I opened my email today to find a challenge, of sorts, proposed by a loyal HCS reader:
Hello Mr. Graves, This is Craig, again. Since you were courteous enough to correspond with me a few weeks ago concerning your great bit of writing, “Blood Cauldron,” I thought I’d visit with you again. As we look at the last half of an epic Big 12 season, I hope that you will give us a mid-season perspective – some prognostication, if you will.
Challenge accepted, Craig – well, sort of – and thanks for the email.
Before I dive in, let me explain my thinking: Predicting a single college football game is like day trading on Robinhood, and even when a season is well underway, trying to see how it will all turn out is more akin to a Tarot reading than a careful application of the scientific method – at least for me.
Thus, in the spirit of authenticity, I’ve prepared a one-card Tarot reading for each Big 12 team using my nerd-certified Lord of the Rings Tarot Deck and Card Game. I first blindly drew one card for each team. Next, I used what I can guess about each team’s remaining schedule to make the card fit. In retrospect, it’s somewhat amazing how well the cards fit most of the teams’ current situations and remaining schedules.
BAYLOR – THE NINE OF CUPS
Bilbo holds his birthday party at Bag End.
The Nine of Cups is about celebration, being the center of attention, and the realization of dreams after a long journey.
Dave Aranda will win Big 12 Coach of the Year, and Baylor will be recognized as Texas’ best college football team of the 2021 season after defeating Texas State, Texas Southern, Texas, TCU, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl. They’ll come up just short of a Big 12 Championship game appearance after falling to Oklahoma on November 13 in Waco.
IOWA STATE – THE SIX OF COINS
Bilbo finds treasure in Smaug’s lair, but later will come a time for a division of spoils.
The Six of Coins is about gaining recognition in the eyes of others and feelings of accomplishment.
Iowa State will run the table to reach the Big 12 Championship game, including a key win in Norman on November 20. However, they will end up splitting their series (“division of spoils”) with the eventual Big 12 Champion. ISU will finish the season by winning a New Year’s Six Bowl against a smug SEC team (Smaug).
KANSAS – THE TWO OF SWORDS
The Members of Elrond’s Council think deeply about the problem before them.
The Two of Swords is about examining a problem and considering all possible solutions.
Kansas will go winless in the Big 12 but make enough strides to have something positive to build on heading into the 2022 season. Lance Leipold and his staff will have a firm grasp on what Kansas needs to do to start winning conference games and will devise a plan after considering all options.
KANSAS STATE – THE PAGE OF COINS
Glorfindel comes forward to meet the Ringbearer on the road to Rivendale.
The Page of Coins is about wanting to move up in the world while fulfilling existing duties.
Kansas State will spend the offseason looking for ways it can improve and move up in the world after winning the three remaining games it’s supposed to win (TCU, KU, WVU), plus a bowl game, to finish 8-5, 4-5. It’ll be a good season for K-State but without the splashy upset that Cats fans have come to expect.
OKLAHOMA – THE MOON
The power of the enemy seems stronger than it really is.
The Moon means that things are not as they seem as deeper issues are at work.
Weaker opponents have looked better than they are against the Sooners. The issues that have been hinted at in those games but not fully revealed will show up as Oklahoma stumbles in its final two games to end their long streak as Big 12 Champions. The Sooners will go on to win the Alamo Bowl in a close game against a Pac-12 team.
OKLAHOMA STATE – THE MAGICIAN
Gandalf commands the material elements of the universe.
The Magician is about making things happen to your liking through sheer force of will.
The Cowboys will find a way to beat Oklahoma in Bedlam and then avenge their only loss of the season against Iowa State in the Big 12 Championship. As Big 12 Champs with only one loss, they will get the help they need to earn a berth in the College Football Playoffs.
TCU – THE EIGHT OF CUPS (REVERSED)
Gollum leads Frodo and Sam through the Dead Marshes on their way toward Mordor.
Reversed, the Eight of Cups is about deciding whether to walk away from a disappointing situation.
After the Horned Frogs finish the season 4-8, 2-7, Gary Patterson will decide it’s time for him to step down as TCU’s head coach. The journey forward for TCU looks as grim and spellbindingly hopeless as the Dead Marshes.
TEXAS – THE FIVE OF CUPS (REVERSED)
The Companions are disillusioned after the loss of Gandalf.
Reversed, the Five of Cups is about disappointment and loss followed by a period of recovery and moving forward.
After losing four straight games to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, and Iowa State, Texas will collect itself and finish the season on a three-game winning streak. The positive momentum gained in that winning streak will carry over into Texas’ bowl game, and the Longhorns will finish 8-5, 5-4.
TEXAS TECH – DEATH
Gandalf confronts the Balrog. Galdolf loses his life, but is to be reborn.
The Red Raiders will fall in their games against the four-headed Balrog of #4 Oklahoma, #22 Iowa State, #15 Oklahoma State, and #16 Baylor to finish 5-7, 2-7. However, the team will be reborn in the image of a new head coach.
WEST VIRGINIA – THE ACE OF SWORDS (REVERSED)
The intervention of Gwaihir the Eagle represents a major breakthrough.
Reversed, the Ace of Swords signals a time of confusion and chaos.
The Mountaineers will lose four of their final five games to finish 4-8, 2-7, but in doing so they will slowly hand the reins of the offense over to freshman QB Garrett Greene (Gwaihir the Eagle), who will lead West Virginia to a rousing victory over an improving Kansas squad to close the season. Greene’s ascendance will give the Mountaineer faithful hope heading into the offseason after a rough 2021.
That was fun. If I turn out to be an idiot, I blame the darn Tarot cards: silly, superstitious things. If I turn out to be right, you heard it here first!
- The Big 12 Champion will be Oklahoma State.
- The Big 12 Championship game will be played by Oklahoma State and Iowa State.
- The key remaining games of the season are Oklahoma at Baylor, Iowa State at Oklahoma, and Oklahoma at Oklahoma State. Oklahoma will lose two of these.
- Baylor will have a magical season but come up just short of the Big 12 Championship game.
- Kansas, TCU, Texas Tech, and West Virginia will have disappointing seasons, and Gary Patterson will stepdown as TCU’s head coach this offseason.
- Kansas State and Texas will have decent seasons after passing through rough stretches against the league’s top four teams. Texas will defeat Kansas State on Black Friday in Austin.
Finally, I want to say that the TCU/Gary Patterson prediction is certainly a worst-case scenario, and I wouldn’t be surprised if TCU won a couple of upsets along the way to reach bowl eligibility. However, I’d be lying if I said that it doesn’t feel like Patterson is nearing the end of his run in Fort Worth.