A Heisman Trophy winner and College Football Playoff team headlined Big 12 play in the 2017 regular season, but the conference had a whole lot more happening beyond Norman, Oklahoma. Some of the very best games on the college football docket this past autumn emanated from Big 12 country.
The high scores for which Big 12 teams are known shaped some of the conference's best games in the past campaign, but defensive heroics played their own role in some of the top matchups.
15 Best Big 12 Games of 2017 Regular Season
15. West Virginia 28, Kansas State 23 — Nov. 11
West Virginia has a reputation for putting up big point totals, and in the first half against Kansas State, that appeared to be the order of the day. Will Grier threw four touchdown passes before intermission, including what proved to be the game-winner to Ka'Raun White as time expired in the second quarter.
West Virginia's defense took over in a second half without a single Mountaineer point. By holding Kansas State to just a field goal after intermission, the West Virginia defense preserved the win.
14. Iowa State 14, TCU 7 — Oct. 28
Half of the Big 12 teams finished the regular season ranked No. 36 or better in scoring offense, but a pivotal outcome in the conference's playoff forecast was a defensive struggle. TCU went to Iowa State on the last weekend of October not just undefeated, but blowing through its competition by double digits. The Horned Frogs failed to even score in double digits at Iowa State, thanks to three turnovers generated by the Cyclones' defense.
Iowa State got all the offense it needed in the first half, scoring both of its touchdowns before halftime. It certainly wasn't a shootout like other marquee dates on the 2017 Big 12 calendar, but both defenses played an outstanding game.
13. West Virginia 46, Texas Tech 35 — Oct. 14
When Tre King ran 30 yards for a Texas Tech touchdown in the third quarter, the Red Raiders seemingly shut the door on West Virginia. Tech was ahead 35-18, and doing whatever it pleased on offense. Those were the last points the Red Raiders managed.
West Virginia rallied, mounting one of the more impressive comebacks of the college football season with 39 unanswered points in a 46-35 win. What's remarkable is the time from David Sills' touchdown reception, the first score after King's put Tech ahead by 18 points, to when the Mountaineers took the lead, was just 11 minutes.
12. Kansas State 20, Iowa State 19 — Nov. 25
Iowa State's season finale had an odd feel, with the Cyclones moving the ball effectively on Kansas State and completely stymying a Wildcats offense without quarterback Jesse Ertz. Once the Cyclones took a 19-7 lead in the second half, it appeared to be over. Then, Manhattan Magic kicked in.
Running back Alex Barnes threw a touchdown pass, and the Kansas State defense got a stop it absolutely had to have, giving the offense another chance. Skylar Thompson's touchdown strike to Isaiah Zuber as the clock read zeroes was one of the most thrilling plays of the year in Big 12 football.
11. Oklahoma State 41, Texas Tech 34 — Sept. 30
Mason Rudolph (above, right) capped a 79-yard drive with a little more than one minute remaining by running in a 16-yard touchdown. That proved to be the game-winner against a Texas Tech team that refused to go down.
The Red Raiders let an initial, 14-7 advantage slip away, then battled back from two different two-touchdown gaps. Texas Tech forced a 34-34 tie in the fourth quarter after trailing by two scores, setting up Rudolph's game-winning drive and play.
10. Texas Tech 27, Texas 23 — Nov. 25
Both Texas and Texas Tech endured ups and downs in 2017, and their regular-season finale matchup became a microcosm for their struggles. Texas started off on a high, building two different leads of 10 points by halftime and then in the fourth quarter. It was a low for Texas Tech, which seemed headed for a sub-.500 finish and no bowl game.
However, two three-and-out Texas possessions and an interception flipped the script. Nic Shimonek's touchdown pass to Cameron Batson after the pick made deep in Texas territory capitalized on a huge blunder. The win punched Texas Tech's invitation to the postseason, and affored head coach Kliff Kingsbury another season.
9. Oklahoma 49, Baylor 41 — Sept. 23
Baylor suffered through a difficult 2017, finishing 1-11 in Matt Rhule's first season as head coach and playing under the cloud of scandal left by the previous regime. Despite polar opposite records to close the regular season, however, the Bears went stride-for-stride with Oklahoma in their meeting.
Baylor held a lead at one point in the second half before Oklahoma rolled off 21 straight points. The Bears went down swinging, however, with quarterback Zach Smith throwing the last of his four touchdown passes to make it a one-score game.
8. Oklahoma 29, Texas 24 — Oct. 14
The old cliche "throw out the records" for a rivalry contest is very much the truth for the Red River Showdown. Though Texas football has been down for the better part of seven years, the Longhorns often find ways to give the Sooners fit — if not win outright.
