It’s anyone’s ballgame.
“Anybody can beat anybody,” Texas coach Mack Brown said.
Never before has that been truer in the Big 12. And never was it more evident than Saturday.
In Dallas, the Longhorns pulled a Lazarus and whipped the heavily-favored Sooners 36-20 in a Red River rout that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
In Manhattan, Baylor outgained Kansas State by a single yard in a 35-25 win that was closer than the final score.
And in Lubbock, Texas Tech became bowl-eligible but couldn’t rest easy until after an onside kick bounced in and out of the hands of Iowa State’s Deon Broomfield in the final minutes of a 42-35 victory.
Going into the weekend, Baylor, armed with the nation’s No. 1 offense, looked like the team to beat in the Big 12.
In their first venture away from Waco, the Bears looked beatable.
Despite missing injured receivers Tramaine Thompson and Tyler Lockett, K-State generated more first downs (23 to 15) and rushing yards (327 to 114) than Baylor, which went just 4-of-13 on third downs. Quarterback Bryce Petty burned the Wildcats with three long touchdowns passes.
Otherwise, K-State, which is still searching for its first Big 12 win, outplayed the Bears.
Sams rushed for 199 yards and three touchdowns for the Wildcats, who led 25-21 in the fourth quarter. But K-State failed on a pair of 2-point conversion attempts in the third quarter, then misfired on a 41-yard field goal attempt that would have tied the game with 6:49 remaining.
The Wildcats' defense forced Baylor to punt a sixth time (Baylor had punted seven times its first four games combined). But Sams was intercepted on the ensuing drive, and Glasco Martin punched the ball into the end zone to finally put K-State away.
"We knew the way this season had gone, it wasn't going to continue like that," Baylor coach Art Briles said. "Everything had been in our favor, four games at home, catching everyone at a good time. We knew it would change."
Texas Tech, the league surprise, could wind up being Baylor’s biggest threat to the Big 12 crown. The Red Raiders moved to 6-0 for the first time since 2008, when Tech rose to as high as No. 2 in the country.
Saturday, the Red Raiders dominated the box score in Davis Webb’s first start at quarterback, as Tech doubled up Iowa State in yards and first downs.
But all afternoon, the Red Raiders gave up huge plays on special teams. They also committed three turnovers, which allowed the Cyclones to hang around.
Tech was good enough to overcome such miscues against Iowa State. But that won’t fly against a back-loaded second half of the schedule that includes Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Baylor.
“Anytime you lose a turnover battle 3-0 and pretty much get dominated on special teams and still win the game, you have a chance to have a pretty good team,” coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “That was exciting they found a way to win, but we have lots of areas to improve upon.”
A week ago, it appeared the Longhorns had too many areas to improve upon, as the clamor for a coaching change in Austin had reached an all-time high.
Suddenly, Brown has the Longhorns sitting at 3-0 in the Big 12.
In the Cotton Bowl, Case McCoy delivered some throws worthy of his older brother, Colt, and the Texas offensive line took it to Oklahoma in the rivalry’s biggest upset in 17 years.
The Longhorns didn’t just beat the Sooners. They demoralized them.
With the Longhorns dominating the line of scrimmage, Gray and backfield wingman Malcolm Brown became the first Texas duo to each rush for more than 100 yards in the same Red River game.
On the other side of the ball, the Longhorns loaded up against the run and dared Blake Bell to beat man coverage with the pass. Bell, who went 12-of-26 for 133 yards and two interceptions, couldn’t make them pay, either. That's a troubling sign for the Sooners going forward as they try to stick in a conference race.
A race with several teams good enough to win it. But none showed Saturday that they were good enough to run away with it.
"We're not in the grave. We're crawling out," Brown said of his team. "We're actually alive. And still have a chance to win the Big 12 and go to the BCS."
So is half the league. So does half the league.