Here’s what to watch in the Big 12 this week:
1. Can Baylor rebound with a win? The Bears tumbled out of the BCS title race with their loss to Oklahoma State. Yet, Baylor can still have a special season. If BU wins its final two games against TCU and Texas, it can share the Big 12 title, even if OSU beats Oklahoma. If the Cowboys lose, the Bears could win the Big 12 title outright. Thus, they should be focused on returning to their pre-OSU form and refuse to let one chilly night in Stillwater snowball into multiple losses to end the season and ruin one of the best years in school history.
2. Will Texas get back on track? Much like the Bears, UT is recovering from a beatdown by the Cowboys in its last game. Yet, much like the Bears, the Longhorns' Big 12 title hopes remain with a similar scenario. Wins over Texas Tech and Baylor could earn them a co-championship with an outright title within reach with a Cowboys loss to OU. That’s where the similarities stop. The Longhorns have had far more struggles throughout the year than Baylor but they also have a proven ability to overcome adversity. Which UT team will show up in the season's final weeks?
3. Can the Bears and Longhorns set up a super Saturday on Dec. 7? If Baylor and Texas win on Saturday, it will set up a terrific final Saturday in the Big 12 with OU visiting OSU and UT visiting Baylor on Dec. 7. A Cowboys’ loss in the early game would set up a pseudo-Big 12 title game in the afternoon. A Cowboys win would still leave a co-championship on the table for the UT-BU winner. Either way, wins from those two schools this week will set up a terrific end to the conference season.
4. Will TCU salvage some hope with a upset? The Horned Frogs’ season hasn’t turned out like they would have hoped. Lackluster offense, turnovers and the injury bug have been like an anchor on the leg of their defense but TCU still could salvage something out of this season by upsetting Baylor. Coach Gary Patterson wanted to make this game like a bowl game for the bowl-less Horned Frogs and he’s had two weeks to prepare for Baylor’s offense. This reeks of a potential trap game for the reeling Bears.
5. Has Texas Tech learned from its no-win November? Kliff Kingsbury hopes so. The Red Raiders have not won a game since Oct. 19 against West Virginia. Worse yet, they haven’t been within double digits of their opponent since the eight-point loss to OU. With several young playmakers on the roster, TTU has the chance to show it has at least learned and grown from those disappointing defeats when it plays the Thanksgiving contest against UT.
6. What will Tyler Lockett do for an encore? The Kansas State receiver had 12 receptions for 278 yards and three touchdowns in the loss to OU. He can’t possibly match those numbers against Kansas, can he? He’s one of the conference’s top players and could continue to be unstoppable against the Jayhawks.
7. Will Iowa State or West Virginia head into the offseason with a win? The Cyclones and Mountaineers have been humbled this season after making bowl appearances in 2012. ISU is coming off a shutout over Kansas and WVU had a bye after the Jayhawks ruined its bowl chances. A WVU win could help Dana Holgorsen head into the postseason with some positive vibes while a ISU win would be a clear sign of the competitive nature of Paul Rhoads’ squad to win two games after losing seven straight to start conference play.
8. What’s the deal at quarterback in Lubbock? “They're all three healthy. So it will be between one of those three and see how it goes,” Kingsbury said this week. Baker Mayfield, Davis Webb and Michael Brewer are battling to start against the Longhorns on Thursday but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Brewer get a shot since we’ve seen what Mayfield and Webb can do.
9. Could there be an upset in the Sunflower Showdown? KU was taking consistent steps forward until its 34-0 loss to ISU last weekend, taking a clear step backward. But the Jayhawks can earn some bragging rights and grab some momentum with a win over KSU on Saturday. The Wildcats’ four-game winning streak was snapped by OU last Saturday but they’re still the clear favorite in the Sunflower Showdown. But, this Jayhawk squad has shown enough positive signs that that an upset it not completely out of the realm of possibility.
10. Are Iowa State and West Virginia supposed to be rivals? No, seriously, are they? Nothing says rivalry weekend like Iowa State against West Virginia. That said, rivalries must start somewhere, so in this age of new teams in new conferences, maybe these two teams can start building a rivalry with a close, contested battle on Saturday.