Entering the season, many believed the Big 12 to be a two-horse race between Baylor and Oklahoma. But at the midseason point, the Big 12 has as many teams ranked in the AP Top 15 as any other league in the nation. (Yes, that includes the SEC.)
Those five teams ranked in the top 15 all feel like they have a legit shot at winning the Big 12 championship and likely landing one of the coveted four playoff spots. The top five teams in the league have a combined four losses — all of which have come against teams ranked 11th or better in the current AP Poll.
Only TCU has faced one of the other five ranked opponents. Needless to say, there is a plenty of ball left to be played in the Heartland.
Midseason Reviews and Second-Half Predictions
2014 Big 12 Midseason Review and Second-Half Predictions
Coach of the Year: Gary Patterson, TCU
The Horned Frogs were 4-8 last year and now sit 4-1 and ranked No. 12 in the nation - AFTER playing Oklahoma and Baylor. The Frogs are still facing huge tests on the road against West Virginia and Texas as well as home games with Kansas State and Oklahoma State. But the changes Patterson made on the offensive coaching staff have paid huge dividends in just five games thus far in 2014.
Newcomer of the Year: Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma and Tyreek Hill, AP, Oklahoma State
Perine is third in the league in carries (109), second in the league in rushing (568) and is leading the Big 12 in rushing touchdowns (9). The 240-pound true freshman from Pflugerville, Texas (aka, Mack Brown’s backyard) has been brilliant in place of Keith Ford for Bob Stoops. Oklahoma State’s do-everything dynamo Tyreek Hill deserves mention as well as the junior college playmaker has made a huge impact for Mike Gundy’s squad. Hill is second in the Big 12 in all-purpose yards.
Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
Dealing with a back injury, Petty performed at his best in the biggest spot of the season thus far. Trailing late in the second half, he rallied the Bears with 24 straight points to stay unbeaten against rival TCU. Petty has thrown for 1,534 yards and scored 18 total touchdowns in just five games (he missed one start) and is poised for another run at the Heisman Trophy.
Defensive Player of the Year: Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor
Shawn Oakman gets the slight nod over Eric Striker or Zack Sanchez in what is a very tight race for top defensive player in this league. Oakman has been a force for the top team in the league, posting 24 tackles, 8.0 for loss, 5.0 sacks and one forced fumble. Striker has 28 tackles, 4.5 sacks while Sanchez has five interceptions and 25 tackles.
Midseason Disappointment: Texas Tech
After a tenuous start to the year in wins over Central Arkansas and UTEP, Kliff Kingsbury’s bunch has lost four straight games in ugly fashion. After it’s first 0-3 conference start since 1990, Texas Tech is staring at eight straight losses in the Big 12. This team has problems with turnovers and penalties and has already changed defensive coordinators.
Midseason Surprise: TCU's offense
Gary Patterson has found the formula. He brought in Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham to run his offense and quarterback Trevone Boykin has flourished. The TCU quarterback has thrown for 292.6 yards per game and scored 14 total times while only throwing two interceptions and rushing for 305 yards. In a league known for offense on a team known for defense, TCU ranks No. 2 in the Big 12 at 45.8 points per game and No. 3 in total offense at 510.0 yards per game.
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Three Things to Watch in Second Half
1. Can Baylor repeat and does the Big 12 make the playoff?
The trip to Norman in November obviously looms large, but since the league is so much deeper and more balanced than anticipated, the Bears will face plenty of other hurdles en route to a second straight league crown. A road trip to Morgantown as well as games with Oklahoma State and Kansas State still loom. That said, the path to a title still runs through Norman, and the Bears are in control of their own destiny. A second championship for Art Briles puts him alongside the nation's best and likely lands Baylor in the College Football Playoff.
2. Who are the challengers?
TCU, Oklahoma State and Kansas State have all joined the championship conversation and all three have yet to face each other. Both Oklahoma State and K-State have yet to face Baylor or Oklahoma as well. Someone will jump into the title fray — much like TCU already has — and this could become a three- four- or five-team race for the top. Which one of these programs has staying power and can any of these "second-tiered" teams step into contention remains to be seen. Either way, it figures to be an exciting final two months in the middle of the Big 12.
3. Tyrone Swoopes development
The Longhorns have a great defense. But Tyrone Swoopes showed Longhorns fans glimpses of the future with his play against Oklahoma. This offense is in desperate need of a spark and Swoopes might be capable of supplying it. He finished 27-of-44 for 334 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the close loss to Oklahoma. He added 50 yards rushing on 11 carries and another score on the ground.
Top Five Games in Second Half
1. Baylor at Oklahoma (Nov. 8)
The Bears have never won in Norman. Ever. And if Art Briles wants to win another Big 12 title, his squad will have to go up North to Oklahoma and win.
2. Oklahoma State at Oklahoma (Dec. 6)
The rivalry aspect gives this game extra juice. Mike Gundy has struggled in this bout but at the season’s end, both teams could still be in the title race.
3. Kansas State at Baylor (Dec. 6)
Bill Snyder defense faces Art Briles offense? Yes, please. The Cats could be the top challenger to Oklahoma or Baylor but will have to win some key road games.
4. Kansas State at Oklahoma (Oct. 18)
See: Kansas State at Baylor above.
5. Kansas State at TCU (Nov. 8)
TCU has already played the two toughest games of its season and it split. Kansas State could be the No. 3 biggest game on the schedule if KSU can upset the Bears or Sooners along the way.
Next up: Oklahoma State at Baylor, Oklahoma State at TCU, TCU at Texas, Oklahoma State at Kansas State, Texas at Oklahoma State, Baylor at West Virginia
Projecting the Final 2014 Big 12 Standings