Rivalry week still has the Bedlam Game at least.
Thanksgiving used to be the traditional home Texas-Texas A&M, but the Aggies’ move to the SEC put a stop to that. Texas will play host to TCU this week, and A&M will face Missouri, another Big 12 defector who won't play its top rival (Kansas) this week.
The Bedlam Game should be enough to carry the banner for the Big 12 this week, however. Kansas State’s loss to Baylor last week reinvigorated Oklahoma’s chances to win the Big 12. Even if the Sooners defeat their in-state rival, they’ll have to root for a Kansas State loss -- a prospect that requires Oklahoma fans to pull for Texas next week.
In that case, maybe the absence of Texas-Texas A&M isn’t the strangest thing going on in the Big 12 during these final two weeks.
Other Week 13 Previews and Predictions
Big 12’s Top Storylines to Watch in Week 13:
How does Oklahoma’s run defense rebound?
West Virginia dealt Oklahoma a curve last week by using Tavon Austin at tailback. The Sooners’ defense never caught up to Austin, who rushed for 344 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. That’s a little more than being caught off guard by an unexpected wrinkle in the opponent’s offense. Oklahoma has allowed at least 200 rushing yards in three of the last four games (215 to Notre Dame, 252 to Baylor, 462 to West Virginia) in addition to giving up at least two rushing touchdowns in each of the last four. Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle has tailed off in his production in the last three games, but perhaps the Oklahoma defense is the cure.
Can Oklahoma State solve its road woes?
Oklahoma State is 1-2 on the road this season, with the only win against Kansas 20-14. The Cowboys’ ability to win on the road will be key if the they’re going to finish the regular season on a positive note. Oklahoma State wraps up with Oklahoma in Norman, where the Pokes have won just once since 1998, and Baylor, who upset then-No. 1 Kansas State last week in Waco. With Oklahoma State’s quarterback injuries and inexperience, the road difficulties shouldn’t be too much of a shock. Each road loss has had its own storyline: Oklahoma State outgained Arizona by more than 200 yards in Tucson, but freshman quarterback Wes Lunt through three interceptions in his first road start. Against Kansas, Oklahoma State struggled to run the ball in quarterback J.W. Walsh’s first road start. And the Cowboys ran into undefeated Kansas State and yet another quarterback injury in a loss in Manhattan. Now, Chris Chelf becomes Oklahoma State’s third quarterback to make his first career road start this season. Chelf will have to hope it works out better than the last three road games for Oklahoma State.
Can the Texas run game keep its momentum against the TCU defense?
Texas’ run game has been much more effective in the four games since the loss to Oklahoma as freshman Johnathan Gray has emerged. The Longhorns have averaged 201.5 yards per game and five yards per carry in the last four games, opening up the play action pass for David Ash. This week’s opponent, TCU, ranks seventh in the nation in rush defense (98.4 yards allowed per game). Perhaps the numbers are skewed a bit as TCU has faced pass-oriented teams from Texas Tech and West Virginia but not Kansas State. Still, the Horned Frogs are allowing a Big 12-low 3.1 yards per carry.
Was the Baylor defense last week for real?
In one of the most unlikely turns of the season Baylor’s defense -- the main culprit in the Bears’ five losses this season -- shut down Kansas State in a shocking burst of competence. Baylor held Kansas State to 76 rushing yards Saturday. All but two of Baylor’s FBS opponents this season amassed twice that this year. Can Baylor do it against on the road against Texas Tech and Seth Doege? Perhaps confidence can go a long way for Baylor, which intercepted Collin Klein three times and threw in a goal line stand for good measure. But unlike Kansas State, Texas Tech is built to win through the air. Baylor ranks 98th nationally and eighth in the Big 12 in pass efficiency defense.
West Virginia is painfully close to ending its five-game losing streak. Can the Mountaineers finally get over the hump?
No, the defense isn’t any better. The Mountaineers have allowed 50 points in three of the past four games. To put that in perspective, Notre Dame and Alabama have allowed 111 points this season each. But TCU needed a couple of gambles to defeat the Mountaineers in double overtime, and Oklahoma needed a late drive by Landry Jones to win in Morgantown. Though he threw two more interceptions last week, quarterback Geno Smith has put his season back on the right track. Meanwhile, West Virginia finally had a game-breaking running threat. The trouble is that it came from receiver Tavon Austin. Coach Dana Holgorsen appeared to be reluctant to put Austin in a position where he needs to provide 21 carries and 344 yards again. “If Tavon was an every down running back and could carry the ball 40 times a game, he would have been doing that for the last four games,” Holgorsen said. Iowa State will provide West Virginia its best chance to end its five-game losing streak. The Cyclones’ best defensive player, linebacker Jake Knott, is out for the remainder of the season, and Paul Rhoads is on to his third starting quarterback of the season.
Week 13 Big 12 Predictions:
Week 13 Big 12 Games
TCU at Texas (Fri.)
W. Virginia at Iowa St. (Fri.)
West Virginia 31-27
West Virginia 31-20
West Virginia 38-34
Iowa State 31-30
Baylor at Texas Tech
Texas Tech 35-31
Texas Tech 41-33
Oklahoma St. at Oklahoma
Oklahoma St. 41-37
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