The Big 12 race has reached the pinnacle of its excitement as we have four teams vying for two spots in the title game with just one weekend of action remaining.
The Texas Longhorns are in sole possession of first place with a 7-1 record in conference play, while Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Kanas State are right on their tail at 6-2.
With a win this weekend, UT can clinch a spot in the title game, leaving Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State alive and in the fight. The Pokes are also in a win-and-in situation against BYU, but a loss would open the door for OU or K-State to get in.
There’s a lot to follow this week at the top of the conference, and so much to keep up with as the season comes to a close. Here are the top five storylines that you should be keeping up with heading into Week 13.
Can Joey McGuire Get it Done in Austin?
Back in August, Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark stood before a crowd of Texas Tech donors at a Red Raiders luncheon and told Joey McGuire to “take care of business” against the Texas Longhorns in the final week of the 2023 season.
Well, the time has come, and the Red Raiders are headed to Austin for a Friday night showdown with the Longhorns. With a win, Texas will clinch the No. 1 seed in the standings and will represent one of two teams who will play for a Big 12 Championship in Arlington next weekend.
McGuire and the Red Raiders are 14-point underdogs in TTU’s final clash with the Longhorns as Big 12 foes, and Brett Yormark will indeed be in Austin for the matchup. So, will Tech get it done on the road and get to 7-5 on the year, or will Texas reign supreme, as it has in this series throughout its history?
A Texas Tech win would spell a nightmare scenario for the Big 12, as the potential for a four-way tie would become reality. With the Big 12 tiebreakers already receiving criticism in recent weeks, breaking a four-way tie between Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State would be an absolute disaster.
Meanwhile, a Texas win would keep things nice and tidy, at least as far as getting the top team into the Big 12 Championship. After that though, it’s a mystery how things might play out.
Oklahoma State vs. The Letdown
Mike Gundy and the Oklahoma State Cowboys have been one of the best stories in the Big 12 this season, as the Pokes have navigated their way through a manageable schedule with a host of new characters serving as their biggest playmakers. However, there have been two times this season when the Pokes failed to show up.
The first time, back in September, was a no-show that ended in a 33-7 beatdown at the hands of South Alabama. This was before Oklahoma State discovered that it had a Doak Walker finalist on its roster, and therefore is relatively easy to explain away.
The second disappearance came just two weeks ago though, as UCF put a 45-3 thumping on the Cowboys and held Gordon to just 25 yards on the ground. Sure, the Pokes rebounded with a 43-30 win over Houston last week, but it found itself down 23-9 in the second quarter before figuring things out.
Can a BYU team coming off one of its best performances of the season, a 31-24 heartbreaker against OU, take Oklahoma State out of Big 12 Championship contention with a major upset in Week 13? Or, will OSU put the nay-sayers to bed by closing out their year by punching their ticket to Arlington?
There’s only one way to find out, and that’s by tuning in at 2:30 p.m. (ABC) on Saturday afternoon.
Does Brent Venables Get to 10 Wins in Year 2?
Seven games into the season, it appeared that Oklahoma might be a legit College Football Playoff contender. The Sooners had just beaten No. 3 Texas in the Red River Rivalry and had looked dominant in its games prior to a shaky performance against UCF.
Then, the wheels came off of their Championship dreams, as Oklahoma dropped back-to-back games against Kansas and Oklahoma State on the road, dropping them to 7-2 on the year.
Since then, OU has churned out a 59-20 win over West Virginia and a 31-24 win over BYU in Provo. Now, a game against Sonny Dykes and the TCU Horned Frogs stands in way of a 10-2 regular season for Brent Venables in Year 2.
Last season, an eventual 6-7 Oklahoma team walked out of Fort Worth with a 55-24 shellacking at the hands of TCU, who would eventually play their way into a National Championship appearance.
In 2023, the Sooners have faced two teams that got the better of them a season ago (Texas and West Virginia), and those two games were Oklahoma’s best performances of the season. Can they make it three for three and exact revenge on the team that scored a season-high 55 points on them?
Farmageddon in the Snow
Last weekend, Iowa State was eliminated from Big 12 title contention (barring unprecendented chaos) with a 26-16 loss to Texas. The loss was tough for Matt Campbell and Co., as Iowa State was one of five teams in a tie for second place and a win would’ve given them a great shot at getting into the Big 12 Championship Game.
Now, the Cyconles will have to get up and dust themselves off for another monumental matchup, this time agaisnt Kansas State in Manhattan. In the annual (for now) Farmageddon matchup, Iowa State has a chance to secure a winning season at 7-6. They also have a chance to knowk off a K-State team that is still in contention for a Big 12 title.
Getting the better of the Wildcats always means a lot, but doing so on the road would make ite ven sweeter. K-State came into Ames last season and walked out with a 10-9 win, which sent them to a Big 12 Championship. The two years prior, Iowa State won by double digits: 33-20 in 2021 and 45-0 in 2020.
While Iowa State is unlikely to crawl its way back into the Big 12 race, a win in this game could have ramifactions for other teams if Texas or Oklahoma State were to lose in Week 13.
Plus, there’s a strong chance that this game will be played in the snow, which is so fitting for a rivalry built around tough and gritty folks in Iowa and Kansas.
Will Ranked Upsets Help The Big 12?
As of right now, the Big 12’s highest-ranked team is Texas, who sits at No. 7 in the latest College Football Playoff Top 25. The Longhorns have a viable shot to the playoff, but likely need some help from the teams above them.
With Jordan Travis’ career at Florida State over after a gruesome leg injury last weekend, the fifth-ranked Seminoles have to finish their regular season on the road at Florida. Playing in The Swamp is never easy, and doing it with a backup quarterback making his first start makes it even trickier.
No. 6 Oregon plays No. 16 Oregon State in the annual Civil War matchup where literally anything can happen. No. 12 Ole Miss is playing Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. Somebody has to lose in No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Michigan.
In short, the games around the country could have an impact on the Big 12 Bowl Season. Why? Because if Texas can win out and get into the CFP, the rest of the conference should move up in bowl priority.
If that happens, a 10-2 Oklahoma might get a New Year’s Six Bid. Oklahoma State would get the top non-NY6 Big 12 bowl, the Alamo Bowl. K-State, who would end up in fourth in the standings by my projections, would earn a trip to Orlando for the Cheez-It Bowl.
If you’re team can’t win a Big 12 Championship, you should be pulling for the Longhorns (except for you, Texas Tech). Love it or hate it, the Longhorns getting to the Playoff likely means a better bowl for your team down the road.