This time around, the eventual Big 12 champions built a 20-0 lead and seemed ready to hit cruise control. However, Sam Ehlinger led the Longhorns on some scoring drives while the Texas defense buckled down. The result was a short-lived Texas advantage undone on a 59-yard Baker Mayfield touchdown pass to Mark Andrews.
7. Kansas State 45, Oklahoma State 40 — Nov. 18
Byron Pringle is not a name anyone in Stillwater, Oklahoma, will forget any time soon. The Kansas State wide receiver put on one of the most impressive individual efforts of the 2017 Big 12 season against Oklahoma State, posting 166 receiving yards with three touchdowns and also running a kickoff back for a score to help K-State build a 45-20 lead.
No advantage is entirely safe against the quick-strike offense Oklahoma State employs, and the Cowboys rolled off 20 straight points in less than five minutes of game play. But after getting the gap down to where just a touchdown would have won it, Oklahoma State ran out of gas.
6. Texas 40, Kansas State 34 (2OT) — Oct. 7
Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger was still fresh into his college career when Texas faced Kansas State, but the freshman already had experience in the high-pressure situation of an overtime. Ehlinger quarterbacked the Longhorns less than a month earlier in a double-overtime loss to USC. This time around, the youngster — who totaled almost 500 yards of offense on his own — helped lead a Texas win.
This one was tight throughout, with neither team holding an edge more than K-State's 10-point lead in the first half. Chris Warren's touchdown run in the second overtime won it, but not before the Texas defense forced a long field-goal attempt for the Wildcats that went awry.
5. Oklahoma 42, Kansas State 35 — Oct. 21
Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder was a mentor to Bob Stoops before "Big Game" moved on to Oklahoma, and teacher had a way of getting the best of his student when the Wildcats and Sooners met. That same aura carried over into Lincoln Riley's first game coaching against Snyder, as Kansas State pounced to take an 11-point lead into halftime.
Baker Mayfield took over in the second half, having his usual outstanding passing game (32-of-41), but it was his rushing that made the difference. Mayfield scored on a pair of touchdown carries that put the Sooners over the top in a hard-fought road win.
4. Oklahoma State 49, Iowa State 42 — Nov. 11
If you watched this on TV, the telecast commentary might have made this one feel like a blowout. In reality, Oklahoma State and Iowa State delivered a back-and-forth shootout with wild plays, some head-scratching penalties, and a finish that went down to the wire.
Both Justice Hill and David Montgomery ran for three touchdowns each, while quarterback Kyle Kempt and linebacker Joel Lanning both threw for touchdowns for the Cyclones. However, it was Mason Rudolph providing the late-game heroics to power Oklahoma State to an impressive road win.
3. Oklahoma 31, Ohio State 16 — Sept. 9
Refer to a Win Probability chart on this early-season showdown of national powerhouses, and Ohio State was given a 75 percent or so likelihood of winning until the fourth quarter. It makes sense: the Buckeyes went to Norman a season ago and throttled a Sooners team that had legendary Bob Stoops on the sideline and not a head coach in Lincoln Riley working just his second game.
Baker Mayfield turned the win probability chart on its head in the fourth quarter, however, leading a pair drives that extended a 17-13 lead to an insurmountable, 31-13 advantage. It was a victory that proved pivotal to Oklahoma's and Ohio State's playoff chances alike.
2. Iowa State 38, Oklahoma 31 — Oct. 7
Iowa State visited Norman this season bringing with it an ugly 5-74-2 all-time record against Oklahoma. The Sooners went ahead 14-0 in the first quarter, and it looked like victory No. 75 would be an easy one. That was, until Joel Lanning and relatively unheard-of quarterback Kyle Kempt went off.
Kempt out-dueled Baker Mayfield, while Lanning led the Iowa State defense to some critical stops, holding the Sooners scoreless for nearly 25 minutes of game time. The Cyclones' upset win ended with a planting of the Iowa State flag on the field.
1. Oklahoma 62, Oklahoma State 52 — Nov. 4
Bedlam proved to be a fitting nickname for this year's installment of the in-state rivalry series between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. The action in Stillwater was fast and chaotic, with two of the nation's best offenses combining to put up more than 1,400 yards of offense and a score these two universities' basketball teams will probably only exceed this season because Trae Young will be on the court.
After a 38-38 tie sent the rivals into the locker room, Oklahoma holding Oklahoma State scoreless in the third quarter made the Sooners look like the '85 Chicago Bears. The 10 points Oklahoma scored in that frame proved to be the difference, but not before a pair of Mason Rudolph touchdown passes brought the Cowboys within a field goal. They drove for the lead late, but the Oklahoma defense buckled down just enough to preserve the lead, and Trey Sermon's touchdown slammed the door.
This was the game that effectively put Baker Mayfield in the driver's seat for the Heisman.