Oklahoma State and Texas will meet this week in a game with Big 12 title implications at stake just as everyone projected back in August.
It just wasn’t pegged that way back in September.
Back on Sept. 28, Oklahoma State had lost to West Virginia and looked unimpressive on offense. A week earlier, Texas had defeated Kansas State for its first win after the embarrassment of lopsided losses to BYU and Ole Miss.
In other words, neither team looked like it would head into Nov. 16 playing a game of significance. But both programs adjusted. Mack Brown changed a defensive coordinator by choice and changed a quarterback by chance, and Mike Gundy shuffled his backfield.
Now Oklahoma State’s trip to Austin, where the Cowboys have won their last two meetings, is of utmost importance in the Big 12 championship race.
Week 12 Previews and Predictions: ACC | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
Big 12 Week 12 Game Power Rankings
All times Eastern, All games Saturday
1. Oklahoma State at Texas (3:30 p.m., Fox)
In the week before one of its most important games of the season, Texas this week may have been dealt its biggest blow since the back-to-back losses against BYU and Ole Miss in September. The Longhorns needed overtime to beat West Virginia, but lost defensive tackle Chris Whaley and running back Johnathan Gray in the process. Desmond Jackson stepped in for Whaley to pick up eight tackles, three tackles for a loss and a forced fumble, and the running back position has experienced depth. But the losses could be a momentum-stopper. On defense, the Longhorns have already lost linebacker Jordan Hicks for the season. Oklahoma State isn’t without its injury issues, too, as top receiver Josh Stewart was sidelined early in the week with a foot injury. Clint Chelf passed for a season-high 265 yards with three touchdowns despite no catches from Stewart last week, but that came against Kansas.
2. Texas Tech vs. Baylor in Arlington (7 p.m., Fox)
At one point, Baylor hoped this game would boost the Bears’ late-season schedule. Instead, Texas Tech is fighting to stay relevant after three consecutive losses. For a Bears team with national championship aspirations, maybe Texas Tech’s decline isn’t such a bad thing at this point of the year. Baylor came out of the Oklahoma game licking its wounds with Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin hurt (the pair of running backs are day to day) and a regular season-ending injury to Tevin Reese (dislocated wrist). In place of Seastrunk and Martin, redshirt freshman Shock Linwood did fine in his first extended duty of the season with 182 yards on 23 carries against the Sooners. Meanwhile, Texas Tech has its own questions. The Red Raiders pulled starting quarterback Davis Webb to return Baker Mayfield to the role. Mayfield completed 34 of 44 passes for 276 yards with two interceptions in his first action since Oct. 5.
3. TCU at Kansas State (3:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net)
Kansas State’s run game has asserted itself during its three-game winning streak, but the Wildcats’ opponents (West Virginia, Iowa State and Texas Tech) during that span all allow at least 170 rushing yards per game and 4.2 yards per carry. TCU has the top run defense in the Big 12 at 125.2 yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry. For TCU, the Horned Frogs’ offense has been boosted by the return of quarterback Casey Pachall, which has enabled former starting QB Trevone Boykin to become a multi-faceted threat on offense. Boykin rushed for three touchdowns in the win over Iowa State and had 100 receiving yards in the loss to West Virginia.
4. Iowa State at Oklahoma (noon, Fox Sports 1)
Facing an opponent like Iowa State at home comes at a good time for Oklahoma. The Sooners are feeling the heat after an uncompetitive 41-12 loss to Baylor on Thursday. The offense is again under the microscope after putting up a combined three offensive touchdowns and four interceptions against Texas and Baylor. All signs point to Blake Bell remaining the starting quarterback, but Trevor Knight entered the game for a handful of running plays. Sophomore Kendal Thompson, who competed for the job in the preseason, also has not seen the field this season. Expect the Sooners' run game to rebound more than anything against the 103rd-ranked run defense in the country.
Related: OU's Heupel is among the top coordinators on the hot seat
5. West Virginia at Kansas (noon, Fox Sports Net)
West Virginia is fighting for bowl eligibility against the two teams winless in conference play in Kansas and Iowa State. The Mountaineers have been beat up in the last two weeks, splitting a pair of overtime games against TCU and Texas. West Virginia, though, hopes to get Clint Trickett back after the starting quarterback was knocked out of the loss to Texas with a shoulder injury. West Virginia is 1-4 away from Morgantown with opponents outscoring the Mountaineers 188-91.
Big 12 Week 12 Pivotal Players
Listen to Athlon Sports writers Braden Gall and David Fox discuss where Baylor should fall in the rankings and make picks for Oklahoma State-Texas in this week's Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast.
Oklahoma State’s offensive line
Two key reasons Oklahoma State and Texas recovered from early missteps to compete for a Big 12 championship is line play. The Longhorns are averaging a Big 12-best four sacks per game in conference play. Meanwhile, the Cowboys’ offensive line has come together after speed bumps early in the season, starting when projected starter Devin Davis was lost to injury during the preseason. With an established six-man rotation, the line has helped stabilize the run game in recent weeks for the Cowboys. This will be the Cowboys' toughest test up front since rushing for fewer than 100 yards against Kansas State and TCU.
Case McCoy, Texas
The absence of Johnathan Gray puts more on who’s left at running back, but also on McCoy. Texas is probably better off when McCoy is attempting fwer than 30 passes, but the Longhorns needed him to complete 27 of 49 passes to beat West Virginia in overtime last week. The senior has thrown six touchdowns and six interceptions in his last four games. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State ranks second in the Big 12 in pass efficiency defense, thanks in part to 12 interceptions in six conference games.
Levi Norwood, Baylor
Antwan Goodley and Tevin Reese have 77 catches between them this season. No one else for Baylor has more than 19. With Reese out until the postseason, junior Levi Norwood is the top inside receiver. Norwood came up big against Oklahoma with a 17-yard touchdown catch to give Baylor a 31-5 lead in the third quarter.
Paul Dawson, TCU
Dawson has been the breakout player for the TCU defense this season, leading the Horned Frogs with nine tackles for a loss. He had four stops behind the line in the last two weeks against West Virginia and Iowa State, but Kansas State’s run game and offensive line has hit its stride in recent games. The Wildcats will bring three legitimate run threats against TCU in running back John Hubert, who rushed for a season-high 157 yards last week, and quarterbacks Daniel Sams and Jake Waters.
Tyler Anderson, West Virginia
In the continuing story of injuries for West Virginia, linebacker Jared Barber, who was second on the team with 71 tackles, is out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. Fifth-year senior Tyler Anderson, who has two career starts, likely takes some of his snaps inside. Kansas is struggling on offense, but the Jayhawks returned running back/wide receiver Tony Pierson, their top player, last week.
Big 12 Week 12 Picks
West Virginia (-6.5) at Kansas
Iowa State (+24) at Oklahoma
Oklahoma State (-3) at Texas
TCU (+10.5) at Kansas State
Texas Tech (+27) vs. Baylor