Entering conference play five weeks ago, there were five unbeaten Big 12 teams among the 15 or so schools across the country that sported perfect records at that point in the season. Now, entering Week 10 in the college football season, only one Big 12 school remains among the small, elite group of unbeatens, and five of the six sit in the top five of the BCS standings.
The number of teams yet to suffer a loss this season will drop by at least one after this Saturday following the highly anticipated matchup of No. 1 LSU vs. No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Just two weeks ago, it appeared like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, sitting at three and four, respectively, in the national rankings would be headed down the same road, but not till the final conference game of the season, constituting something of a national playoff, if nothing in the SEC or the Big 12 changed before then. The winners of those two must-see games could then battle it out for the national championship and, for once in a blue moon, there would be no debate about which team is more deserving.
The aforementioned scenario is wishful fantasy, as we all now know, with Oklahoma having suffered a stunning upset by Texas Tech, an unsuspecting team that sandwiched back-to-back home losses to Kansas State and Iowa State before shredding the Sooners and their 39-game home winning streak at Gaylord Family-OU Memorial Stadium. The following week, Oklahoma takes out its frustration on unbeaten and top-ten-ranked Kansas State by a margin of 41 points in Manhattan. Go figure.
Meanwhile, that band of Cowboys down in Stillwater continues to rumble along. Baylor, a top-ten ranked offense nationally, was Oklahoma State's latest victim, and it wasn't even close: 59 to 24 in favor of Oklahoma State (it was 49-3 beginning the fourth quarter).
What We Learned From the Week 9 Big 12 Action
- Oklahoma State is poised to advance to the runner-up position in the BCS standings, depending on the outcome of the LSU-Alabama game on Saturday. If the Tigers and Tide were to tie or the final score is only a field-goal difference, however, it is highly conceivable that the current standings will remain unchanged, except for a potential flip-flop of the top two spots. That would be a huge slap in the face for OSU - of course, all of that depends on the Cowboys averting an upset bid by Kansas State in Stillwater in a game that will be airing at the same time as LSU-Alabama. If you don't think a K-State upset is possible, I remind you of what happened in Norman the Saturday before last.
- The 43-0 shutout suffered by Kansas at Texas over the weekend was the first time the Jayhawks had failed to score in a game since 2002. What's more, Turner Gill's team only managed three first downs the entire game against Texas. If KU's second-year coach makes it beyond this season, it will be a minor miracle. Kansas has won only three games total under Gill and only one in the conference, and that was over a team (Colorado) that is no longer in the Big 12. Normally, a new coach would be given at least three-to-five years to prove himself (after all, it takes that long to get your own players in the system), but KU's situation has advanced beyond that, it seems. It's not so much that Kansas is losing, it's how the team is losing - by huge scoring margins. After playing a fairly decent game against Oklahoma two weeks ago, the Jayhawks weren't even competitive against Texas - and that was after two weeks between games.
- Does anybody in the Big 12 play defense? The average score in league games this season is 46 to 24. According to this week's NCAA national rankings, five Big 12 teams are in the top 14 in the country in total offense. Oklahoma State (2), Oklahoma (5), Baylor (9), Texas A&M (T-12) and Texas Tech (14) are all averaging 39 points or more a game. Oklahoma is the highest ranked Big 12 in scoring defense, giving up 19 points a game. The only other conference teams in the top 50 nationally are Texas and Kansas State. This has been the Big 12's problem for years now: Great offenses, not-so-great defensively.
- After starting off like a gangbusters, winning its first three games, including a big season-opening victory over soon-to-be-in-the-Big 12 TCU, Baylor has dropped three of its last four and two in a row. The Bears' last two losses have been by margins of four touchdowns each to Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. This weekend is homecoming in Waco as Robert Griffin III & Co. take on up-and-down Missouri. If the Bears fail to get back on the winning track against Mizzou, they are in jeopardy of dropping to next to last in the conference standings after starting out the year ranked in the top 20 in the land.
- Three conference teams (Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Kansas State are bowl eligible (more than six wins) with one-third of the season still to go, and three others (Texas A&M, Texas and Texas Tech, all with five wins) are within one win or reaching that mark. Missouri, Baylor and Iowa State have four victories on the season, and with four games remaining, each school has a good chance of becoming bowl eligible. If that were to happen, Kansas would be the only team in the 10-team conference not to become bowl eligible. The Big 12 has had eight bowl representatives seven times in its history (all when the league was composed of 12 teams), but never more than that.