Thursday night will set the tone for the remainder of the season in the Big 12 and perhaps the BCS race, but it won’t be the only important action in the Big 12 this week.
Not all of the four teams in Big 12 contention will be challenged this week — Oklahoma State faces Kansas — but Texas, Texas Tech and Kansas State all will be worth keeping an eye on.
Texas, 5-0 in the Big 12, will make its first trip in school history to Morgantown, where West Virginia already defeated Oklahoma State this season. This may be the Longhorns’ toughest test since defeating Oklahoma on Oct. 12 and the last game against an unranked team before facing Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor to finish the season.
In Lubbock, Texas Tech is just hanging on after losing to the Oklahoma schools in back-to-back weeks. The Red Raiders will face a Kansas State team that is only a shadow of the team that lost in Week 1 to North Dakota State.
Week 11 Previews and Predictions: ACC | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
Big 12 Week 11 Game Power Rankings
All times Eastern, All games Saturday unless noted.
1. Oklahoma at Baylor (Thursday, 7:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
Baylor is gearing up for perhaps the biggest month in school history or at least the biggest month since the late 1970s. But the rest of November won’t mean nearly as much if the 7-0 Bears don’t defeat Oklahoma for only second time in school history. Baylor’s first seven opponents were a combined 28-31 and 4-17 in the Big 12. The last five are 20-12 overall and 18-9 in the Big 12 with only a 3-6 TCU dragging those numbers down. Oklahoma’s defense has been inconsistent this season, in part because of season-ending injuries to linebacker Corey Nelson and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips. The Sooners, though, expect to have leading tackler Frank Shannon back after the linebacker missed the win over Texas Tech. The key may be to keep the Baylor offense off the field with long drives on offense: In Baylor’s only close game this season, the Bears amassed 58 plays against Kansas State (Baylor averages 79.4 plays per game). Oklahoma’s opponents are averaging a league-low 65.5 plays per game. Of course, if the OU defense can’t guard against the big play, it won’t matter how many drives Blake Bell and the offense sustain.
2. Kansas State at Texas Tech (noon, ABC regional)
The matchup in Lubbock will be an exercise in momentum. Kansas State has it. Texas Tech doesn’t. The Wildcats have won two in a row and played well in two previous losses to Oklahoma State and Baylor. Texas Tech has lost two in a row and didn’t look pretty in its last win at West Virginia. Kansas State’s passing game has rounded into shape in the last two weeks as quarterback Jake Waters and Daniel Sams are averaging 12.5 yards per attempt. The return of receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson helps, but Waters and Sams are also playing turnover-free. The Wildcats are plus-3 in turnover margin in the last two games after being minus-9 in the first six. Meanwhile, Texas Tech’s defense has slipped in recent weeks, against the run, in particular. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State both topped 270 yards and five yards per carry against the Red Raiders.
3. Texas at West Virginia (7 p.m., Fox)
West Virginia got perhaps the key win toward bowl eligibility by defeating TCU last week (the Mountaineers have four wins and still have Kansas and Iowa State to play). Defeating Texas would upset the Big 12 race and be a mark of legitimacy for West Virginia’s season. The Longhorns offense under Case McCoy has stabilized in recent weeks thanks to the running back tandem of Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown. West Virginia, who is tied for the Big 12 lead in takeaways, held TCU to 60 rushing yards and 2.1 yards per carry last week.
4. TCU at Iowa State (noon, Fox Sports regional)
The hits keep coming for both teams. Iowa State has been eliminated from bowl contention, and TCU appears to be headed in the same direction after losing four of the last five. The Horned Frogs suspended running back Waymon James this week and lost receiver Brandon Carter to a leave of absence a week earlier. Meanwhile, Iowa State is down a starting linebacker, Luke Knott. Iowa State is continuing to have a issues at quarterback where freshman Grant Rohach may start in place of Sam Richardson.
5. Kansas at Oklahoma State (4 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
During the Big 12 season: Kansas trailed Texas 14-6 at halftime, led Oklahoma 13-0 at one point, tied TCU 10-10 at halftime and led Texas Tech 10-0 after the first quarter. The Jayhawks have lost those four games by a combined score of 150-65. If there’s a way for Kansas to make Big 12 futility a little more painful, maybe that’s it. Oklahoma State, with Clint Chelf at quarterback, is starting to look more and more like a Big 12 contender. Easily dispatching Kansas would further prove that.
Big 12 Week 11 Pivotal Players
Listen to Athlon Sports writers Braden Gall and David Fox discuss Oklahoma-Baylor and more in Week 11 this week's Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast.
Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
Kansas State held Seastrunk to 59 rushing yards and 4.9 yards per carry, both season lows. Not coincidentally, Baylor was held to nearly 20 points off its scoring average for the year. Oklahoma’s run defense has been gouged at times this season, most notably against Texas. Seastrunk isn’t Baylor’s only weapon in the Bears’ prolific offense, but he does set the tone.
Aaron Colvin and Zack Sanchez, Oklahoma
Even if Oklahoma contains Seastrunk, Baylor can still sneak its speedy receivers behind opposing defensive backs. Tevin Reese and Antwan Goodley both average better than 23 yards per catch with eight touchdowns apiece. Colvin is the savvy veteran while the redshirt freshman Sanchez has been a revelation this season as an intimidating hitter in the secondary.
Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
Amaro’s ability to catch the ball is not in question. He has 79 receptions in nine games, including 15 last week against Oklahoma State. Maybe it’s just bad luck, but Amaro also has two fumbles the last two weeks. Amaro fumbled a third-and-11 conversion last week, which was converted into an Oklahoma State touchdown. A week earlier, Amaro fumbled a third-and-3 conversion which Oklahoma converted into a 76-yard touchdown pass on the next play.
Charles Sims, West Virginia
The Houston transfer Sims had his best game of the season last week against TCU. Sims rushed for 154 yards and added 35 receiving yards in a two-touchdown day against TCU. Texas’ porous run defense appears to be a thing of the past, but you never know...
Casey Pachall, TCU
Pachall still has plenty of padding wrapped around his non-throwing arm, the one that was broken against Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 7. But his other arm is just fine as he completed 40 of 58 passes for 394 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions against West Virginia. Pachall also found some good passer-receiver chemistry with his former backup QB, Trevone Boykin, who caught 11 passes against West Virginia. Pachall may be TCU’s only chance to be a respectable foe for the final months of the season.
Big 12 Week 11 Picks
Oklahoma (+13) at Baylor
Kansas St (+3) at Texas Tech
TCU (-7.5) at Iowa St
Kansas (+31) at Okla. St
Texas (-6.5) at West Va.