Baylor takes lead in crowded Big 12 race
The Big 12 entered the midpoint for 2013 the same way it ended 2012 — without a top 10 team. The last time a Big 12 team was in the top 10 was Dec. 2 when Kansas State was seventh in the Big 12 poll.
Oklahoma had its chance to move into the top 10, starting last week at No. 12 before a surprising loss to Texas.
In many ways, the Big 12 season is playing out the way Athlon Sports envisioned the race in the preseason — four or five imperfect teams bunched up near the top. Two conference losses may be enough to win a bid to the Fiesta Bowl.
But there’s also the unexpected: Baylor so far has the Big 12’s most complete team. Yes, the offense is on record-breaking pace, but the defense has been among the league’s best. A light schedule with only one road game, though, is enough reason to keep the Baylor national championship bandwagon empty at this point.
Beyond Baylor, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury has delivered on the optimism surrounding his homecoming to Lubbock by leading the Red Raiders to a 6-0 start. And even mighty Texas can be a success story as a 3-0 start in the league looked unattainable in the first three weeks of the season.
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2013 Big 12 Midseason Review and Second Half Predictions
Coach of the Year: Art Briles, Baylor
The Bears won’t keep up the 70 points per game pace they had earlier this season, but Briles has Baylor in position for its first conference title since 1980. Hard to believe that Baylor has just become more productive after losing Robert Griffin III and then the school’s single-season passing leader in the last two seasons. Briles is the nation’s top offensive coach, but the Bears have a strong team in the trenches and the 12th-ranked defense in yards per play.
Newcomer of the Year: Texas Tech quarterbacks
Kliff Kingsbury has a knack for coaching freshman quarterbacks. After working with Johnny Manziel last season, Kingsbury needed to rookie quarterbacks to step in for an injured Michael Brewer. As a duo, redshirt freshman walk on Baker Mayfield and true freshman Davis Webb are second in the nation in passing at 2,453 yards.
Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, Baylor
With Baylor’s run game bottled up in the Bears’ toughest game of the season, Petty rose to the occasion by leading Baylor to two fourth quarter scoring drives against Kansas State. Petty has attempted only four passes in the red zone this season (4 for 4), but the entire field is Petty’s red zone. He has seven touchdown passes from inside his own 40 yard line.
Defensive Player of the Year: Jason Verrett, TCU
Verrett doesn’t have a ton of eye-popping statistics, but he’s the top lockdown cornerback in the Big 12. In the loss to Texas Tech, Verrett kept Red Raiders receiver Eric Ward from catching a pass. Verrett has 2.5 tackles for a loss and 10 pass break ups this season.
Midseason Disappointment: Oklahoma State’s run game
The Cowboys caught Mississippi State off guard in the opener by replacing starting quarterback Clint Chelf with J.W. Walsh and running out of the diamond formation. Otherwise, the Cowboys have been unimpressive in the run game, averaging 3.2 yards per carry since then. Oklahoma State’s 144.8 rushing yards per game would be its lowest average since 2001.
Midseason Surprise: Greg Robinson
Robinson wasn’t on anyone’s radar back in early September. The former Syracuse coach and Michigan defensive coordinator was breaking down film for Mack Brown. But then BYU rushed for 550 yards against the Longhorns. Texas replaced one-time defensive hotshot Manny Diaz with a retread who had struggled everywhere he’d been since he left Texas the first time. Robinson’s defense though held Oklahoma to 263 yards last week. The Longhorns have held Big 12 opponents to 3.7 yards per carry in the 3-0 start in the league.
Three things to watch in the second half:
Baylor’s championship bid
Baylor is 33 years removed from its last conference championship in the Southwest Conference. With Texas’ defensive woes and Oklahoma’s lackluster offense, this would seem to be the perfect season to take advantage. That, and Baylor’s offense is really, really good. The meat of Baylor’s schedule isn’t until November when the Bears face Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas in succession in November.
Is Texas for real?
The Longhorns sure looked the part of a Big 12 title contender in dismantling Oklahoma on Saturday, but Texas fans have to wonder if the Mr. Hyde from the BYU and Ole Miss games will return down the stretch. Daje Johnson hasn’t lost a step since returning from injury, and Case McCoy is growing into his role as starting quarterback. The next question is if this is indeed Mack Brown’s final question if he’ll leave Texas with a Big 12 championship trophy. The Longhorns have already ended futility against the Sooners and Kansas State.
Oklahoma’s quarterback situation
Blake Bell was dreadful against Texas, completing 12 of 26 passes for 133 yards with two interceptions. Bell lost the starting quarterback job in the preseason, and it’s a legitimate question if he could lose it again. Texas proved that by ganging up on the run game Bell couldn’t win with the passing game.
Top five games in the second half
Oct. 26 Texas Tech at Oklahoma
The Red Raiders have built their undefeated start against opponents that have gone a combined 6-11, including the bottom two teams in the Big 12 (Iowa State and Kansas). Even against a wounded OU team, Texas Tech could prove its legitimacy in the Big 12 race in Norman.
Nov. 7 Oklahoma at Baylor
The shine on this Thursday night game has dulled a bit after Oklahoma lost to Texas. The Sooners may need to win this game to get back into the Big 12 race.
Nov. 23 Baylor at Oklahoma State
In Baylor’s first road trip, the Bears played a tight game for the first time this season. This game against the preseason Big 12 favorites will be the toughest road test this year.
Dec. 7 Texas at Baylor
What will the Bears have left for their final game after going through the gauntlet in November? This could be a de facto Big 12 championship game...
Dec. 7 Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
...Or the Bedlam Game could decide the conference. The Cowboys were the preseason favorite and OU looked the part of a Big 12 frontrunner just a week ago. There’s plenty of time for this to become the key game again in the Big 12 race.
Big 12 2013 Second-Half Predictions
(Logos are of projected winner for each game)
|ISU||at Kansas||OU||TTU||at OK State||at TCU||Texas||Final Record|
|at TCU||Kansas||at WVU||OK State||TTU||at Baylor||Final Record|
3. Oklahoma State
|TCU||at ISU||at TTU||Kansas||at TX||Baylor||OU||Final Record|
|at Kansas||TTU||at Baylor||ISU||at K-State||at OK State||Final Record|
5. Texas Tech
|at WVU||at OU||OK State||K-State||Baylor||at TX||Final Record|
6. Kansas State
|WVU||ISU||at TTU||TCU||OU||at Kansas||Final Record|
|at OK State||TX||WVU||at ISU||at K-State||Baylor||Final Record|
8. West Virginia
|TTU||at K-State||at TCU||Texas||at Kansas||Iowa State||Final Record|
9. Iowa State
|at Baylor||OSU||at K-State||TCU||at OU||Kansas||at WVU||Final Record|
|Oklahoma||Baylor||at Texas||at OSU||WVU||at ISU||K-State||Final Record|