The Big 12 can hope for an undefeated showdown in Morgantown on the same weekend the other Power Five conferences play their championship games.
For now, the Big 12 is in a precarious position, already considered by most an afterthought in the College Football Playoff conversation.
“If nobody in the Big 12 gets in, it’s because there’s four other teams that are supposed to be better,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said, reminding everyone that the league does still have two undefeated teams.
Only No. 13 Baylor (4-0), the league’s highest-ranked team , and West Virginia (3-0) are still without a loss. And they don’t meet until the first Saturday in December when the Big 12, which resumes its title game in 2017, wraps up the regular season on the championship weekend for the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC.
Even though TCU won its Big 12 opener, the Horned Frogs didn’t make it through their non-conference schedule undefeated. Oklahoma State has already lost twice.
While Oklahoma gets ready for its conference opener at TCU this Saturday with a clean slate in pursuit of the 10th Big 12 title — the Sooners were the overwhelming preseason favorite to win — there are no do-overs for two September losses that pretty much knocked them out of contention for a second straight playoff appearance.
Acting Baylor head coach Jim Grobe said it is too early to declare the Bears, or anyone else, a favorite to win the conference title.
“We need to not only see our team play a few more times, but obviously see the other teams play, before you start to draw a bead on who the stronger teams are,” he said.
So just how did the Big 12 already get to this point, and what’s to come with only conference games left the next 10 weekends:
NOT SO POWERFUL
The Big 12 went 2-6 against teams from the other Power Five conferences. There was that double-overtime victory by Texas over then-No. 10 Notre Dame in the season opener, but the Fighting Irish have since lost to Michigan State and Duke, falling to 1-3 and out of playoff contention.
Oklahoma last season was the first Big 12 team to get into the playoff , and with a No. 3 preseason ranking, the Sooners were expected to be in the mix again in 2016. But they opened with a 10-point loss in Houston and are coming off a 45-24 home loss to Ohio State. After a week off, their focus is now on winning another conference title.
“Sometimes you’re not as far off as people want to project that you are,” coach Bob Stoops said.
Baylor is 4-0 for the fourth consecutive season, a program first, and the Bears should still be undefeated when they go to Texas on the final Saturday of October. After going to Iowa State on Saturday, they have an open date before hosting Kansas and then another open date. They also have home games against TCU and Kansas State, a trip to Oklahoma and a neutral site game against Texas Tech before the finale in West Virginia.
UP IN THE MOUNTAINS
While unranked, West Virginia is undefeated, including the season opener over Missouri and last weekend against BYU. Now in their fifth Big 12 season, maybe the Mountaineers are ready to challenges for the conference title.
“I’d like to think so. I think our team believes that,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “We’ve got confidence in our abilities and we think we’re pretty good.” In addition to Baylor, WVU is home against TCU and Oklahoma State.
FORT WORTH FRENZY
Had No. 21 TCU finished off its rally at home against Arkansas, the Horned Frogs would be right in the middle of the playoff conversation and maybe in the top 10. While losing three of four to Oklahoma since joining the Big 12, those losses were by a combined 11 points. TCU gets both Oklahoma teams at home, but has to go to West Virginia and Baylor.
Oklahoma State was on the verge of taking the lead in its Big 12 opener at Baylor last week before a fumble, and the Bears then drove 99 yards for the final score in a 35-24 victory. The Cowboys, who started 10-0 last season, will have to play four of their last six games on the road.