat Texas A&M 33-28 (Texas Bowl)
Kansas State had a couple good options but beating a former Big 12 foe who went to the SEC is always worth reliving. Quarterback Jesse Ertz scored three touchdowns, accumulated 195 passing yards, and rushed for a team-high 85 yards. Wide receiver Byron Pringle had 107 receiving yards and a touchdown on just three catches. Texas A&M did play a slightly more disciplined game than Kansas State, but not by much. The Aggies had eight penalties for 75 yards while the Wildcats posted 12 penalties for 80 yards. With the win, Kansas State also completed the “Texas Sweep” after beating Texas, Texas Tech, TCU, and Baylor during conference play.
Honorable Mention: 2017 beat UCLA, 35-17 (Cactus Bowl)
2017: Beat No. 2 Ohio State 31-16
Revenge, planting a flag on an opponent’s logo, college football playoff implications, No. 5 v. No. 2 – this game contained just about everything that makes college football so unique. Ohio State had routed Oklahoma in Norman the previous season, which left behind a bitter taste. The Sooners returned the favor in Columbus under new head coach Lincoln Riley. Quarterback Baker Mayfield threw for 386 yards (27-of-35) and three touchdowns which solidified his Heisman Trophy candidacy. The win helped the Sooners remain a playoff team despite losing to Iowa State a few weeks later.
Honorable Mention: 2013 beat Alabama 45-31 (Sugar Bowl)
Oklahoma State Cowboys
2014: Beat Washington 30-22 (Cactus Bowl)
Beating an average Washington team doesn’t exactly seem like an impactful Power 5 victory. However, Oklahoma State used the victory as a building block for the next three seasons. A freshman quarterback named Mason Rudolph completed 17-of-26 passes for 299 yards, two touchdowns and an interception against the Huskies. Rudolph had taken over the starting role just two games prior and beat Oklahoma in Norman to reach the bowl eligibility. With Rudolph under center, the Cowboys rattled off three consecutive 10-win seasons and finished second in the Big 12 in 2015 and 2016.
Honorable Mention: 2020 beat Miami 37-34 (Cheez-it Bowl)
TCU Horned Frogs
2014: Beat No. 9 Ole Miss 42-3 (Peach Bowl)
Entering year three as a Big 12 team, TCU still needed a signature nonconference win. A 2012 victory over Virginia didn’t feel big enough. The 2014 postseason offered the perfect setting. The Horned Frogs fell from No. 3 to No. 6 in the final College Football Playoff rankings and missed the playoffs. That snub motivated TCU as it steamrolled No. 9 Ole Miss. Horned Frog quarterback Treyvon Boykin completed 22-of-31 passes for 187 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. Boykin also had 65 rushing yards. The defense forced four turnovers and held the Rebels scoreless until midway through the fourth quarter.
Honorable Mention: 2015 beat No. 15 Oregon 47-41, OT (Alamo Bowl)
2018: Beat Georgia 28-21 (Sugar Bowl)
Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger declared Texas was “back” after the Sugar Bowl win over Georgia. The bold statement drew criticism, especially since the Longhorns did not reach the Big 12 title game or make a playoff appearance the following season. Ehlinger wasn’t completely wrong, though. The victory capped off the program’s first 10-win season in 11 years and made Texas a legitimate Big 12 title favorite again. Ehlinger threw for 169 yards and scored all three touchdowns against the Bulldogs. Texas’ defense recorded two sacks and two turnovers and limited Georgia’s offense to 284 total yards.
Honorable Mention: 2016 beat Notre Dame, 50-47 2OT
Texas Tech Red Raiders
2013: Beat No. 16 Arizona State 37-23 (Holiday Bowl)
Texas Tech needed a win to salvage the 2013 season. A 7-0 start felt like a distant memory as the Red Raiders entered the Holiday Bowl on a five-game losing streak. No. 16 Arizona State, the Pac-12 South champions, was favored by as many as 20 points. Texas Tech quarterback Davis Webb and tight end Jace Amaro made sure things got back on track. Webb threw for 403 yards and four touchdowns while Amaro had a team-high 112 receiving yards on eight catches. Amaro also finished the season with 1,352 receiving yards, which set the FBS single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end.
Honorable Mention: 2012 beat Minnesota 34-31 (Car Care Bowl)
West Virginia Mountaineers
2016: Beat Missouri 26-11
The 2016 season turned into West Virginia’s best one since joining the Big 12 and it all started with the win over Missouri. The Tigers returned eight starters from a top-10 defense, but the Mountaineers’ offense put up 494 total yards. Running backs Justin Crawford and Rushel Shell combined for 191 yards and two touchdowns on 37 carries. Quarterback Skyler Howard added 253 passing yards. West Virginia’s defense didn’t allow a touchdown until the final two minutes. The Mountaineers went on to win 10 games and finished third in the Big 12.
Honorable Mention: 2015 beat Arizona State 43-42 (Cactus Bowl)