Race for the Big 12 Championship
The Big 12 is not as boring as the majority of the college fan base pegs it to be, or at least not anymore. With new teams and more experienced ball clubs, this year could be one of the more competitive seasons the conference has ever seen.
While Oklahoma comes into 2012 as the odds on favorite, expectations are not too much lower for newcomers West Virginia or TCU, as well as undersold teams such as Texas and Kansas State. All of these programs are looking to make a statement this season. With a conference this stacked, and no conference championship game, just one regular season showdown could shake up the entire outlook of the Big 12.
Here are the Top 10 Big 12 games you don’t want to miss this season.
10. Baylor vs. Texas Tech - Arlington, Tx. (Cowboys Stadium) - November 24 (Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Shootout)
Leave it to Baylor and Texas Tech to come up with such a prosaic rivalry name: Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Shootout. Yeah, try saying that one five times fast.
These two teams are probably not expected to be the national story of the week in late November, but this will be a great game regardless. In the two-year lifespan of this rivalry played in Dallas, the average score between the Bears and Red Raiders has totaled nearly 100 points each year. Expect similar things from these clubs this season, as they will rely on each of their quarterbacks to toss for at least 400 yards against their sub-par defenses.
9. Texas at Oklahoma State - Stillwater, Ok. – September 29
Oklahoma State has historically struggled against the Texas Longhorns. Despite having a 35-7 lead in Austin in 2004 (Final: 56-35, Texas), and a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter in 2007 (Final: 38-35, Texas), they just couldn’t pull off the win But that all changed after Colt McCoy left and the Cowboys began their prime.
For the last two seasons, Oklahoma State has walked into Austin with a chip on their shoulder, and walked away with a double-digit win. Now the question is, will they flop without their star offensive players against a good defense, or will the defending conference champions come out on fire in their conference opener at home.
Many expect Texas to power past this team as they enter a difficult stretch of games, but Mike Gundy won’t be pushed around. After all, he is a man. He’s older than 40.
8. Oklahoma State at Kansas State – Manhattan, Ks. – November 3
Last year, this game was a shootout by every definition of the word. OSU escaped with a 52-45 victory at home, but what the nation really saw was that Kansas State should not be taken lightly. The Wildcats defense picked off Brandon Weeden twice, and Collin Klein threw for 231 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for more than 100 yards and three touchdowns.
Just like last year, this first game in November could help decide who is in the driver’s seat for a conference championship. It’s a long shot, but regardless, this will be a great game.
7. TCU at West Virginia – Morgantown, Wv. – November 3
Let's hope your head is not too dizzy from what may be a Wildcat/Cowboy classic, because, on the same day, the two newcomers meet each other for a Big 12 rookie-on-rookie challenge.
A year ago, people thought this was going to be a Big East matchup, but let’s be honest, each of these teams have some sort of standard. Neither of these programs have played each other before, and if both teams are on a roll coming into November, their will be a lot more on the line than simply pride.
6. TCU at Baylor – Waco, Tx. – October 13
Remember this game last year? Just like the Alamo bowl that pitted Baylor against Washington, it seemed as if both defenses were wearing roller skates. The secondary was absolutely abysmal, and almost as bad as the camera work for that game (ESPN apparently doesn’t produce the best staff for Friday night college games). However, this game provided what this nation loves to watch: a future Heisman winner heave touchdown after touchdown on national TV.
The most incredible thing about this diamond in the rough rivalry, though, is that neither team leads the all-time series after 107 games. 50-50-7 is what the all-time record stands at coming into 2012.
5. WVU at Texas – Austin, Tx. – October 6
This will be West Virginia’s first road test of the year, and man, did they pick a dandy to lead off with. The only time these teams have played each other was in 1956, when West Virginia walked away with a 7-6 victory. With the talent of this Texas defense and inexperience of their offense, fans might expect similar numbers.
We can look forward to the high potent offense of Geno Smith and the Mountaineers, versus the gritty defense of the Longhorns. It's fair to say that this is no trap game, and could be a bloodbath before Texas heads to Dallas for their biggest game of the year, but that’s later on this list.
4. Texas at Kansas State – Manhattan, Ks. – December 1
Texas is the second winningest team in Division 1A College Football history. Kansas State is in the bottom ten of lowest winning percentage in the same division. However, the Wildcats lead the series 7-5, and haven’t lost to the Longhorns since 2003. I don’t know what it is about these Snyder teams, but they are Texas’ kryptonite, and have ruined some great seasons.
Last season, these gritty kittens came into Austin and walked away with a 17-13 victory, albeit, with a questionable “halo rule” call on a punt return. The 'Cats managed to rack up a measly 120 yards of offense against the Horns’ defense.
This year, the Kansas State faithful look forward to welcoming Texas into Snyder Family Stadium, while the Longhorn fans will appreciate the seven connecting flights it will probably take to get there. I hear Canada is beautiful that time of year…
3. Oklahoma at Texas Tech – Lubbock, Tx. – October 6
Last year, this showdown was possibly the biggest shake-up the BCS had seen at the time. Don’t get me wrong, I love an underdog story just as much as anyone else. Just look at some of the greatest hits: The Rocky series, Hoosiers, Star Wars, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I mean the list goes on and on.
However, no one dishes payback quite like Bob Stoops. As the Sooners come into this game ready to bite the head off a grizzly bear, the Tech students will look to distract them and stall their offense by throwing tortillas at them and destroying their own stadium in the process. You know, the normal Tech experience.
2. Texas vs. Oklahoma – Dallas, Tx. (Cotton Bowl) – October 15 (Red River Rivalry)
Geez, where to begin with this one? In what many call the best rivalry game each year, Texas is going to need nothing short of a perfect game to walk away with a victory in this showdown, but it’s not like the situation is much different for the Sooners either.
Last year, Oklahoma’s defense had three touchdowns, which is 18 points. Texas had 17 points total. If that doesn’t quite sum up the beat down that the Longhorns took last year, I don’t know what does. That 55-17 loss in 2011 was basically an affirmation of what the 'Horns have faced the past dozen years, having lost eight of the last twelve meetings.
Assume a different kind of play this year, as many of the 'Horns that went through that slamming have come back for revenge; and rest assured the Sooners will be ready to answer the call. Don’t be surprised if both teams come in to this mid-season game undefeated.
1. Oklahoma at West Virginia – Morgantown, Wv. – November 17
You guessed it, Oklahoma again. As each team’s tenth game of the season, this one may as well determine who will be crowned the Big 12 (minus 1, minus 1, minus 2, plus 2) champion of 2012.
After being tabbed the preseason No. 1 team in 2011, “Big Game Bob” had somewhat of an absence last year in his marquee matchups, and that landed his team in the Insight Bowl against Iowa. You know who cares about the Insight Bowl? Almost nobody, and until an ESPN skycam fell and almost put an Iowa receiver out of commission, it was a pretty dull game.
Stoops and his visor know to expect big things though, and this year, the Sooners look to bulldoze over anybody in their path. They are the favorite to win the Big 12, and could most likely face another SEC team in the national title game, according to most experts.
But not so fast - these Mountaineers aren’t pushovers. They didn’t put up almost 100 points in the Orange Bowl last year because of a fluke. They did it because Geno Smith was wearing his own Superman socks, and threw for six touchdowns. Now, Oklahoma isn’t the type of team to give up those numbers, but in November anything can transpire, and if the grizzly men up north are in a position to take the conference title their first year, they will do anything to make it happen.
Keep Reading >> SEC Games You Don’t Want to Miss for 2012