Rivalry week has lost its juice in the Big 12.
Thanks to conference realignment, Texas won’t face Texas A&M during the Thanksgiving holiday. No Missouri-Kansas, either. And thanks to no conference championship game, the Bedlam Game will wait until next week.
The key storyline, though, may still be an emotional one. Baylor and Texas can both win the Big 12, but both programs are coming off losses to Oklahoma State.
Texas will look to solve the Texas Tech passing game in a matchup that replaces the traditional Longhorns-Aggies game. Meanwhile, Baylor will try to solve its road woes with a trip to TCU.
Big 12 Week 14 Game Power Rankings
All times Eastern, All games Saturday unless noted.
1. Texas Tech at Texas (Thursday, 7:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
Mack Brown will find out how much wind is still in the sails for his team this week. Oklahoma State sapped the momentum of a 6-0 start in conference play, particularly on defense. Texas can still win the Big 12’s BCS bid by defeating Texas Tech and Baylor plus an Oklahoma State loss to Oklahoma. Texas Tech knows a thing or two about how quickly a season can be derailed. The Red Raiders have lost four in a row since their 7-0 start. Texas Tech has been progressively worse against the run in each of the last four games, allowing 297.6 rushing yards and 5.7 yards per carry in the four losses. The Red Raiders head into another game where the quarterback hasn’t been settled. Baker Mayfield threw all but two of Texas Tech’s pass attempts in the loss to Baylor. Former starter Davis Webb hasn’t played since Mayfield replaced him against Kansas State.
2. Baylor at TCU (3:30 p.m., ESPN2)
Despite a loss to Oklahoma State, Baylor still has a handful of goals in its reach, including Big 12 championship with a Cowboys’ loss or a BCS at-large berth if the Bears win out. Baylor, though, still needs to overcome its road woes and its ongoing injury issues. Art Briles is optimistic either Lache Seastrunk or Glasco Martin could return this week, but Baylor will still be without middle linebacker Bryce Hager. The absence shook up the defensive alignment last week with safety Ahmad Dixon playing outside linebacker. Dixon should return to his safety position against TCU. Baylor won’t find any sympathy from TCU, who has seen player injuries, departures and suspensions derail the Horned Frogs in two seasons in the Big 12. The latest was the apparent departure of running back Waymon James, who had been suspended for the last two games, this week.
3. Kansas State at Kansas (noon, Fox Sports 1)
Kansas State has won the last four meetings by an average margin of 34.5 points per game. More of the same may be on the way even after Kansas State lost to Oklahoma last week. Meanwhile, Kansas followed its first Big 12 win in three years with a 34 blowout loss to Iowa State. Be prepared for a game with four quarterbacks as Kansas State rotates Jake Waters and Daniel Sims on will (and it works) while Kansas has started both Jake Heaps and freshman Montell Cozart (it hasn’t worked).
4. Iowa State at West Virginia (4 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
“Iowa State is the best 2-9 team in the country,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said this week. And at 4-7, he’s coaching the team with the better record. Both teams are looking to wrap up disappointing seasons, but for the sake of his job security, Holgorsen may not be able to afford to lose to Kansas and Iowa State to finish the season.
Big 12 Week 14 Pivotal Players
Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed, Texas
Texas Tech won’t surprise anyone by relying on the passing game. Texas will need an improved performance by its pass rush to slow down the Red Raiders. The Longhorns didn’t have a sack in the loss to Oklahoma State after recording 24 in the previous six games. Texas Tech ranks 23rd in the nation on taking sacks on four percent of pass plays.
Case McCoy, Texas
An off game by McCoy finally arrived the last time out against Oklahoma State. McCoy threw three interceptions and had his lowest efficiency rating of the season in the 38-13 defeat. Texas Tech’s defense is vulnerable with two true freshmen starting in the secondary, but Longhorns coach Mack Brown said he’d like to see McCoy make more plays by scrambling as he did earlier this season.
Texas Tech’s run defense
The Red Raiders run defense has allowed progressively higher rushing totals in each of the last seven games, from 53 yards against Kansas to 340 against Baylor on Nov. 16. Texas’ run defense is down a man without Johnathan Gray, but Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron have been able to shoulder the load as a duo.
Trevone Boykin, TCU
This is a little hard to believe: TCU beat Baylor 49-21 in Waco last season. A major reason was the play of Boykin, then the quarterback for the Frogs. Boykin completed 22 of 30 passes for 261 yards with four touchdowns against the Bears. Since quarterback Casey Pachall returned, Boykin has been a multi-faceted threat for the offense. He’s attempted one pass in the last three games, but that attempt was a touchdown against Kansas State.
Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
Lockett may not be pivotal to a Kansas State win over the Jayhawks, but he may be fun to watch. Lockett has caught 20 passes for 401 yards with four touchdowns in the last two weeks while averaging 32.7 yards per kickoff return. Poor Kansas may be in trouble.
Big 12 Week 14 Picks
Texas Tech (+4.5) at Texas
Kansas St. (-16.5) at Kansas
Baylor (-13) at TCU
Iowa St. (+9) at West Va.