Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Remaining schedule: Texas, at Colorado, Baylor, at Kansas State, Iowa State, Kansas (at Kansas City).
After early storming through the nonconference part of their schedule with four resounding triumphs, the Tigers have fallen back down to earth with losses to Nebraska and Oklahoma State that have dropped them into the early North cellar. The Tigers’ offense has struggled with Blaine Gabbert’s ankle injury dragging them down. And their offense has been unbalanced as they’ve produced 91 rushing yards or fewer in each of their past three games. Gabbert has looked less-than-ordinary in conference play, passing for one touchdown with five interceptions in his past two games. That compares to a 12-0 touchdown-to-interception ration in his first four games. The Tigers have played well in several defensive categories, ranking fifth in points allowed, fourth in yards per game and third in pass defense. But they rank last in takeaways, sacks and interceptions. If they can start making those big plays, they can get back into contention in a Big 12 North race that should be relatively equal. Getting back into the title hunt isn't out of the question, even after the two early losses.
Best-case scenario: The Tigers suddenly find the turnover magic and start wreaking havoc on Big 12 offenses. They navigate a manageable four-game stretch -- at Colorado, Baylor, at Kansas State and Iowa State -- and finish with a resounding victory over Kansas that sends them storming on a good bowl trip.
Worst-case scenario: Gabbert’s foot doesn’t get any better during the rest of the season, resulting in worsening performances. The defense not only can’t make turnovers but starts giving up chunks of yards. The Tigers claim only two victories the rest of the season and slink into a low-level bowl. It’s a huge comedown from back-to-back championship game appearances in the Chase Daniel/Jeremy Maclin era.
My prediction: Low-level bowl trip. The Tigers will beat the teams they should down the stretch and also get some revenge from Kansas in their annual end-of-season battle. It will give them a 7-5 record. It might not be what Gary Pinkel wanted, but still an accomplishment considering the massive turnover from last season’s team.