It’s time for a little roundtable as the Heartland College Sports crew went around the horn and picked the best Big 12 game on the schedule in Week 4 of the 2021 college football season. There’s not an obvious choice here, as conference play is kicking off and there are still lots of unknowns about the Big 12 this season. So with that being said, let’s dive into everyone’s picks for the upcoming week.
Pete Mundo: Baylor vs. Iowa State
Baylor is off to a 3-0 start, but it’s come against weak competition. Iowa State is 2-1, but hasn’t looked good in a win over Northern Iowa and a loss to in-state rival Iowa. The Cyclones hopes of a College Football Playoff are likely gone, but if they trip up Saturday in Waco, forget a CFB Playoff, a trip back to the Big 12 title game suddenly looks shaky. Given what the expectations were coming into the season, for Iowa State to fall to 2-2 to start the 2021 campaign with be a huge disappointment. Meantime, Baylor fans desperately want to believe their team is for real after going 2-7 in 2020. If they can pull off a win against a Top 15 opponent, it will go a long way to proving that. And given that these two teams have played very close games in recent seasons (average margin of victory is seven points the last five meetings), I’m hopeful we get another good one on Saturday as each program tries to start off conference play on the right foot.
Matthew Postins: Oklahoma State vs. Kansas State
Both are undefeated. Both have big wins this season. Both could be dark-horse contenders for a spot in the Big 12 title game. We get an early look at who is for real. Both teams are also dealing with some significant injuries — Skylar Thompson at Kansas State and Trace Ford at Oklahoma State. But a closer look reveals that the Cowboys’ injury bug is much more serious. After an exciting win on the road over Boise State, can the Cowboys avoid a letdown at home? At least K-State knows they’ll get Thompson back at some point, but they’ll lean on Deuce Vaughn offensively. It feels like an evenly matched game with a lot of the line this early in Big 12 play.
Robert Graves: Oklahoma vs. West Virginia
This is a phenomenal week for Big 12 action with a lot of heavy-hitting games to choose from. The fight for the Iron Skillet between TCU and SMU is thankfully back; Baylor will test the Big 12’s most productive running game against the league’s stingiest rushing defense when Iowa State comes to town; Kansas versus Duke always sound intriguing, although it’s the wrong season; Oklahoma State and K-State will fight it out to see which hard-nosed team is harder; Texas Tech gets a shot at taking down Texas. Those are all going to be great games, but I think West Virginia at Oklahoma has the potential to be the best game of the weekend.
West Virginia has been far from its best self through three games, and Jarret Doege’s limits as a quarterback have created problems for the Mountaineers against Maryland and VA Tech, but I have no doubt that WVU is a better team than Tulane and Nebraska. Something hasn’t been quite right with Spencer Rattler this season, and the Sooners looked vulnerable for long stretches against Tulane and Nebraska. WVU should be jacked-up for an opportunity to notch the program’s first-ever win against the Sooners; meanwhile, Oklahoma will just be trying to get itself right. This game will either be back-and-forth and come down to final minutes, or Oklahoma will start to look like the national title contenders they’re supposed to be.
Derek Duke: Oklahoma State vs. Kansas State
Technically the Oklahoma/West Virginia is the primetime game. It’s the latest Big 12 game and it is on ABC. However, the game of the week in my book is not on ABC. It is on ESPN+ for some odd reason, but the Kansas State vs. Oklahoma State game is the one I would prefer to watch. This game will feature two teams who struggle to throw the football as they prefer to do their work in the run game and rely on good defense. Both teams can run the football and both teams play good defense. We should wipe off the Big 12 logos off the field because this game is going to look like a Big Ten game. The winner stays in the race for the Big 12 title and the loser will have a long climb back into contention as the competition only gets tougher from here on out.