Big 12 pregame: OU-Baylor highlights a full Saturday
A full Big 12 Saturday is highlighted by one of college football’s biggest games, OU-Baylor in Waco. Here is how I rank the five Big 12 games, plus an upset special from the Lone Star State and a coach on the hot seat not because his job is in jeopardy but because of great opportunity.
1. Oklahoma at Baylor, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, ABC: The Sooners’ other two trips to glittering McLane Stadium were great games – OU victories of 44-34 in 2015 and 49-41 in 2017.
2. Texas at Iowa State, 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Fox Sports1: The temperature forecast for Saturday is a high of 42 in Ames, but the Cyclones want the Longhorns thinking it’s going to be 22.
3. TCU at Texas Tech, 11 a.m. Saturday, ESPN2: The road team has lost four straight in this series.
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4. Kansas at Oklahoma State, 11 a.m. Saturday, Fox Sports1: Les Miles returns to Stillwater. Not many Big 12 schools hire coaches who served at other Big 12 schools. This isn’t the SEC.
5. West Virginia at Kansas State, 2:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN: K-State could go into the season finale against Iowa State with a chance to be 9-3. That would be quite a season.
UPSET SPECIAL: Texas Tech over TCU
Texas Tech has had a strange season in Matt Wells’ first season as the head coach. The Red Raiders are 4-5, despite continuing the recent-seasons Tech trend of playing decent defense.
Tech lost in double overtime at Baylor, and the Big 12 office admitted to an officiating error that might have given the Red Raiders a victory. And Tech lost that crazy game at Kansas, on a fumble after a blocked field goal. Give the Red Raiders those two wins, and they’re 6-3 and still in the Big 12 championship hunt.
Now Tech hosts TCU, another 4-5 team that has a better reputation than does Tech but no better record.
The loser Saturday in Lubbock is in danger of not going to a bowl. Tech finishes by hosting Kansas State and playing at Texas. TCU finishes by playing at OU, then hosting West Virginia.
Since mid-September, Tech has been playing without quarterback Alan Bowman. But backup Jett Duffey has been getting better and better. The Horned Frogs are 3-point favorites against Tech, but let’s go with the Red Raiders in the upset.
Big 12 upset special record: 5-6
COACH ON THE HOT SEAT: Matt Rhule
In Waco, Rhule is more popular than Joanna Gaines, the Fixer Upper maven who will be ESPN GameDay’s guest picker on Saturday.
Rhule has rebuilt Baylor football from the ashes of the Art Briles scandal. The Bears are 9-0 and ranked 13th (vastly underrated) Saturday as they host No. 10 Oklahoma.
But Rhule is under the gun against the Sooners, because chances like this don’t come around often for Baylor. A couple of games this big were played in the Briles era, perhaps none in the Grant Teaff salad days.
A victory puts Baylor squarely in College Football Playoff contention. Maybe in the driver’s seat for the expected fourth slot, behind LSU, Ohio State and Clemson. The Bears have slipped through serious jeopardy this season – a combined five overtimes against Texas Tech and TCU, a 17-14 squeaker over West Virginia, a fourth-quarter deficit at Stillwater.
Now Rhule has the chance to take Baylor from the prime time of ABC Saturday night, to an even bigger stage.