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At midway point, little has changed in Big 12 title race

Everything is falling into place for a huge showdown between TCU and Baylor at the end of November. Getty Images, ESPN Images

Before the season, the Big 12 race seemed to break down rather straightforwardly. Baylor and TCU appeared to be the clear co-favorites at the top; with the Oklahoma schools holding the best chance of toppling them.

At the midway point of the season, little has changed.

The unchallenged Bears and undefeated Horned Frogs remain the class of the conference; the Cowboys and Sooners continue to stalk from behind.

All of which has left the collision course toward November on track, when all four top teams will face one another in what still figures to be one wild month in the Big 12.

“Each game gets bigger,” Baylor cornerback Ryan Reid said.

Nowhere is that more the case than in Waco.

The Bears have cruised through the lighter part of their schedule, which has included only one opponent -- Texas Tech -- that currently has a winning record.

Saturday, Baylor lit up yet another foe in West Virginia, which, like everybody else, couldn’t keep pace with the Bears’ prolific offensive attack.

With a veteran offensive line and star-studded collection of skill players, this always had a chance to be coach Art Briles’ best offense yet.

So far, there’s nothing to suggest it isn’t.

The Bears lead the country with an average of almost 64 points per game. The nation’s No. 2 scoring offense -- TCU -- is averaging two touchdowns less. Over the weekend, Baylor joined 2008 Oklahoma as the only other team in the FBS modern era to put up at least 50 points in six straight games.

Through the first month-and-a-half, Seth Russell has filled Bryce Petty’s shoes at quarterback nicely. Shock Linwood keeps churning out big yardage between the tackles.

And wideout Corey Coleman has emerged as Baylor’s most dynamic player since Robert Griffin III. In fact, shortly after the Bears took care of West Virginia, 62-38, Dana Holgorsen proclaimed Coleman the best player in the country.

"We have a point to prove every time we step out on that field,” said Coleman, who himself has more touchdown grabs than 110 FBS offenses. “We have to put our foot down.”

TCU has kept the foot on the pedal on offense, as well.

Yes, injuries have rendered the Horned Frogs less effective defensively than they’ve been in the past under Gary Patterson. But the offense in Fort Worth has never been better -- starting with quarterback Trevone Boykin, who has surfaced as the biggest threat to LSU running back Leonard Fournette in the Heisman race. Boykin tops all Power 5 QBs in “expected points added” with every pass. He’s also led the Horned Frogs in rushing the last two games.

Above all, Boykin has come through in the clutch, putting the squad on his shoulders in the wins at Texas Tech and Kansas State.

With TCU being off this week, Patterson has a few extra days to continue his patchwork on the defense for the stretch run. But as long as the Horned Frogs have wideout Josh Doctson, running back Aaron Green and Boykin, they’re going to have a chance in every game, including the Black Friday showdown against Baylor.

“We’re done with the first half of the season,” Boykin said. “On to the second half.”

The Cowboys and Sooners survived the first half, as well, to remain alive in the Big 12 race.

Oklahoma State is 6-0, though defeated Texas and Kansas State with final-second Ben Grogan field goals, then West Virginia with a fourth-down J.W. Walsh touchdown dive in overtime.

Mike Gundy is winning differently than he has in the past. With the offensive line struggling to pave any running lanes, he has relied on his defense, which, to this point, has been the best in the Big 12.

To hang with Baylor and TCU, quarterback Mason Rudolph and the Cowboys will need to be a lot sharper offensively in November than they’ve been through mid-October. But at least Gundy can take solace in knowing he has a well-rounded defense that will give his team a chance every game.

While Oklahoma State has won in strange ways, Oklahoma has just been strange.

In the span of a week, the Sooners went from losing to Texas as 17 1/2-point favorites to obliterating Kansas State, 55-0, in Manhattan.

The Sooners aren’t as good as they played Saturday at K-State; but they aren’t as bad as they looked against the Longhorns, either.

So is Oklahoma a true contender? Saturday’s matchup with Texas Tech in the Baker Mayfield Bowl could serve as a proper barometer for November.

“We are not even halfway through the season, we have a long season ahead of us,” Sooners receiver Sterling Shepard said. “You have to keep pushing forward. You can’t look back.

"We know what we are capable of.”

When it comes to the Big 12 race, we know about as much we did in August -- the conference will be decided in November and it will be Baylor, TCU and the Oklahoma schools that decide it.