Big 12 second-half preview

The Big 12 Conference remains as wide open today as it was when the season kicked off Aug. 31. Baylor has risen to favorite status by embarrassing, overwhelming and outscoring opponents for the majority of the first half of the season. Yet, as Saturday’s thriller against Kansas State showed, the Bears aren’t head and shoulders above everyone in the league.

Thus the second half of the season is full of intrigue. Can Baylor continue to cruise through its schedule? Will Kliff Kingsbury’s Texas Tech squad continue to win with multiple quarterbacks? Will any of the teams who have stumbled in the first half get on a roll and rally to win a Big 12 title?

It’s hard to call anyone but the Bears the favorite heading into the second half of the season thanks to their explosive speed and basketful of playmakers on offense. And, most importantly, Bryce Petty at the helm, which gives the Bears something the majority of the Big 12 would love to have: a superb quarterback who has consistently played well.

The lone certainty heading into the final weeks of the season is that we finally will get answers. Key plays will be made, close games will be decided in the final moments and a champion will be crowned. Who will it be?

Bold prediction: The Big 12 champion will have two losses. Two losses? Yep, the conference features a large group of teams that can beat each other on any given Saturday. No conference team is so dominant that it will cruise unblemished through the rest of its conference schedule.

Looking forward to: A bunch of close, competitive games between teams that are battling to win the Big 12 title each and every Saturday in November. The top of the conference will be defined in the final quarter of games, and we’ll get to see which Big 12 standouts are clutch in those key moments and which stars get dimmer in pressure situations.

Top five games

Texas Tech at Oklahoma, Oct. 26: The Red Raiders get the opportunity to prove just how legit they are when they travel to Norman, Okla., before Halloween. A second straight win at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium would do wonders for the Red Raiders’ Big 12 title hopes.

Texas at TCU, Oct. 26: It sounds weird, but the Longhorns' next game is critical, and the Horned Frogs will provide a stern test. After a bye this weekend, Texas can prove the Red River Rivalry was no fluke with a dominant win in Fort Worth, Texas.

Oklahoma at Baylor, Nov. 7: Even with the Sooners' loss, this game remains one of the highlight contests of the second half of the season. The Bears' offense against OU's defense will be entertaining to watch.

Texas Tech vs. Baylor (in Arlington, Texas), Nov. 16: If both teams continue their first-half success, this game could decide the Big 12 title. Just like we thought before the season began.

Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, Dec. 7: Bedlam is always entertaining to watch, and this season should be no different. Add UT's trip to Baylor, and Dec. 7 becomes a terrific final weekend for the regular season.