In this week's Big 12 roundtable, we give our X-factors in the games between Oklahoma State-Baylor and Oklahoma-TCU:
Baylor's X-factor in Stillwater?
Max Olson: Andrew Billings is always an X-factor and continues to be one of the Big 12’s most dominant players. But fellow defensive tackles Beau Blackshear and Byron Bonds are doubtful with injuries this week. The only other DT on the depth chart, Andrew Morris, is a redshirt freshman. If Baylor has to lean on three-man fronts, Billings might have to fight through double-teams all night.
Brandon Chatmon: Tackle Spencer Drango will be a key for Baylor, starting with this weekend’s head-to-head matchup with Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah. It’s easy to forget that Drango’s absence played a key role the last time Baylor headed to Stillwater and got hammered, 49-17, in 2013. With the health of true freshman quarterback Jarrett Stidham in question, the Bears will need Drango to set the tone for the entire offensive line while helping to protect Baylor’s young quarterback against the likes of Ogbah, TCU’s Josh Carraway and Texas’ Peter Jinkens.
Jake Trotter: With Stidham banged up, it's going to be paramount the Bears do a better job of keeping him upright than they did against Oklahoma. That won't be easy. Led by Ogbah, Oklahoma State has a defensive front just as capable as the Sooners' of getting to the QB. The Cowboys will probably line up Ogbah opposite Drango on several snaps to give him a better chance of getting to Stidham. That means the pressure will be on Baylor right tackle Pat Colbert to hold his own. The Bears will need a strong performance from him.
Oklahoma State's X-factor against the Bears?
Olson: Samaje Perine, Joe Hubener and Mike Warren all surpassed 140 rushing yards against the Bears. Can Oklahoma State running backs Raymond Taylor and Chris Carson pound the Bears and provide the offensive balance needed to control this game? The Pokes haven’t had a back go for 100 yards against Baylor since 2011.
Chatmon: Things could have went south for Oklahoma State’s defense when the Cowboys lost senior linebacker Ryan Simmons, one of their defensive leaders, for the season. Instead, Cal transfer Chad Whitener has been outstanding as Simmons’ replacement. Whitener earned Big 12 defensive player of the week honors with his performance against TCU (12 tackles, two interceptions) and looks ready to be a impact player in Oklahoma State’s final two games.
Trotter: Top-notch receivers have brought out the best in Oklahoma State senior cornerback Kevin Peterson. With help from his safeties, Peterson was brilliant last year against West Virginia's Kevin White and solid two weeks ago in the first half when matched up against TCU's Josh Doctson, before Doctson was injured. The Cowboys will need another sterling showing from Peterson, who will be tasked with leading the charge to contain Baylor's Corey Coleman.
TCU's X-factor in Norman?
Olson: TCU needs a strong performance from Nick Orr. Or Corry O’Meally. Or Julius Lewis. Whoever the starters are at cornerback on Saturday night -- TCU has rotated them a bunch -- must bring their ‘A’ game. All three got burned for big plays against Oklahoma State. Baker Mayfield’s gift for extending plays buys more time for his receivers and puts more pressure on these corners.
Chatmon: Shaun Nixon has seen his role increase during November, becoming a key playmaker in the Horned Frogs’ passing game. The freshman running back has 15 receptions for 224 yards in TCU’s past two games with Doctson hampered. Now that Doctson is done for the rest of the regular season, Nixon could be the X-factor in TCU’s offense.
Trotter: With Doctson out, the pressure is going to fall on Kolby Listenbee to fill the role of No. 1 receiver. After battling an injury himself earlier this year, Listenbee really hasn't broken out this season. Saturday would be a good time for him to do so. Listenbee has the speed and talent to fill the role of No. 1 receiver. He'll have to elevate his game to that level for TCU to have a chance of pulling the upset.
Oklahoma's X-factor against the Horned Frogs?
Olson: If my starting quarterback is injured or inexperienced, the last thing I want to see is Eric Striker coming after him. Whether it’s a banged-up Trevone Boykin behind center or redshirt freshman Foster Sawyer making his first career start, Striker is going to be doing some headhunting against TCU.
Chatmon: Defensive tackle Charles Walker has quietly emerged as a force along Oklahoma’s defensive line and could be an X-factor as the Sooners battle for a spot in the College Football Playoff. The sophomore combines eye-popping athleticism with terrific size to create havoc in the opposing backfield. And with offenses forced to contend with Eric Striker and Charles Tapper alongside him, Walker could start making a name for himself in Oklahoma’s final two games.
Trotter: True freshman KaVontae Turpin has been electric out of the slot this season. The onus will fall largely on nickleback Will Johnson to keep him contained. Johnson has been terrific since taking over in the starting lineup during Oklahoma's five-game winning streak. Another steady performance from him will be key.