For about 30 anxious, heart-pounding minutes after Kansas State wrapped up its ninth straight win of the season with a fairly convincing 44-30 victory over Oklahoma State Saturday night, the Wildcats stood on the threshold, primed to ascend to the rarified air at the summit of the college football world.
Top-ranked Alabama had fallen behind LSU in their rematch of last season's BCS Championship game, and with only a minute and a half left in the game and the Crimson Tide deep in its own territory and without any remaining timeouts, the chances of turning the tide and avoiding going down to defeat appeared very bleak. Only that's what great teams do. They stare down adversity and find a way to overcome it, which is precisely what Alabama did, marching down the field, only using about 30 seconds in the process.
It was like a near-heavenly experience for Kansas State and all of its Cat-backers who were hoping for a shakeup Saturday that could have knocked one, two or even three teams from the unbeaten ranks, leaving Kansas State as the only undefeated team and with a firm hold on the top spot in the rankings. A scenario like this, though, seemed about as far fetched as predicting San Francisco to win the World Series after the Giants lost the first two games at home and had to go to Cincinnati in the best three-of-five NL division series.
At the end of the day, all of the teams in serious contention to be the last two teams standing on Selection Sunday a month from now survived. Now we move on to Week 11 in the 2012 season with nothing changed from a week ago and Kansas State still very much in the thick of things, but with an easier path to the finish line than its three main challengers. The Wildcats have TCU on Saturday and Baylor and Texas left on the schedule. Notre Dame still has to go to dangerous and top-25-ranked USC in a couple of weeks, and both Oregon and Alabama have conference championship games as potential stumbling blocks.
So with the Big 12 championship theirs to lose, Kansas State appears to be sitting pretty in the race to play for the national championship. But it is that same easy road that potentially and pragmatically could keep the Wildcats on the outside looking in because of the differentiating factor called composite body of work. The best way to assure something unthinkable like that doesn't happen is to take care of your own business and hope two of the other contenders stumble along the way.
Preseason conference favorite Oklahoma, whose one conference loss thus far was to Kansas State, remained in the hunt for an eighth conference championship with an important road win at Iowa State. It was the Sooners 21st consecutive win over the Cyclones at Ames; OU is 70-5-2 all time against Iowa State. The halftime score was only 14-6, despite the fact that OU outgained Iowa State 325-84 in the first half. The Sooners will be favored in all of their remaining league games, but they cannot win the conference title outright unless Kansas State loses two of its final three league contests.
Three weeks ago, West Virginia was undefeated and appeared to have the front runner in the 2012 Heisman race in senior quarterback Geno Smith, who was putting up monstrous passing numbers. We all know how fast things can change, and for the Mountaineers, things turned ugly very fast. First they were blown out at Texas Tech, then Kansas State put an even more humiliating home defeat on them a week later.
The Mountaineers came off a bye week on Saturday, but couldn't hold on to a 10-point lead and lost in overtime to fellow Big 12 newcomer TCU. The Horned Frogs successfully went for a two-point conversion in the first overtime period to cap off a 39-38 win, sending the Mountaineers to a third consecutive league defeat.
Elsewhere in the conference, Kansas hung around for about half the game at Baylor, but couldn't muster a point in the second half, while Baylor ran off 21 unanswered en route to a 41-14 victory and its first conference win this season. And the enigmatic Texas Longhorns won for a second consecutive week on the road, turning back penalty-prone Texas Tech 31-20 in Lubbock behind a three-touchdown passing performance by Texas quarterback David Ash.
Here are some fascinating facts and figures from the Big 12 games this past weekend:
Five things we learned from Week 10 in Big 12 football
- The Kansas State defense turned five Oklahoma State turnovers into 21 of the Cats' 44 points in the Saturday night primetime TV game. The Wildcats have now scored 111 points off turnovers this season while holding their nine opponents to zero points off of Kansas State turnovers. That's championship performance.
- Kansas running back James Sims rushed for 126 yards against Baylor, including a 59-yard touchdown run. It was his fifth straight game of 100 or more rushing yards, making him the first Jayhawk since Laverne Smith in 1974 to accomplish that feat.
- Oklahoma's win over Iowa State on Saturday was the 145th in his head coaching career, tying him with the legendary Bud Wilkinson as the second winningest coach in Sooner program history behind Barry Switzer (157).
- In its four victories this season, Baylor has a plus-eight turnover margin; in the Bears' four losses, they have a turnover margin of minus-11. Saturday was the 103rd homecoming game at Baylor, credited with holding the country's first homecoming in 1909, according to the Big 12 Conference.
- Tyler Lockett of Kansas State had a 100-yard touchdown run vs. Oklahoma State. It was his fourth kickoff return for a touchdown in his career, tying him for the second most in Big 12 history.
Next Weekend's Big 12 Schedule
Kansas State @ TCU
Kansas @ Texas Tech
Baylor @ Oklahoma
West Virginia @ Oklahoma State
Iowa State @ Texas
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