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HCS Roundtable: Who Wins the Big 12 Championship and Why?

NCAA Football: Texas at Oklahoma State

After one of the most memorable conference races in recent memory, it’s time for the 2023 Dr. Pepper Big 12 Championship between the No. 7 Texas Longhorns (11-1, 8-1) and the No. 18 Oklahoma State Cowboys (9-3, 7-2).

There were a lot of twists and turns to get to this point for both teams but at the end of the regular season, it is just the Longhorns and Cowboys left standing with a very special Big 12 Trophy on the line.

This is the final season that Texas and Oklahoma, the two powerhouse brands of the Big 12, will be around, as they prepare for a jump to the SEC in 2024. So, will Texas take the final Big 12 Trophy with them on the way out the door, or will Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State make the Hateful Eight proud with one last upset?

That’s the topic for this week’s roundtable, as each member of the staff tells you who will win the Big 12 Championship and why.

 

Pete Mundo

Big 12 Champion: Texas

Texas has proven it’s one of the best teams in college football this season, but the Cowboys are not going to go down lightly. Mike Gundy teams notoriously play up or down to competition and I expect that again this weekend as they play in their second Big 12 Championship Game in the last three seasons.

 

Bryan Clinton

Big 12 Champion: Texas

As great as this season had turned out for Mike Gundy and Oklahoma State, his matchup doesn’t bode well for the Cowboys. Texas’s defensive line has been the best unit of its kind in the country this season, thanks to future NFL draft picks in T’Vondre Sweat and Byron Murphy. The two of them have been utterly dominant on the interior of the defensive line, helping the Longhorns to the fourth-best rushing defense in the country, allowing just 85.0 rushing yards per game and 2.93 yards per rush. That doesn’t bode well for an offense that is very dependant on the success of FBS leading rusher, Ollie Gordon.

Defensively, Oklahoma State has been susceptible in the intermediate passing game, as well as against the run. That spells disaster against Texas, who has been excellent in both of those departments down the stretch. I keep going back and forth on the line on this game, with Texas being favored by 15.5 points. Heading into the contest, I’m going to take the Longhorns to win and cover, 45-20, and put themselves into the College Football Playoff.

Derek Duke

Big 12 Champion: Texas

Before the season started when I filled at my preseason poll, I had the Texas Longhorns winning the Big 12 Conference. And here we are on championship weekend and the Longhorns are right where I thought they would be. I have said many times that this isn’t your normal Texas team of the last ten or so years. They are physical up front on both sides of the ball and they have playmakers at every skill position. Oklahoma State was a great underdog story this season but I don’t see the magical slipper fitting for too much longer. I’m sticking with my preseason pick and going with Texas to leave the Big 12 with a conference title. 

 

Matthew Postins

Big 12 Champion: Texas

I think many people believe this is going to be a blowout. I don’t. Oklahoma State has consistently played up or down to opponents all season. Oklahoma State played every team in the Big 12 with a winning conference record in the regular season, save Texas. The Cowboys only lost to Iowa State, which was in late September when as a team they were still figuring things out. Then look at OSU’s last three games against UCF, Houston, and BYU, all under-.500 in Big 12. Constant struggle. I think there’s something to that.

So OSU will give Texas a game, I honestly believe. Had this game happened last year or two years ago I would have taken OSU. But this year Texas has too much going for it. The Longhorns’ offense is much more versatile than it was last year. Nothing wrong with building around Bijan Robinson, but this version of the Texas offense can get you a lot of different ways. The defense is better from a year ago. But, most importantly, this team doesn’t panic. Two years I ago I saw it in games with big leads. Last year I saw it less. This year? I don’t see any of it. This team rolls with the punches and overcomes it.

Steve Sarkisian is right — five-star players with a five-star culture is a winning combination. It’s why Alabama is Alabama. And it’s why, ultimately, Texas will win on Saturday.

Joe Tillery

Big 12 Champion: Oklahoma State

Is it crazy… maybe! But I think this game oozes classic Mike Gundy-isms. Oklahoma State is the less talented team on paper but that’s kind of always been Gundy’s MO. Winning more with less after being written off. While Ollie Gordon has been unstoppable all season long with the exception of the UCF game, the sophomore running back will be greeted with his biggest test of the season against Texas.

Believe it or not, I actually think Alan Bowman will be the difference-maker in the Big 12 Championship Game. Texas will follow suit with the rest of the country and aim to take Gordon out of the equation, but with the emergence of Brennan Presley and Leon Johnson III, Oklahoma State will have an opportunity to expose a Texas secondary that has arguably been their weakest position this season. While Saturday’s game will be an uphill battle for the Cowboys, I like Gundy, Gordon, and Bowman to find a way to take down Goliath.

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