We’ve got a full slate of seven games on deck this weekend as the Big 12 heads into Week 11 of the 2023 college football season.
The Big 12 race has been as exciting as ever this season, as Texas and Oklahoma State are tied atop the standings at 5-1, while five teams are tied for third place with 4-2 records in conference play.
As of now, it looks like the Longhorns and Cowboys are set to play in Arlington next month, but things in this league can change on a weekly basis.
Here are the top five storylines that you should be keeping up with heading into the ninth week of the season.
Can Texas, Oklahoma State Avoid Hangovers?
Last week we saw both Texas and Oklahoma State pick up massive wins over K-State and Oklahoma, putting themselves squarely in position to make the Big 12 Championship game next month. However, they’ll follow those big-time victories with tricky games on the road.
Texas will head to Fort Worth to take on a TCU team that has won eight of the last 11 meetings between these two. TCU is having a down year, but this is one of those Big 12 rivalry games that is getting lost with UT headed out the door. The Horned Frogs would love nothing more than to send their in-state rivals out with a loss, but there is one thing working against them here. Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers is set to return to the field, which means the Longhorns’ offense will get a major boost this week.
As for Oklahoma State, the narrative has changed dramatically over the last several weeks. After a victory over Oklahoma, the Cowboys are in prime position to make a run at the Big 12 Championship. Plus, their remaining schedule is against UCF, Houston, and BYU, who have gone 5-13 in Big 12 play.
Yet, despite all the positives, the Pokes are just 2.5-point favorites on the road at UCF this weekend. This line makes no sense, as Ollie Gordon is the best running back in the country right now and UCF has been one of the worst teams in the nation against the run. However, Vegas didn’t get built by folks who don’t know what they’re talking about, so OSU had better take things seriously this weekend.
Which Teams Keep Their Bowl Hopes Afloat?
Four teams in the Big 12 will enter Week 11 with 4-5 records, and a win this week would significantly boost their odds of getting to that magical sixth win before the season comes to a close.
Texas Tech is on the road this week at No. 16 Kansas, and picking up a win there would be absolutely massive for the Red Raiders. Not only would it get them to 5-5, but it would mean that a win over UCF next weekend would get them into a bowl game. Otherwise, Tech would need to beat the Knights and then would need to pull off the upset over Texas on the road to end the year.
TCU plays host to Texas as discussed in our first storyline and has Baylor and Oklahoma remaining on the schedule after that. UCF hosts Oklahoma State, but has Texas Tech and Houston on the schedule to finish the year, while Houston still has a shot too, with Cincinnati on Saturday followed by Oklahoma State at home and UCF to finish the year.
Two teams are 5-4 and will face each other this week with a bowl berth on the line (more on that in a bit), while Baylor is the one team in the conference sitting at 3-6 and staring postseason elimination in the face this week. If Baylor indeed falls at Kansas State this weekend, they’ll miss a bowl for the second time in four years under Dave Aranda.
Can Oklahoma Get Back on Track?
One month ago, the college footbal world was enamored with Oklahoma. The Sooners were the toast of the town at 6-0 and looking like a true national title contender after handing Texas its only loss of the season.
However, the Sooners have looked anything but that in the time since, going 1-2 in their last three games and finding new ways to back themselves into corners every week. Oklahoma has become the most penalized team in the Big 12 and has lost six turnovers over its last two games.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing for Sooner fans is the fact the OU had the chance to still win each of those games despite the self-inflicted mistakes. When the Sooners play clean football, they are a top 10 team in the country in 2023. The problem is, they’ve not played a clean football game since they walked out of the Cotton Bowl in early October.
Now, the Sooners face a similar test to what they’ve seen in each of the last two weeks. West Virginia (6-3, 4-2) will waltz into Norman playing its best football of the season. The Mountaineers are running the ball as well as anyone in the conference and will try and get the ground game going like Kansas and Oklahoma State, which in turn opens up the Sooners’ secondary to problems.
If Oklahoma can win this weekend, they’ll sit a 8-2 and will have some confidence back heading into their final road game of the season (at BYU). However, a loss puts them at 7-3, and would send an already frenzied fan base into overdrive.
Bowl Eligibility on the Line in Provo
Before Oklahoma make its only trip to Provo for a Big 12 football game, the Cougars will play host to Iowa State, who has been quite a surprise this season.
The Cyclones are 4-2 (5-4 overall) in Big 12 play and still very much in the Big 12 race. Matt Campbell’s team suffered a close loss at the hands of Kansas last weekend and will hope to pick up win No. 6 this weekend in Provo.
Meanwhile, the Big 12 has not been kind to Kalani Sitake and the BYU Cougars, as they stand at 2-4 in Big 12 play and 5-4 overall. Still, a bowl game in their first season of Big 12 play might distinguish them from the rest of the newcomers, as Cincinnati is already eliminated from bowl contention while Houston and UCF are sitting at 4-5 overall.
With kickoff scheduled for 9:15 p.m. CT, this is going to be a vintage BYU home game, which has proven tricky for opponents over the years, even when the Cougars weren’t playing their best ball.
Whoever wins this game will verify their status as one of the best surprises of the 2023 season in the Big 12, and getting to a bowl game this season would be major for either of them. Now all that’s left to do is play this thing out and see who wants it more.
How Can 4-2 Teams Get In?
So, with Texas and Oklahoma State tied for first place in the Big 12, what would need to happen for each of the teams sitting at 4-2 to sneak in to the Big 12 Championship game?
With just three weeks left in the season, now seems as good a time as any to take a look and break it down for each of the contenders.
Here’s a quick reminder of what the standings look like heading into Week 11.
|Rank||Team||Conf. Record||Overall Record|
Possible Big 12 Championship Scenarios
Texas: Win out and you’re in.
Oklahoma State: Win out and you’re in.
Oklahoma: Win out, Texas and Kansas lose once (or OSU loses twice, Kansas loses once)
Kansas: Win out, Texas or Oklahoma State loses twice
Kansas State: Win out, Texas or Oklahoma State loses twice, Oklahoma loses once
West Virginia: Win out, Oklahoma State lose twice, Texas loses once
Iowa State: Win out, Oklahoma State/Oklahoma/Kansas all lose once
When you lay it out flat like this, it’s clear why last week’s victories for Oklahoma State and Texas were so massive. Controlling your fate this late in the season is something that few teams get the pleasure of, and in the Big 12, that’s the Longhorns and Pokes right now.